Stress levels can lower immunity through bacteria

Stress not only change the bacteria levels in the gut, the alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity.

Updated: Mar 22, 2011, 16:28 PM IST

Washington: Stress levels can make you more vulnerable to illness by altering the composition of bugs living in your gut.

"These bacteria affect immune function, and may help explain why stress dysregulates (impairs) the immune response," said lead researcher Michael Bailey from Ohio State University.

"These changes can have profound implications for physiological function," explained Bailey, reports the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity.

"When we reduced the number of bacteria in the intestines using antibiotics, we found that some of the effects of stress on the immune system were prevented," he added, according to an Ohio statement.

"This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity."

"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.

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