Most of us know the feeling—you’re at a restaurant with friends, a significant other, or co-workers, and somewhere between taking your seat and paying the check before heading out, you’ve gobbled up half the menu. You’re bloated, gassy, full… perhaps the way one feels after sucking down one too many beers? If you nodded your head on that last one, you aren’t alone: a new study out of the University of Gothenburg may have uncovered a correlation between said gassiness (dubbed “leaky gut syndrome” in the medical world) and alcoholism, giving medical professionals an opportunity to explore alternative methods by which certain individuals might receive treatment for their addiction.
The study in question was conducted by Professor Fredrik Bäckhed from the University of Gothenburg, and his colleagues from Belgium and Sweden. The researchers started out by taking sixty alcoholic subjects who abused equal amounts of alcohol, and had them each take tests that measured depression, anxiety, and alcohol cravings. The subjects then spent nineteen days in rehab. Bäckhed et al. noticed that of the original sixty, almost half demonstrated little to no improvement on the tests—in fact, their results were about the same as when they first tested. Interestingly enough, these were the same men and women suffering from a lack of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a type of bacteria present in one’s stomach and known for anti-inflammatory properties.
By contrast, the remaining subjects not only tested lower with regards to depression, anxiety, and alcohol cravings, in some cases they even matched their control-group non-alcoholic counterparts. Another telling similarity? The control group and the remaining thirty-four alcoholic subjects all had normal gut flora levels.
According to an article via Science Nordic, if this is true then scientists could very well argue that probability of recovery in rehab, and risk of relapse, could in some ways be heavily tied to not what goes into your stomach, but what isn’t there to begin with. When comparing their results with tests that utilized mice in similar circumstances, the conclusions were uncanny: mice with low gut flora were more prone to “relapse.”
Despite this, some such as Professor Ove Schaffalitzky, head of research at the department of gastroenterology, University of Southern Denmark, who weren’t on the team but have read the report, still have reservations. Schaffalitzky comments:
“There can be other explanatory factors which the study does not account for. It may be that the test subjects have a special drinking pattern or diet, have other illnesses, have a special gut or something else. There are many uncertain points in the hypothesis.”
In response, Bäckhed has conceded that he himself is not entirely convinced of his team’s results (be what they may), but is adamant that further research need be conducted so that we can understand the exact relationship.
“It’s the first time we have shown that there is a correlation between alcohol craving and bacterial gut composition.”
What do you think?