Stress can make your heart race, palms sweat and voice crack. But it also may alter the balance of the microorganisms living in your gut, weakening your immune system and making you more susceptible to illness, according to recent findings published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
In the study (subscription required), researchers found exposure to stress led to changes in the composition, diversity and number of microorganisms in the gut. As a result, bacterial communities in the intestine became less diverse, and had greater numbers of potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium. Lead researcher Michael Bailey, PhD, said in a release:
These changes can have profound implications for physiological function. When we reduced the number of bacteria in the intestines using antibiotics, we found that some of the effects of stress on the immune system were prevented. This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity.
Previously: Bacterial balance in gut tied to colon cancer risk, Study links bacteria in gut to size of a "gut", Your own unique microbial cachet? and No surprise here: Anger and stress are bad for your health
Photo by Alan Cleaver