Yesterday the American Psychiatric Association’s blog referred to Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a psychiatric issue. I question that conclusion.
Well, it’s true that many people on psychiatric drugs have IBS, as I’ve written about many times on this blog. But I think we’re looking at a chicken or the egg situation here. There is A LOT of evidence that an unhealthy gut flora can make someone more susceptible to psychiatric issues. This does NOT make the IBS, which has a distinct physical manifestation, psychiatric!! IBS is actually a physical illness that can be measured and observed, unlike all psychiatric issues for which there are no labs or physical reality clearly marking them as a disease.
To suggest that IBS is psychiatric suggests that the cure is mental. That leads people to think nothing proactive can be done with diet and in fact most medical doctors don’t do a damn thing to heal the gut, instead prescribing more maintenance medications which further deteriorate the long-term health of the person taking them.
It’s dangerous to not heal the gut. Healing the gut for many people can be a very important piece of recovering total health and well-being. (mental, physical and spiritual) Healing the gut generally requires dietary changes, not drugs.
Oh, another fact that should not be left out here: Psychiatric drugs often irritate the gut making IBS become more severe and sometimes even creating it in the first place. Yes, my IBS started clearing up first when I got off antidepressants. Later I was able to completely cure it with diet and a couple of key supplements. My mind had nothing to do with this healing. I needed to care for my ravaged body. I’ve also helped and observed 100s of other people with similar histories via the blog and a variety of email groups and forums.
This article from Science Now, does a much better job of talking about the microbiome that is our gut and how important it is for our total well-being.
From Science Now:
Hundreds of species of bacteria call the human gut their home. This gut “microbiome” influences our physiology and health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now, a new study suggests that gut bacteria can even mess with the mind, altering brain chemistry and changing mood and behavior….
…”This is pioneering work,” says Mark Lyte, a microbial endocrinologist at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Abilene. “It’s really showing that you can alter emotional states by regulating the microbiome.” (read it here)
Clearly this article suggests the opposite of what the psychiatric organization is claiming. The gut effects our mind…not vice versa. Though, being that we are, indeed, holistic beings I’d wager to say that it does go both ways!
On a side note: The findings from this study on Lactobacillus rhamnosus probably don’t reveal something unique about this particular bacteria. It might turn out that it is in fact exceptional in its anxiety-relieving effect, but I’d be very surprised if that’s the case.
What I believe the research indicates is that there is a direct relationship between overall gut health and anxiety and (my conjecture) the evolutionary mechanism would work like this: gut health is a reflection of good diet and if an animal has a poor diet it needs to be alerted to that fact before it gets so sick its got diarrhea, indigestion or vomiting. There need to be subtler measures that its consuming good food. Anxiety provokes movement so when the gut isn’t happy it’s essentially telling the brain: don’t carry on eating here — go somewhere else. When the gut is happy it then tells the brain it’s safe to go to sleep — there’s good food nearby.
For much more on gut health and ideas for moving towards making your gut healthy see here.
The fact is in our society today the way we eat and take medications (antibiotics especially) challenge our guts in hundreds of ways that our ancestors were never challenged. It’s possible to learn how to heal one’s gut and keep it healthy. This gives a foundational health to one’s whole being.
Finally addressing stress in one’s life is also important. We are holistic beings, there is no doubt that our minds are part of the mind/body dynamic too, but leave out the very real need for a physical healing of the gut for many people and some of us won’t get too far. We’re all individuals. Everyone’s needs are going to be somewhat different. Learn about your body and mind in order to heal.