The Shocking Correlation Between Bacteria and Mental Illness
While there once wasn’t much concern that small, non-severe infections that could easily be managed with a round of antibiotics could cause long-term problems, there is now evidence to the contrary. A new study published in the internationally recognized journal, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, by Ole Köhler-Forsberg from Aarhus University Hospital, Risskov shows a correlation between bacteria and mental illness. This research indicates that non-severe infections can increase the risk of subsequently developing schizophrenia and depression. Previous studies have shown that severe infections requiring hospitalization increase the risk of developing both illnesses. However, this new evidence indicates that all infections, both minor and major, correlate with the development of these mental disorders. This is a correlation and not a causation though, meaning that the connecting factor is not known.
The Study of Bacteria and Mental Illness
The aforementioned study on the correlation between bacteria and mental illness was conducted on all people born in Denmark between 1985 and 2002. It examined all fungal, viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, how the infections were managed, and the subsequent development and risk for developing schizophrenia and depression between 1995 and 2013.
Results show that a total of 19,203 individuals were eventually identified to have these conditions. 5,759 people were identified as having schizophrenia, on average around the age of 18.9 years, and 17.4% of them had been previously hospitalized with infections. Of the 13,044 people who eventually developed depression, 18.7% had been previously hospitalized with an infection.
The study gives strong evidence that bacteria and mental illness are related. However, the factors that cause this relationship remain undetermined.
One possibility is that the infections and their related inflammatory responses could affect the brain, playing an active role in developing severe mental disorders. It is also possible that the antibiotics themselves could increase the risk of developing mental disorders due to their effect on the intestine and the composition of the microbiota, which play an extremely important role in brain chemistry. The connection could also potentially involve an interaction with genetics. Those with a higher genetic disposition for mental disorders may somehow have these genes triggered by infection.
Thus, although it appears there is a strong relationship between bacteria and mental illness, the cause of this interaction requires further research. Identifying this connection could be a major breakthrough in assisting people with mental illnesses and indicate possible pathways to proactively work towards better mental health and wellness.
Maintaining a Strong Immune System to Fight Bacteria and Mental Illness
The strong correlation between bacteria and mental illness makes it wise to avoid the bacterial infection to begin with. Prevention is a major factor in optimal living. Making healthy choices for your body is a major part of taking good care of yourself. Yet while this is simple in theory, it is often difficult to maintain the kind of healthy lifestyle changes that can give you a stronger immune system.
The majority of the time, your immune system is working hard to defend you against illness-causing microorganisms. However, occasionally it fails. Here are some recommendations for building a strong immune system to give your body the best chance for health:
- Adopt the healthiest lifestyle you can.
- Don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.
- Eat a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
- Consider immune system boosting supplements.
- Exercise regularly, and choose something that you love so you can maintain its consistency.
- Keep a healthy weight, and keep your blood pressure under control.
- Keep your gut microbiome healthy.
- Avoid chronic stress, and take time to relax daily.
- Make sure to have restful sleep so your body can recover and recharge.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Get regular well-care visits.
The Stress Component
Along with evidence linking bacteria and mental illness, there is also evidence linking stress and physical health. Stomach ulcers, hives, and even heart disease have been linked to emotional stress. Chronic stress can also have a role in lowering the body’s immune system as well. Although stress is difficult to measure, it takes a toll on the heart, the body, and the mind. Eventually, long-term stress causes the adrenal glands and the body’s natural NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response system to malfunction, leading to adrenal fatigue and leaving the body vulnerable to system failures.
This new correlation found between bacteria and mental illness enforces the need to keep our bodies in optimal health. With proper care, knowledge, and support, you may be able to reduce your risk for some very serious mental illnesses. The more awareness you have of these issues, the greater chance you have of making the healthy choices that will support longevity.
However, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before making any sudden changes to ensure there are not any opposing health concerns. If you have adrenal fatigue, you may want to avoid some dietary supplements or immune building products until your hormone levels are sufficient to handle them. Although there is never a downside to eating healthy, you must also be sure to select food that works well for your internal systems.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What can be done to stop the connection between bacteria and mental illness?
The most useful tool for protecting yourself from bacteria and mental illness is having an overall healthy lifestyle including nutrition, exercise, low stress, and good sleep patterns. Try to keep your immune system strong to avoid getting infections in the first place.