Stress can damage your digestive health as much as junk food

It has long been known that the stress harms health in different ways. Now a work of Brigham Young University (United States) and the Jiao Tong University of Shangái (China) describes this relationship.

Their experiment with mouse females exposed to continued stress has shown that her intestinal microbiota – the set of bacteria that live in the intestine and are key to the body – changes to resemble rodents on a high-fat diet .

Laura Bridgewater, a microbiologist at Brigham Young, is among the authors of this research published in Nature. “Stress can be harmful in many ways, but the novelty of our work is that it links this problem with specific changes in the intestinal microbiota of females,” said Bridgewater.

This researcher and her colleagues in China used for their experiment a large group of mice of both sexes of eight weeks of age. They exposed half the males and half the females to a greasy diet. 16 weeks later, all subjects were subjected to mildly stressful conditions for 18 consecutive days.

Before and after the stress tests, the scientists analyzed the feces of the mice to find out how nervousness affected their intestinal microbiota. They also measured the anxiety of animals through the study of their movements.

The researchers found striking differences in results based on the sex of rodents. Males subjected to a high fat diet were more anxious than females following the same insane diet, and responded to stress by showing changes in their activity.

They also found alterations in the intestinal microbiota related to stress, but these only affected the females. The microorganisms in the digestive system of stressed mice were similar to those of animals that ate very greasy foods.

The question is always: are these results extrapolable to humans? The authors of the paper are convinced that their conclusions will have implications for people, but admit that much research is required to confirm this.