Stress and the Microbiome

As promised, I am writing about something other than SCD today!  For a change, I thought we could talk about stress.

I have a lot of it.  Really, more than my fair share.  And I’ve been under major stress for now almost 21 years, since the day my son was diagnosed with autism.  That one thing is really enough for a lifetime…but then loads of other major issues have been layered, one by one, on top of that until the stress is downright suffocating sometimes.  And while externally, most of the time I am good at handling it, internally I am sure it’s done a number on me.

Chronic stress does a lot of really bad things to us, including destroying our microbiomes.  I remember reading, a while ago, about a study[i] that examined the effects of continued stress on squirrels’ microbiomes.  The researchers found that those with more diversity (a sign of good health) were less stressed.  The chronically stressed animals also had higher levels of bad bacteria.  This finding has been confirmed over and over – stress is BAD for the biome and very pro-inflammatory  to boot.

But it gets worse:

Just a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a study called “Prenatal stress and microbiome.”[ii]  These researchers discovered that prenatal stress in mothers leads to microbiome changes in both mother and female offspring, even in their adulthood.  The effects are multi-generational! Not only that: changes in the microbiome from stress cause immune alterations which affects brain development.  The babies demonstrated increased anxiety behaviors and alterations in cognition.

I remind myself daily that I absolutely MUST find ways of reducing my stress.  Easier said than done though, of course.  I’m not giving up though.  I’m adding to my New Year’s resolutions:   find more activities that give me some kind of mental relief.  My biome will thank me, I’m sure.



[ii] Gur, TL, Shay, L, Vadodkar Palkar, A, Fisher, S, Varaljay, VA, Dowd, S, Bailey, MT.  Prenatal stress affects placental cytokines and neurotrophins, commensal microbes, and anxiety-like behavior in adult female offspring.  (Abbreviated title:  Prenatal stress and microbiome).  Brain, Behavior and Immunity: 2016 Dec. 24.

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