I am re-posting this previous post because I have begun receiving so many contacts and comments from people struggling not just with issues that they recognize as emanating from their gut biome, but who are also suffering from issues affecting the mind like severe depression, and who don’t realize the connection between their gut bacteria and their mind. There are no simple answers to anything involving health and the mind, of course, but sometimes there seem to be some very simple things that people can try that sometimes work almost miraculously. Probiotics are one of these simple solutions – but even simple solutions can be a bit complex. For example, getting your mind healthy through probiotics isn’t just a matter of running down to the local grocery store’s vitamin section and grabbing a bottle of probiotics off the shelf, and it certainly isn’t a matter of going for the most expensive pro-biotics you can find on the theory that more expensive has to be better.
This post discusses some excellent research on one particular probiotic that appears to have some very specific positive effects not only on the terrible wasting syndrome ME/CFS but also on the severe depression and fatigue that are part of this thing that is causing so many people so much suffering. My theory about healing myself has always been – research the hell out of the issue, look in all the corners that most doctors never look into, and check out the qualifications of whoever is making a recommendation. I’ve done that with this article, and I think that you can trust the authors at least enough to consider that they might be onto something – one simple pro-biotic that could help you or someone you love at least partially get over the dreadful burden of ME/CFS and the accompanying mind-sickness.
The Original Post
Readers of PanaceaChronicles may remember a 2014 post where I discussed the potential of Coca Leaf for the treatment of ME/CFS. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) Along with my interest in the potential therapeutic role of Coca Leaf in treating gut diseases I am also intensely interested in the emerging research on the role of gut bacteria in treating, curing and preventing a range of gut diseases.
So when I came across this research, which suggests that there may be one specific bacteria that could play a major healing role in CFS & IBS I sat up and took notice.
The research is solid (placebo controlled, double-blind etc.) and although studies with a larger “N” have to be conducted it may not be too early for people who suffer from ME/CFS/IBS to begin thinking about this “Can’t hurt; might help” probiotic.
Although the researchers are rightfully cautious, My feeling is that it may not be too early to say that it looks like Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota could be at least a partial answer to treating CFS/IBS effectively.
I have to also wonder, although the research didn’t focus on this, if this little bug might also be helpful in ME.
Moreover, there is also some evidence that this single strain of gut bacteria may have other important therapeutic applications.
For example, a simple Google search for the exact phrase “Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota” turns up statements like “Pancreatic necrosis if left untreated has an almost 100 percent fatality rate due to bacterial translocation. Lactobacillus casei has been found to have a wide spectrum of coverage against pathogenic organisms that translocate from the gastrointestinal tract thereby demonstrating therapeutic benefit in pancreatic necrosis.”
I offer excerpts from this important research article, and the link to the whole article, without extensive comment except to say that anyone affected by these illnesses should take the time to not only read this research but also to follow up on the hyperlinked bibliography at the end of the article.
“Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medically unexplained illness, characterized by persistent and relapsing fatigue. This severe pathological fatigue is worsened by periods of physical and mental exertion. Along with the ongoing fatigue, it has also been noted that 97% of CFS patients report neuropsychological disturbances. This can manifest as cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances, headaches, and a variety of symptoms in the emotional realm. Of these emotion-related symptoms, anxiety and depression are the most prevalent, with approximately half or patients meeting the criteria for an anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder. Over 40% of patients report symptoms that are often part of anxiety and depressive disorders, including dizziness, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, appetite changes and shortness of breath.”
“Many CFS patients also complain of gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances. Indeed, patients with CFS are more likely to report a previous diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), meet diagnostic criteria for IBS and experience IBS related symptoms. While CFS is neither a gastrointestinal nor psychiatric disorder per se, over 50 percent of patients with CFS meet the diagnostic criteria of IBS, and anxiety itself is often a hallmark symptom in those with IBS. Although the mechanisms behind this frequent overlap with IBS are far from understood, some investigators have documented that there are marked alterations in the intestinal microflora of CFS patients, with lower levels of Bifidobacteria and higher levels of aerobic bacteria.
Recently it was discovered that gut pathogens in the GI tract can communicate with the central nervous system and influence behavior associated with emotion, anxiety in particular, even at extremely low levels and in the absence of an immune response. Researchers have also shown that the administration of certain bacteria found in soil may support resilience and positively alter stress-related emotional behavior in animals under experimental stress. In addition, so-called probiotics, or live microorganisms which confer a health benefit on the host, have the potential to influence mood-regulating systemic inflammatory cytokines, decrease oxidative stress and improve nutritional status when orally consumed.”
“This background led some investigators to hypothesize a possible adjunctive therapeutic role of probiotic bacteria in mood-related psychiatric symptoms. Some hints at the utility of probiotics for mood regulation come from a recent human trial involving the administration of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS) or placebo to 132 otherwise healthy adults. In an intriguing finding, the investigators discovered that those with the lowest scores in the depressed/elated dimension at baseline had significant improvement in mood scores after taking the probiotic compared to the placebo group. The probiotic bacteria and placebo were unable to make a difference in those with the highest baseline mood scores. In addition, ongoing experimental studies in this area have recently shown that in the animal model of depression, the oral administration of a probiotic can increase plasma tryptophan levels, decrease serotonin metabolite concentrations in the frontal cortext and dopamine metabolite concentrations in the amygdaloid cortex. With this background, the current investigation was initiated to determine if orally administered probiotics could make a difference in symptoms of depression and anxiety in adult patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.”
“Overall the results suggest that specific strains of probiotic bacteria may have a role to play in mediating some of the emotional symptoms of CFS and other related conditions. However, it is important to note that this is a small pilot study and broad conclusions cannot be drawn at this time. Since we did not evaluate bowel function during the study, it is entirely possible that the decreased anxiety was a consequence of improved bowel function. In an unexplained medical condition such as CFS, where over 70% of patients meet the criteria for IBS, it is possible that regulation of bowel movements made a difference in mental state. Indeed LcS (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota ) has been shown to regulate bowel function and decrease constipation in a controlled trial. It is also true that LcS (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota ) has been shown to reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and the subjective reporting of the passage of gas in patients with IBS. This is of significance because SIBO and intestinal permeability often overlap, and patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are known to have both increased intestinal permeability and SIBO. Indeed, correction of SIBO and intestinal permeability has been shown to improve symptoms in CFS and depressive disorders. Therefore, it is entirely possible that our results are an artifact of improved gut structure and function via the LcS (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota ) restoration of a healthy intestinal biofilm. However, a recent study using the same LcS (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota ) strain in healthy adults suggests that there may be a more direct microbial influence on emotional state. In healthy adults who were reported to be more depressed/less elated in daily functioning at baseline, there was significant improvement in mood scores after taking the probiotic.”