OCD and the Brain-Belly Connection

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Running across health articles about the importance of our intestinal bacteria used to be rare, but is now commonplace.

The reason for the gut-flora focus is growing evidence that abundant beneficial intestinal bacteria are necessary for good physical and mental health.

A weak population of gut microflora has been associated, for instance, with depression, anxiety, autism, and more recently with OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder.

OCD is a psychiatric issue characterized by recurring and intrusive thoughts, called obsessions, which generate anxiety. To relieve the anxiety, compulsive or ritualistic acts, either mental or behavioral, are performed. It’s difficult to imagine how these symptoms could be linked to our gut health, but research done at McMaster University in Canada reveals there is a gut-OCD connection.

The study analyzed DNA in stool samples from untreated patients diagnosed with OCD, and from a group of non-OCD volunteers. Looking at the bacterial makeup of each sample, researchers discovered the participants with OCD had smaller, and less diverse microbial populations.

Though this research does not prove a cause and effect relationship between inadequate intestinal bacteria and OCD, it does suggest that what goes on in our brain and belly is linked—each system influencing the other. Investigators hope that understanding this link will someday clarify the origin of OCD, and generate new, effective treatments.

Source: Psychiatry Advisor
Photo credit: Gonzalo Malpartida

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