Schizophrenia: severe brain disorder characterized by abnormal interpretations of reality, resulting in hallucinations, delusions and disordered behavior.
What causes it?
Researchers believe it is a combination of genetics and environment. This “nature vs. nurture” hypothesis pretty much describes the cause of most illnesses, short of those caused by accidents. But it is helpful in that the mental health field is searching for clues and therapies beyond the norm.
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Older age of father
- History of psychoactive or psychotropic drug use during teen years and young adulthood
- Fetal exposure to viruses, toxins or malnutrition
- Increased immune system activation
Indeed, pathology in immune systems is now linked to schizophrenia. And because the gastrointestinal tract runs an impressive immune operation, gut dysbiosis is implicated in the schizophrenic process. Gut, immunity, mental health–all connected, but not well understood.
A recent review took a look at the pathways and implications. “Gastroenterology Issues in Schizophrenia: Why the Gut Matters” by Emily G. Severance and colleagues appears in March 2015 Current Psychiatry Reports.
Those risk factors for schizophrenia that impact the gut, according to the review:
- Food intolerances
- Toxoplasma gondii exposure
- Cellular barrier defects
Microbes are disrupted in schizophrenia. Immune systems are activated because of toxic byproducts of this dysbiosis.
Specifically, the authors wrote:
“Complement C1q, a brain-active systemic immune component, interacts with gut-related schizophrenia risk factors in clinical and experimental animal models.”
The gut-brain axis is the focus of much research. Practical methods of treating mental illness may be to also treat gut disturbances.
The authors conclude:
“With accumulating evidence supporting newly discovered gut–brain physiological pathways, treatments to ameliorate brain symptoms of schizophrenia should be supplemented with therapies to correct GI dysfunction.”