- Adding probiotics or
microorganisms, such as bacteria found in yogurts to the diets of those with
schizophrenia may help treat yeast infections and ease bowel
- Supplementing probiotics for 14 weeks showed a 43% drop in Candida antibody levels while the placebo decreased
antibodies by only 3%.
- After probiotic treatment, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) scores, the basis
of symptom evaluation of schizophrenia, dropped from an average of 18 to
or foods containing live culture of bacteria
such as yogurt helps maintain a healthy gut microbiota.
A latest study done at the Johns Hopkins
Medicine and Sheppard Pratt Health System adds on to the benefits of
probiotics. The evidence show that adding probiotics - microorganisms, such as
bacteria found in yogurts to the diets of those with schizophrenia may help
treat yeast infections and ease bowel problems.
The investigators caution that
larger and more rigorous studies are needed to validate their findings and
determine if women with schizophrenia respond similarly to probiotics before
this fairly simple and cost-effective treatment strategy should be recommended
widely to people with schizophrenia.
"The mental health field is
in desperate need of new treatments for psychiatric disorders, yet there's been
very little progress toward this goal for too long a time. The tiny living
organisms that make up the human microbiome and the overwhelming evidence for a gut-brain axis together represent a new frontier for schizophrenia research,"
Severance, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and part of the
Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine.
"We need to rethink how we
study brain disorders such as schizophrenia by looking at clues offered by a
whole-body approach and identifying and understanding the basis for
dysfunctions that are occurring outside the brain."
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms
the beneficial bacteria inhabiting human gut.
- The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations define probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when
administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the
- Most of the probiotic bacteria
belong to two groups - Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, each of which further
contains several species. Another probiotic, Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast, belongs to the fungi
- Yogurt is a good source of probiotic bacteria. Probiotic bacteria
are also present in other foods such as fermented and unfermented milk, tempeh,
miso, certain varieties of juices and soy beverages. In these foods, the
bacteria may have been originally present or might have been added during
- Probiotics are also available as dietary
supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, or powders in sachets.
The analysis included 56 adult
women participants with an average age of 46. All the participants gave a blood
sample at the beginning of the study.
They also completed the Positive
and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) exam used for measuring a standard set of
symptoms of schizophrenia.
Each participant were given one
placebo pill once per day with a meal for the next two weeks and then were
split into groups so that neither the researchers nor the participants could
tell who would be given a real probiotic or the placebo for the next 14 weeks.
The commercially available
probiotic contained over 1 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacillus
and Bifidobacterium animalis
in each pill.
People with schizophrenia
have two types of yeast
causing infections. The researchers measured antibody levels with the blood
samples and tested for Saccharomyces cerevisiae
and Candida albicans,
before and after the probiotic treatment.
The probiotic treatment showed a
43% drop in Candida antibody levels while the placebo
decreased antibodies by only 3%.
Antibody levels for the brewer's
yeast didn't change over the course of the study in the participants after
probiotic treatment. A treatment effect wasn't detected in the women because
their starting Candida antibody levels were already much higher in those on the
placebo than in those taking the probiotics, which the researchers attributed
to the small sample size of the trial.
Link Between Probiotics
Gastrointestinal problems, mainly constipation
a common problem in individuals with schizophrenia.
is tried when
schizophrenia does not improve with several antipsychotics. It is the most
effective medication for reducing schizophrenia symptoms, but it causes more
side effects than other antipsychotics. One among the side effects is
The immune response to external antigens is determined in part by the
composition of the bacterial flora of the intestinal tract. Elevated
levels of antibodies are found in individuals with schizophrenia. Probiotic
microorganisms alter the balance of the gut microbiota and prevent the aberrant
immune response to food-derived and other harmful antigens.
Positive and Negative
Syndrome Scale (PANSS)
Schizophrenia is a mental
disorder characterized by breakdown of the thought process and the inability to
act normally in social situations due to poor emotional responsiveness. People
with schizophrenia may hear voices, see things that are not there or believe
that others are reading or controlling their minds.
The symptoms of schizophrenia
are measured on three scales:
- Positive symptoms, such as delusions, hostility,
grandiosity and hallucinations
- Negative symptoms, like
social withdrawal and poor socialization
psychological symptoms, such as guilt, anxiety and depression.
To check the effect of
probiotics on PANSS score, researchers examined previous data from a larger
study of schizophrenia and found that 165 men with Candida infections had
higher levels of positive symptoms, like delusions and hostility\.
The average PANSS score was 19.5 out of 24, compared to those 219 men without Candida
infections who scored on average less than 18.5.
After probiotic treatment, PANSS
scores on positive symptom, dropped from an average of 18 to 14.6.
"The biggest change in
psychiatric symptoms over time by probiotics in men without elevated Candida
levels suggests that introduced bacteria via probiotics might shift the
resident bacterial community dynamics more easily to a balanced state when
fungal competitors such as Candida are not present," says Severance.
"Compared to the bacterial microbiome, relatively little is
known about the fungal community in the gut and how it interacts with other
classes of microbiota."
"We hope that with
additional studies, we can show that something as cost-effective and easy to
access as probiotics would be a way to lessen some symptoms of
schizophrenia," says Severance.
- Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on
Schizophrenia Symptoms and Association With Gastrointestinal Functioning: A
Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial - (https:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4048142/)