A new study from Nature Scientific Reports indicates that stress may be as unhealthy to our gut microbiota as a bad diet. The study was carried out on animals but may have implications for humans. The researchers set out to evaluate the factors that impact on the gut microbiota and found that female mice exposed to stress showed significant changes to their microbiota: the changes in the composition of gut bugs looked like they had been eating a high fat diet.
While we often think that stress has a mostly psychological effect, this study highlights the physical impacts. Interestingly male mice didn’t respond in the same way as females. As opposed to the female mice, higher anxiety and a negative stress response was seen in male mice fed on a high-fat diet. Only in the female mice did stress shift the microbiota as if the animals were being fed high fat foods.
So apart from eating a gut-healthy diet, stress management may be a powerful way of helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiota, thus reducing the risk of the growing list of diseases linked to gut dysbiosis.
Bridgewater, L.C., Zhang, C., Wu, Y., Hu, W., Zhang, Q., Wang, J., Li, S. and Zhao, L., 2017. Gender-based differences in host behavior and gut microbiota composition in response to high fat diet and stress in a mouse model. Scientific Reports, 7(1), p.10776.