Throughout the past 10 years, the evidence is coming to light showing that there is a link and relation to certain bacterias and aspects of mental health. In this particular case, Clostridia has been studied in detail. Clostridia is a bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract). Researchers are now making the connection between the intestinal flora and the brain and human behavior. Individuals with an elevated level of Clostridia have been shown to have depression, fatigue, Rheumatoid Arthritis, autism, and more.
In many studies, the particular metabolite reviewed was HPHPA, specifically in those with autism. The research showed that a teenage boy who had diagnosed autism provided a urine sample. This urine sample had levels of HPHPA. However, a month later the same boy had an increase in symptoms and was admitted to the hospital. Here, another urine sample was provided and his HPHPA levels had significantly increased. In addition to this, in those who have autism, their urine show higher amounts of Cresol. Cresol is produced predominantly by Clostridia.
What Is Clostridia?
Clostridia itself is a tube-shaped bacteria that cause gastrointestinal infections. A healthy gastrointestinal tract is pink and slippery looking whereas a gastrointestinal tract infected by clostridia, causing pseudomembranous colitis is yellow, almost a dull gold color with bumps of colonization throughout. This infection is serious and may result in partial colon removal. The highest species that produce HPHPA precursors are:
- C. Botulinum- the same bacteria that are found in food poisoning.
- C. Sporogenes
- C. Caloritolerans- an extremely heat resistant bacteria
However, it is important to note that there are over 100 species of clostridia bacteria in the GI tract and not all are pathogenic.
Characteristics of Clostridia Bacteria:
- Strictly Anaerobic- this meaning it dies if exposed to oxygen
- Forms spores that are highly heat resistant
- Can cause tetanus, diarrhea, and food poisoning
Clostridia & Its Connection To The Brain
Clostridia affects the brain by causing dopamine levels to become too high. Dopamine needs to be at specific controlled concentrations in the brain to avoid dysfunction. Too little dopamine causes Parkinson’s disease while too much dopamine causes physiologic disorders. Dopamine is converted to norepinephrine, which is then used by the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). The SNS regulates functions such as pupil dilation, heartbeat, bronchi dilation in the lungs, bladder contractions, and more. If there is a high clostridia concentration the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine may be impaired, leading to dysregulation in the functions listed above.
Another reason high dopamine levels are an issue is that when broken down, it produces free radicals. Free radicals are toxic to the brain, use up glutathione that normally protects the body, and destroys lipids inside the cell membranes.
In one study published, 11 children with regressive onset autism were treated for clostridia. Out of those 11, 8 showed improvement. This indicated a strong relationship between the gut flora and the brain.
Another study showed that an adult male with severe depression had high levels of HPHPA due to clostridia. He was treated for the clostridia where his ratio between dopamine and norepinephrine became regular again (a value of 1).
Lastly, a woman who had depression along with IBS had an elevated ratio of dopamine and norepinephrine due to clostridia. Once treated, her ratio adjusted from a value of 12 to 1.
What To Do About Clostridia
The first step is to see a practitioner and have diagnostic testing performed. Diagnostic testing is the only way to properly figure out the levels of clostridia in the body. Lab testing allows practitioners to create a personalized treatment plan aimed at balancing out the gut and reducing the clostridia numbers.
The most effective way to treat clostridia is known as “the pulsing method”. The pulsing method refers to a 27-day treatment cycle of 1 day on, 2 days off. During the 1 day on, patients receive a dose of medication killing the active spores. The two days off allows the leftover spores to colonize and show themselves. When its time for the 1 day on, these newly colonized spores are eradicated. This method has a 95% success rate.
If you are experiencing any uncomfortable or unfamiliar symptoms, seeing a knowledgeable practitioner is always recommended. Lab testing from here can be performed to properly assess the situation and go from there. Pathogenic clostridia can cause many issues throughout the entire body. A healthy gut is a happy gut, and a happy gut leads to a happy brain! -Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
Pascucci, Tiziana, et al. “P-Cresol Alters Brain Dopamine Metabolism and Exacerbates Autism-Like Behaviors in the BTBR Mouse.” Brain Sciences, vol. 10, no. 4, 2020, p. 233., doi:10.3390/brainsci10040233.
University, Functional Medicine and William Shaw, directors. Clostridia Species as a Major Factor in Mental and Gastrointestinal Health . Functional Medicine University – The Leader in Online Training in Functional Diagnostic Medicine, 2010, www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/members/1014.cfm.
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