A recent study finds that patients with major depressive disorder have a leaky gut and consequently inflammatory immune reactions to toxins from gut bacteria.
It is now established that an inflammatory reponse is involved in major depressive disorder (MDD). Previous research has shown that pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune chemicals) can induce depressive symptoms. It has also been discovered that lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of the outer membrane of certain bacteria, can do the same since it is a potent toxin which produces a strong immune response.
Researchers from M-Care4U Outpatient Clinics and the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health in Belgium wanted to build on these findings to determine if increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and the resulting increase in LPS in the bloodstream was associated with depression.
To achieve this they measured levels of IgM and IgA antibodies against LPS from various gram-negative enterobacteria including Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Morganella Morganii, Pseudomonas Putida, Citrobacter Koseri, and Klebsiella Pneumoniae. They did this in both patients with major depression and in healthy controls.
What they found was that levels of IgM and IgA against LPS of the various enterobacteria were significantly greater in patients with MDD than in the healthy volunteers.
The researchers noted that the differences were very significant and that measuring IgM and IgA against LPS could actually be used to diagnose major depression with an accuracy rate of just over 90%.
It was also found that other symptoms associated with increased antibodies include fatigue, autonomic and gastro-intestinal symptoms and a subjective feeling of infection.
The researchers say that the results show that intestinal mucosal dysfunction (leaky gut) plays a role in the inflammatory pathophysiology of depression. They say that in some patients with depression the increased absorption of LPS due to the leaky gut would cause the immune system to mount an inflammatory response which could contribute to the illness.
They conclude that: "patients with MDD should be checked for leaky gut by means of the IgM and IgA panel used in the present study and accordingly should be treated for leaky gut."
This research adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to the fact that a leaky gut plays an important role in a large number of diseases. Studies have demonstrated that patients suffering from everything from chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes and liver disease have altered intestinal permeability.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that your family doctor or even hospital specialist will currently heed the advice of the researchers on this paper and test depressed patients for leaky gut syndrome. To address the problem patients may need to seek out a nutritionist, herbalist, or naturopath, although some medical doctors do recognise the importance of gut health in seemingly unconnected conditions such as depression.
Treatment for leaky gut syndrome typically involves the use of natural substances to reduce inflammation and promote healing of the gut lining. These include the amino acid l-glutamine which the cells of the gut wall use as fuel, anti-inflammatory herbs such as aloe vera, and nutrients required for tissue repair including easily assimilated forms of protein, vitamins A and E and zinc.
Dietary measures may include use of whole foods, certain types of fibre, and avoidance of substances which are known to aggravate leaky gut such as alcohol and certain medicines.
Source: The gut-brain barrier in major depression: Intestinal mucosal dysfunction with an increased translocation of LPS from gram negative enterobacteria (leaky gut) plays a role in the inflammatory pathophysiology of depression.