Good Bacteria & Mental Health Policy
There are studies showing that children that are "picky eaters" are more likely to have mental health problems as adults.
I was absolutely one of those "picky eater" children who would gag at the table when presented with most vegetables and a fair number of other foods.
My mother often called the pediatrician afraid I was going to develop rickets -- well I didn't so the pediatrician said since I was still alive not to worry about it (& there was little she could do about it anyway except giving me vitamins which she did).
But it turns out that what we get from our foods is NOT just the essential nutrients BUT GOOD BACTERIA as well.
The last few years have been producing a lot of research tending to verify the Brain-Gut Connection and the importance of "Good Bacteria" in the Human Microbiome for Mental Health.
The University of Colorado is a leader in this research (see the story to the right) and is partnering with the VA with regard to post-traumatic stress disorder.
This research is consistent with the Brain-Immune-Gut Triangle Paradigm.
How can Medicaid partner with CU on this? Montana in their MI Waiver does include dietetic and nutrition services. CU's research is still experimental, but it is looking very promising and it has the potential to save a lot of money in mental health care costs.
Additionally, for some people it may not be as simple as introducing good bacteria to their systems -- their systems may not absorb the good bacteria.
Finally, this is just one more factor to be considered on an individual basis.
A CU Boulder-led study showing that injecting beneficial bacteria into mice can make them more resilient to stress has been named among the “top 10 advancements and breakthroughs” of 2016 by the nation’s leading non-governmental funder of mental health research.
Now, lead author Christopher Lowry, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology, is moving forward with clinical trials to see if altering the microbiome, or composition of resident bacteria, in military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder can be beneficial.
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“There is a growing recognition that the microbiome can impact health in general and, more specifically, mental health,” said Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, which this week announced its Top 10 breakthroughs.
“Dr. Lowry’s work can potentially be a game-changer in our understanding of this, and could ultimately lead to new treatments.”
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“Our study in PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Science] showed we can prevent a PTSD-like syndrome in mice,” said Lowry, who has been studying Mycobacterium vaccae’s impact on the brain for 16 years.
The bacterium was first discovered on the shores of Lake Kyoga in Uganda in the 1990s by immunologists John Stanford and Graham Rook after recognizing that people who lived in the area responded better to certain tuberculosis vaccines.
They later realized that the bacterium found in the lakeshore soil had immune-modulating properties that were enhancing the vaccine’s efficacy.
In 2004, studies in lung cancer patients showed that while the bacterium didn’t prolong life, it did improve emotional health.
Ever since, Lowry has been working to figure out how.
He and others suspect the “hygiene hypothesis” is at play. It suggests that modern sanitary measures, antibiotic overuse and dietary changes have reduced exposure to anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating bacteria naturally present in the environment.
By re-introducing such “old friends,” Lowry theorizes, a host of inflammatory diseases – including psychiatric disorders – could be quelled.
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Ultimately, he believes the bacteria – via pill, inhalation or injection – could be given to people at high risk of PTSD - such as soldiers preparing to be deployed or emergency room workers - to buffer the physical and behavioral side-effects that can result from high stress.