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Stress: Could a healthy gut microbiome make you more resilient?

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New research examines the relationship between the gut microbiome and a person’s ability to manage stress. MNT Design; Photo by STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images and Serge Filimonov/Stocksy
  • A new study suggests a strong link between a healthy gut microbiome and greater resilience to stress.
  • A healthy gut produces lower levels of inflammation and more reliably produces important neurotransmitters.
  • The relationship between the gut and the brain is also bidirectional, as psychologically motivated poor eating habits can affect gut health.
  • Experts say the best way to maintain your gut microbiome is with a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Many experts refer to stress as an epidemic, as it can affect physical and mental health if left unchecked.

According to the American Psychological Association Stress in America 2022 According to one report, stress largely immobilized 37% of adults in the United States that year, leaving them unable to perform many basic daily tasks.

At the APA survey 2023chronic stress among Americans it had jumped from 31% reported in 2019 to 45% reported in 2023.

Resilience It is a quality that enables a person to respond to stress more effectively through a sensible acceptance of change, tenacity, and the ability to bounce back from difficult events.

A new UCLA study reveals that people who are resilient to stress tend to have healthy gut microbiomes. The strong link between gut and brain health underscores the complex interaction between organs and multiple systems in the human body.

The study is published in Nature Mental Health.

For the study, researchers at UCLA’s Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center surveyed 116 people about how resilient they felt in the face of adversity.

All participants sent a stool sample to the researchers and, a few days later, underwent fMRI brain scans to examine activity in different brain regions. Stool samples from the most resistant individuals had fewer inflammatory bacteria and showed signs of robust integrity in their intestinal barrier.

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One of the goals of the study was to differentiate itself from previous research investigating the negative impacts of an unhealthy gut on the brain by looking at things from a positive angle.

The authors say their findings suggest a complex interrelationship between the gut and the brain in which resilience benefits psychological, emotional and cognitive function.

The researchers used the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CDRisc) to rate the resilience of study participants. The scale allows participants to record their degree of resilience by answering 25 questions, with one of five answers ranging from 0 (not at all true) to 4 (almost all the time).

Five areas make up resilience in the CDRisc:

  1. Personal competence, tenacity and high standards.
  2. Faith in one’s own instincts and tolerance for the negative and reinforcing effects of stress.
  3. Positive acceptance of change and having secure personal relationships.
  4. Control.
  5. Spiritual influences.

For US residents, the average CDRisc score is 80.7.

Several important connections between the gut and the brain help explain their mutual effect. investigation She has discovered that the intestinal microbiome can regulate anxiety levels.

Our understanding of the relationship between how the gut microbiome may affect anxiety is still evolving, but this study highlights a new connection to our resilience.

“The health of your gut, the integrity of the bacteria present will basically affect the health of the lining of your gut, whether it’s inflamed or not.” David Merrill, MD, Ph.D.geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, CA, explained to Today’s medical newsMerrill was not involved in the study.

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When the gut becomes inflamed, it can become “leaky” and less effective at retaining and accessing nutrients.

Chronic inflamation It is linked to several Mental health disorders“and reducing inflammation can help improve brain function and emotional stability,” said Michelle Routhenstein, RDN, preventive cardiology dietitian at Fully nourished.comnot involved in the study.

There is also a direct connection between the gut and the brain throughout the vagus nerve which directly connects the two.

Through this “superhighway,” the intestine sends short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) to the brain produced through the fermentation of Dietary fiber in the digestive system.

“SCFAs play an important role in maintaining gut health and may have beneficial effects on brain function and mood regulation. They help promote the production of benefits neurotransmitters and help reduce inflammation in the brain,” Routhenstein said.

Among these neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Approximately 90% of serotonin is produced in the intestine, as is 50% of dopamine.

He Gut-brain connection It’s a fact, Merrill said. “If you feel bad and you don’t think you’re worth taking care of, you’re going to eat junk food and all the processed foods and you’re going to have bad bacteria, so your gut is going to fall apart,” Merrill said.

Routhenstein’s advice for gut health started with diet:

“Eating a diverse variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains, can support a healthy gut microbiome. These foods not only nourish the body, but can also improve stress management by providing essential nutrients crucial for optimal health, energy and productivity.”

He also recommended including probiotic and foods rich in prebiotics that “help feed beneficial nutrients.” intestinal bacteria.” These are found in specific vegetables, such as:

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After constant and sufficient monitoring sleep routine is equally important for gut and mental health, as sleep disruption has been bound at higher levels of stress. Physical activity also promotes intestinal health and its known benefits for general health.

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