Stress as Harmful to Gut Health as Junk Food
Millions of Americans fall into a vicious cycle of stress, eating junk food in an effort to deal with that stress, and then stressing even more because they've chowed down on junk food. Now, in a study from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, researchers have found that stress alone might be as harmful as junk food ― especially for women.
In the study, gut microbiota in stressed female mice underwent the same sort of changes that researchers are accustomed to seeing in subjects on a high-fat diet. On the other hand, stress evidently had a negligible effect on gut microbiota in male mice. Study co-author Laura Bridgewater, PhD, of BYU's Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology stated that their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest a link between stress, microbiota and gender-specific health conditions and diseases.
"Stress can be harmful in a lot of ways," Bridgewater told Medical News Today, "but this research is novel in that it ties stress to female-specific changes in the gut microbiota. We sometimes think of stress as a purely psychological phenomenon, but it causes distinct physical changes." About 80 percent of Americans report one or more symptoms of stress in a given month ― a startling number in light of the fact that stress is tied to serious emotional and physical conditions, including of anxiety, obesity, and depression.