New Hope: Treating Bipolar Disorder With Gut Bacteria
Diane Ellis has been on medication for bipolar disorder for nearly 19 years now. Distressed most of the time because of the crippling nature of the disease, which engulfs one in a cycle of depression and mania/hyper mania, there is now hope for Ellis. She is all set to become one of the first recipients of poop therapy, a unique treatment for bipolar disorder, launched by a Canadian doctor, Dr. Valerie Taylor.
There were days when depression made it difficult for Ellis to get out of bed, and on other days, the blackouts (associated with the mania phase) tormented her. Now hopeful that the treatment involving good bacteria of the gut will be effective, Ellis looks forward to that day when she would not require medications for coping with the defect when her body would develop the capacity to look after itself.
Another woman from Australia, who experimented with the same treatment under the expert guidance of her therapist, said it worked wonders. In her blog, Jane Sullivan, who underwent FMT (faecal microbiota transplantation) from her husband in 2016, said that she felt better within three months of treatment and that she no longer requires medication, the standard being antidepressants, for the disorder which is considered as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Medical advice however cautions against self-medication through FMT, as one cannot be aware of the kind of infection he/she may have without expert help.
For many patients who live with bipolar and go through excruciatingly painful cycles of mania and depression, FMT may prove to be a boon. The premise of the therapy is pretty simple. First, the existing gut bacteria is flushed out in a procedure similar to colonoscopy. Thereafter, fecal transplants from healthy samples, i.e., patients who have not been diagnosed with bipolar, are implanted in the colon of the people who require the intervention. The treatment has also been used for treating gut infection, bowel disorders, obesity, diabetes, and even autism.
For Dr. Taylor, the realization that gut microbiomes could be helpful came about when two of her bipolar patients showed a positive response to antibiotics. However, once treatment with antibiotics was stopped, the symptoms of bipolar returned with a bang. Though Dr. Taylor considers the new treatment out-of-the-box, there are many who are interested. A two-year study involving 60-odd patients from across the world with FMT is also in the pipeline.
Gut bacteria and mental health
The human gut contains a large number of bacteria, fungi and yeast – collectively called microbiome – which play an important role in gastrointestinal tract functioning. Of these, bacteria have a critical role to play. Labelled good bacteria, these not only facilitate the digestion of food, but they also play an important role in checking inflammation and keeping the immune system shipshape. The gut bacteria are also believed to play a crucial role in anxiety, autism, depression and other disorders of the brain.
However, bacteria’s role in triggering the condition or suppressing it is still clouded in mystery. So, though much is made of the FMT treatment modality and a healthy gut is a precursor to a healthy brain, complex medical disorders like bipolar are best treated with means that are backed with solid scientific evidence, such as psychotherapy, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy and the like. In certain instances, when medications like anticonvulsants, antipsychotics and SSRIs aren’t enough to curb the depression or the mania, and the individual is increasingly delusional or hyperactive, hospitalization may be required before the person comes to harm.
Finding help for bipolar
Recently, many celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta Jones, opened up about their struggles with bipolar, thus helping deal with the stigma associated with the condition. There is nothing to be ashamed of if one is bipolar. Bipolar disorder is certainly not the end of the journey called life. It could be the beginning of another, more beautiful and significant journey, provided someone seeks treatment at the right time and at an appropriate center, maybe one of the best bipolar disorder treatment centers in California.