Connecting Gut Health, Alcohol Addiction, and Mental/Physical Health
Ten or fifteen years ago, when I first began to become interested in probiotics and the relationship between probiotics and health, no one could have imagined how much research would be done in the near future exploring and discovering how influential our microbiome is on our health--including our mental health.
Recently a study was released linking alcohol addiction and certain gut bacteria. The study, Intestinal permeability, gut-bacterial dysbiosis, and behavioral markers of alcohol-dependence severity, published in PNAS, analyzed the guts of 60 alcoholics. After putting the alcoholics into a rehab program, the researchers discovered a link between those that recovered relatively well and did not relapse and those that struggled and relapsed--and that link that the health of their gut--risk of relapse was connected to their gut flora!
The 26 of the original 60 alcoholic test subjects who had the most difficultly in alcohol addiction all had leaky gut syndrom, all had low levels of a probiotic called Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. This probiotic is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Alternately, the other 34 test subjects who had a normal micobiome recovered remarkably well. They scored low on depression levels, anxiety levels, and alcohol craving. Their scores were on par with those in the controll group who did not have an alcohol problem.
Lead researcher and author of the study, Fredrik Bäckhed from the University of Gothenburg, stated that "Our results provides strong evidence that alcohol addiction is not only in the brain, but that it in some cases can be associated with an imbalance in the intestinal flora.”
I can only imagine how strange we might seem if we traveled back in time 20 or 30 years ago and started talking about keeping our gut flora and our microbiomes healthy. It really is a bizarre reality where we have to consider which bacteria are present in our guts, how healthy they are, and what we can do to encourage the right kinds of bacteria are present inside of us and what we can do to keep them happy.
You can read more about the original study here.