Modern medicine generally considers mental illness to be a brain condition treatable with drug therapies. It is becoming more apparent that the problem with mental illness lies not in the brain but with an organ far removed from the brain, commonly referred to as the gut. Noteworthy is the fact that Hippocrates (469-370 BC) stated that "All diseases begin in the gut." More recently, Dr. Phillipe Pinel, father of modern psychiatry stated,
"The primary seat of insanity lies generally in the region of the stomach and intestines."
Other researchers have more recently endorsed this principle by contributing to a growing body of evidence suggesting a very strong link between various types of mental disorders and diseases of the intestines. These disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, autism, and ADD/ADHD. When gut diseases are resolved or at least minimized, mental illness symptoms often completely disappear or are at least diminished.
Since the breakthrough studies of Dr Barry Marshall who discovered that ulcers were caused by a bacterial infection of the stomach, there has been speculation that other gut diseases such as Diverticulitis, Crohn's Disease and IBS could perhaps also be caused by an infectious agent. These types of diseases can often occur in the very young and go undetected or even undiagnosed for years resulting in chronic inflammation of the gut and lack of absorption of vital nutrients in the body.
Other factors may also be involved in poor absorption. These include allergies and autoimmune responses, both of which can develop with continued unchecked inflammation of the bowel. Whatever the causes, it is this lack of absorption of essential nutrients required for the brain to function normally that can lead to mental disturbances.
What are these essential nutrients? The B vitamin complex, especially B6 and B12,. Vitamins C and E are essential, and a number of trace minerals including magnesium, zinc, and iron have been shown to be important. In fact, Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley has shown that a deficiency of these essential nutrients in the body can cause mutations and lead to degenerative diseases including cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
Although a resolution of the gut disease issue is still ongoing, often a reversal of mental illness symptoms can occur with proper supplementation of essential nutrients that the brain lacks because of poor absorption. This reversal can occur even in individuals who have suffered chronically from mental disorders.