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Body, Mind, and Biome: How De-Stressing Boosts Your Good Bacteria

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We know that what we eat plays a major role in the diversity of our gut microbiome. We get the basics: good bacteria in the food we put in our bodies means good bacteria in our guts. We've done our research on probiotic supplements, fermented food, and prebiotics. But maybe our diet isn't the only factor at play here -- maybe we should worry about our lifestyles, too.

A recent study took a look at the effects that stress has on the gut microbiome. Turns out, high levels of stress hormones are often seen alongside higher volumes of "bad" gut bacteria. Researchers took mouth swabs and fecal samples from squirrels and released them for two weeks, after which they swabbed again and measured the levels of stress hormones in the squirrels. Squirrels with higher volumes of stress hormones also had less healthy gut microbiomes. Thought swapping your Coke for kombucha would save your microbiome? You might have to turn off your email alerts, too. It's all about meditation and munching.

The study was done on red squirrels, who admittedly do not have the same stressors we do. (The jury is still out on what's worse, worrying about where you hid that last acorn or dealing with an impatient boss.) We've still seen plenty of research on the health effects high stress has, from high blood pressure to psychological issues. With growing support for mindfulness in the workplace, yoga, and meditation, managing stress is becoming more of a focal point -- alongside an increased awareness of the body's microbiome and its importance.

Bodies are complicated, as are the tiny organisms living inside of them. So many aspects of life impact the development and continuance of a healthy microbiome, and every day we're learning more and gaining more insight into how our bodies interact with our internal ecosystem. Acting on this new discovery is pretty easy, though -- who doesn't want to cut back on stress? Go ahead, relax and be nice to your mind and your microbiome ;)

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