Posted on Nov 01, 2019, 5 p.m.
Your gut microbiome plays a surprisingly big role in a host of physical and mental illnesses, and now recent research from Bar IIan University is using this to explain the links between stress and autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus involves the immune system attacking the body’s own cells, tissues, and organs as though they were viruses or bacteria. Stress has long been thought to be a risk factor for this type of illness, but until now it wasn’t certain as to why.
Gut bacteria in mice were found to be working to raise the levels of a type of immune cell involved in autoimmunity known as effector T helper cells in response to stress. To observe this mice were divided into 2 groups: a group subjected to social stress in the form of 10 days of encounters with dominant aggressive mice, and a control group. The stressed animals were found to have more Bilophila and Halobacterium than the controls, higher levels of these bacteria have been found in humans suffering from the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis.
Persistent social stress was found to change the expression of genes seen in the gut bacteria of the animals as well as altered composition; the biggest changes in genes enabled the bacteria to grow, move, and communicate with the host. These changes allowed them to move outside of the gut and travel to places such as the lymph nodes to spur immune repose. Higher levels of pathogenic bacteria and effector T cells were found within the gut lymph nodes of the stressed animals.
A chain of events are believed to occur when the mice were exposed to stress, this stress changes their gut bacteria which in turn changes immune cells in a way that increases the risk of autoimmune attack. Although further research is needed this is a step in the right direction when it comes to understanding the mechanisms behind this mysterious class of illnesses.
Some 50 million Americans are suffering from an autoimmune disease, and unfortunately many times the cause of these simply are not clear. Autoimmune disease can be tricky to identify because symptoms can vary, even among those suffering from the same disease. Risk of certain diseases may be inherited, but the complex interactions between genes and the environment are believed to influence the chances of developing an illness.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study which analyzed over 100,000 people diagnosed with stress related disorder and compared tendency to develop and autoimmune disease with chances of their non-stressed siblings developing an illness. Those with stress related disorder were discovered to be more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and they had a higher likelihood of developing multiple illnesses within this category.
Everyone experiences stress, and it can be difficult to deal with. This study demonstrates how important it is to manage stress to avoid negative consequences. As if the experience of stress wasn’t enough on its own we now know that stress can spur even more upsetting illnesses. Some of the best ways to combat stress include, reading, painting, listening to music, yoga, exercise, meditation, and taking a bath.
Materials provided by:
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.