More than 100 trillion microbes live and work in harmony inside the human body (mainly in the gut) to help support digestion, immune health and more. But one study warns that too much stress may disrupt a balanced gut and deplete our supplies of good bacteria—leaving us vulnerable to illness and disease.
Researchers in Canada studied a group of wild squirrels to determine the impact of stress on the gut microbiome. As it turns out, the squirrels with higher stress levels had less bacterial diversity and an increase in the number of potentially harmful bacteria in the gut. However, those with lower stress levels had more bacterial diversity and a greater number of friendly bacteria known as probiotics.
“We wanted to understand the relationship between the microbiome and stress. The greater the stress in the squirrels, the less bacterial diversity they had, which can be an indicator of poor health,” said study author Mason Stothart in a press release. The findings are in line with current research indicating that when it comes to overall health, the more diverse the microbial community, the better.