How stress affects the balance of bacteria in the gut and immune response

How stress affects the balance of bacteria in the gut and immune response

Stress can change the balance of bacteria that naturally live in the gut.

These bacteria affect immune function, and may help explain why stress dysregulates the immune response.

Exposure to stress leads to changes in composition, diversity and number of gut microorganisms. The bacterial communities in the intestine can become less diverse, and an increase in potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium can be orchestrated.  These changes can have drastic affect for the physiological function.


This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can have a serious impact on our immune system.

“This is the first evidence that the gut microorganisms may play a role in innate immunological stress responses,” said Monika Fleshner, Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “The study reveals the dynamic interactions between multiple physiological systems including the intestinal microbiota and the immune system.”

Because gut bacteria have been linked to diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, and even to asthma, a future goal of research is to determine whether alterations of gut bacteria is the reason why these diseases tend to be worse during periods of emotional stress.

stress-and-gut2I strongly recommend probiotic supplementation, fermented food and yoghurt (with probiotics) to supplement gut flora. If you are always sick, check your gut flora with a stool test to see what you lack. If you normalize your gut flora, it can kick it out of a disease state into a healing phase again.   Are you often sick and don’t know why, get checked by your integrative doctor?

Journal Reference:

  1. Bailey. Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: Implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation? Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2011; 25 (3): 397 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.023
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