Did you know that when you have a “gut reaction,” you really are having a reaction in your gut? According to ancient beliefs, our gut was thought to be the seat of our emotions. In fact, in our modern view, a lot of our emotions are connected to the gut.
The effects of stress on the gut have been studied in baby rats. I know that rats aren’t human but there is much to be learned from them. Baby rats sometimes have stress. In the lab, the stress is induced by taking them away from their mothers, which, as we all know is an unhappy experience for babies. When the baby rats (called pups) were separated from their mommies, they became severely stressed. Their cortisol levels shot up as the result of stress and caused changes in the normal healthy bacteria in the gut. This lowered their immune defenses and made them more susceptible to disease.
The amazing finding is that the use of probiotics kept the intestines healthy and kept their cortisol levels from going so high. We know that using probiotics helps to fend off illnesses like colds and flus, but now we have evidence of help with our stress responses.