High Stress Resiliency Linked To Specific Types Of Gut Microbes And Metabolites: Study

High Stress Resiliency Linked To Specific Types Of Gut Microbes And Metabolites: Study

Authored by Amy Denney via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A new study came out on Friday in Nature Mental Health reveals new evidence that the gut and brain work together to build resilience to stress, contributing to a growing body of research that suggests the gut is a possible pathway to help prevent or minimize stress-related psychiatric conditions.

(Maria Korneeva/Getty Images)

Specifically, a high-resilience phenotype of the gut microbiome was identified based on a mix of microbes and metabolites that had anti-inflammatory and gut-barrier integrity features. This phenotype was associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Besides looking at the traits of the microbiome, the study used clinical and psychological assessment tools and MRIs that examined structural and functional roles of the brain. The study included 116 healthy participants, 18 to 60 years old.

The main finding suggests that “the microbiome is critical in shaping resilience” and modifying the gut microbiome “can optimize mental health.”

Understanding Stress

Arpana Church, lead author of the study and associate professor at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, told The Epoch Times that deep-diving into the relationships stress has with the body can help prevent or mitigate mental and physical ailments.

Not only that, stress is an inevitable part of the human experience, she said, noting that 77 percent of Americans have physical symptoms related to stress and 33 percent report extreme stress.

The study also notes that stress leads to an annual loss of $300 billion in health care expenses and missed work in the United States.

What really makes the study unique is often we focus on stress, or we focus on the negative or we focus on the disease group,” said Ms. Church, who is also co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center.

“Usually in medicine, we really focus on disease, how to cure disease, how to better understand the underlying mechanism of disease, and what I wanted to do was flip the script.”

This study focused instead on health and the microbiome characteristics of resilient people.

Resiliency Equates to Health

The differences in microbes and metabolites between high-resilience and low-resilience individuals were distinct in the study. High resiliency was associated with biomarkers indicating better gut barrier integrity, lower depression and anxiety psychopathology, higher cognitive function, less gray matter volume in the brain, and increased functional circuitry in the brain.

Compromised or weakened gut barrier, sometimes called “leaky gut,” is being considered as a potential factor in a number of chronic diseases. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut microbes, is associated with chronic diseases and inflammation.

Analysis of the gut microbiome in the high-resilience individuals noted increased levels of microbes and metabolites that are:

Better at environmental adaptation
Able to replicate and repair DNA
Better at carbohydrate and energy metabolism

Ms. Church said in terms of psychosocial traits, the high-resilient individuals were also more non-judgmental, easy-going, kind, extroverted, and mindful. They had lower levels of perceived stress and also low levels of neuroticism.

She described the relationship between the gut and brain like a car with working brakes.

“If you have great working brakes, you’re able to modulate or control the situation, have emotional regulation and cognitive response,” she said. “And they had gut bacteria and metabolites associated with reduced inflammation and better gut barrier integrity.”

Clinical Implications

The findings may lead to new approaches in mental health. Resiliency has traditionally been perceived as a psychological trait related to a person’s agency, will, mental grit, and ability to use cognitive strategies, Vanessa Ruiz explained.

Ms. Ruiz told The Epoch Times in an email interview that using such strategies to improve resiliency requires metabolic energy and examining stress as resiliency more holistically will help practitioners and patients. Ms. Ruiz is a naturopathic doctor and national speaker on adverse childhood experiences who teaches at Rewire Trauma Therapy.

Stress is a hypermetabolic state, suggesting that resilience may be linked to a state of metabolic endurance during stressful times,” Ms. Ruiz said. “The role of the microbiome in adapting to these changes is particularly exciting.”

“This study … offers a more holistic perspective on resilience adaptations, emphasizing the dynamic interplay between the microbiome, neuroplasticity, and stress adaptations,” she continued. “Although this doesn’t provide causality, it can help to elucidate a relationship to stress resiliency.”

It makes sense, Ms. Ruiz explained, that someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would lose physical and psychological adaptation, which would naturally show up as a loss of resilience. Previous studies have also shown a loss of gut microbial diversity in those suffering from PTSD.

Gut microbiota are responsible for making metabolites, including neurotransmitters like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that are involved in stress-related psychopathology.

“Most people don’t realize how much impact the gut has on our brain and specifically the way we produce mood-modulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin,” said Chelsea Blackbird, a nutritionist and co-owner of The School of Christian Health and Nutrition. “These important hormones help govern the way we feel and handle stress. Good gut health supports good mental health.”

Ms. Blackbird told The Epoch Times in an email that often when she works with clients who are seeking help for gut health, they also note an improvement in brain health like better cognition, clarity, and mood.

“People don’t normally associate their gut health with their mental health but it is often a root cause of anxiety, depression, poor focus, and other mental conditions. Many people are able to avoid pharmaceutical prescriptions for these issues once they restore a healthy gut microbiome,” she said.

Hope for the Future

Ms. Church noted that in the future, gut-boosting strategies—like probiotics, prebiotics, other supplements, and diet—could be used for treating mental health states in the same way we advise one another to take vitamin C when we feel a cold coming on.

“It [the study] has implications for how we can boost resilience because all these things are changeable, manipulatable,” she said. “It’s not like you have cancer, and that’s it. You can actually implement a lot of things that can boost these brain and gut microbiome and behavioral variables.”

Because of the bi-directional relationship, brain-boosting strategies may also be helpful for gut health.

“We can focus on stress tolerance and the burden of stress on these body systems. Maybe on the brain level, thinking about resilience training, mindfulness, or just being kind or non-judgmental,” Ms. Church said.

She also advocates for a diet that:

Is high in fiber
Includes probiotics
Minimizes artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and added sugars
Is balanced and diverse

“We don’t need to go on any diets. We just need to add 30 different diverse fruits and vegetables per week to our diet. I think that would really help boost a good, healthy gut microbiome and support optimal brain functioning and even well-being,” Ms. Church said.

Going forward, she said researchers are working on clinical trials that will test diet interventions, probiotics and prebiotics, and brain-directed therapies.

“Looking at ways we can manipulate the brain and the gut microbiome to prevent disease—or at least slow down progression—will be huge in the future but also will empower people to implement these on their own,”  Ms. Church said.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 06/25/2024 – 06:30