An interesting connection between stress and the gut microbiome has recently been found, showing that for women, stress can be just as bad for your body as a poor diet.
Researchers from Brigham Young University found that when female mice were exposed to stress, their gut microbiota changed to resemble those of mice who had been fed a high-fat diet.
“Stress can be harmful in a lot of ways, but this research is novel in that it ties stress to female-specific changes in the gut microbiota,” said study lead author Laura Bridgewater.
“We sometimes think of stress as a purely psychological phenomenon, but it causes distinct physical changes.”
There was an interesting difference between male and female mice. Male mice on a high-fat diet showed much more anxiety than females on a high-fat diet, but also showed decreased activity in response to stressors. It was only in female mice that their gut microbiota changed in response to stress.
“In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress” said Bridgewater. “This study suggests that a possible source of the gender discrepancy may be the different ways gut microbiota responds to stress in males vs. females.”
It truly highlights the importance of taking measures to prevent stress: exercise, a healthy diet and some time for yourself are good places to start.