The Unexpected Factor That Could Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Gut

We're guilty.

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly worrying about what you’re going to eat for your next meal, what bills you forgot to pay, if you have time to clean your apartment, if you got enough exercise this week, and on and on until all that’s left of you is a frantic ball of stress. Bummer for us, as Science Daily reports, a new study found that stress could be just as unhealthy for our guts as an unhealthy diet.

This study, published in Nature Science Reports, was conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University. They took a large group of mice and separated them into groups: Half of the males and half of the females were fed high-fat diets in order to make them gain weight. After 16 weeks, all of the mice were exposed to stress over the course of 18 days.

After the 18 days, the researchers studied microbial DNA and found something interesting: In the female mice, when they were exposed to stress, their gut microbiota (those are the microorganisms that are crucial to digestive health) changed as if though they were being fed the high-fat diet. So, to break it out down for you, while the study was performed on mice, the authors believe this shows that stress could mess with women’s guts, mimicking the effects of an unhealthy diet. The study also found that male mice on the high-fat diet showed higher levels of anxiety than female mice on the diet and lower levels of activity in response to stress.

BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology Laura Bridgewater said in a press release, “In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress. 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.”

Well, I guess it’s time to light some candles, roll out our yoga mats and find our om.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: