ADHD Risk Influenced by Gut Microbiome

by Staff Writer
April 6, 2023 at 11:20 AM UTC

Microbiome and ADHD

Clinical Relevance: Certain fungus in the gut microbiome may increase the risk of ADHD

  • A new study is the first to investigate the role of a phenomenon known as fungal dysbiosis in ADHD.
  • By analyzing stool samples, the researchers uncovered a higher abundance of a fungus called candida albicans in children with ADHD.
  • This gut fungus led to increased intestinal permeability and inflammation that may be linked to a higher risk of attention disorders.

An increased risk of ADHD was associated with a leaky gut in an investigation just published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The study looked into a phenomenon known as fungal mycobiome dysbiosis to see how it influences intestinal inflammation that has suspected ties to attention deficit disorders. Fungal mycobiome dysbiosis is an imbalance or disruption of the natural fungal communities that reside within the gut. It occurs when there is a shift in the normal composition and functioning of the gut microbiome.

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In the study, researchers gathered stool samples from 35 children with ADHD and 35 healthy children for comparison. They then sequenced  DNA from the samples to count and identify the different species of gut fungi.

Specifically, a gut microbe called candida albicans seems to increase the permeability of the intestinal lining. Children with ADHD had a larger presence of the microbe. And further lab tests confirmed the association between the microbe and the risk of a leaky gut.

When the gut lining becomes more permeable than usual, it can allow toxins and other harmful substances to pass through to the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation and other negative effects. According to the authors, such inflammation may damage the brain and contribute to the development of ADHD symptoms.

The researchers also spotted a deficit of another species of fungi known as basidiomycota. Though not yet well studied, scientists believe that this microbial class benefits the gut by helping to break down complex carbohydrates and producing important nutrients like vitamins and amino acids. While this discovery may not necessarily have any connection to ADHD, the authors explained that this particular microbe seems to benefit overall gut function.

Previous research has also suggested a link between gut dysbiosis and ADHD, particularly with regards to alterations in the bacterial composition of the gut microbiome. However, this is the first study to investigate the role of the fungal component of the gut microbiome in ADHD, and specifically, the potential impact of fungal dysbiosis on intestinal permeability and inflammation. 

“The human body is home to a complex and diverse microbial ecosystem, and findings from this study suggest that dysbiosis of the fungal mycobiome in ADHD can influence patient health,” the authors wrote.

The study has limitations. It was only able to analyse at a single snapshot in time so it didn’t capture long term nuances like diet and other lifestyle factors, especially given such a small group of subjects. But it does represent a promising area of research. The authors said their findings could someday help reveal the underlying mechanisms behind ADHD and lead to more effective treatments.

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