Microbiome is a trendy word that gets bandied around a lot without actually taking the time to go over what it means and what is involved in it. This is a double-edged sword. It’s a good thing because new info about it is being discovered all the time, and people should have it on their minds. It’s a bad thing because if they don’t fully understand what it means, how are they supposed to be able to use it to their advantage. One great example is the relationship between stress, and how your stressful moments may be disrupting your microbiotic harmony.
The Microbiome Explained
Think of a rainforest. Thousands of species in one space, each with its own role that helps keep things running properly. Now, think of every person you know as their own little rainforest. This may sound absurd, but there is a hint of truth. On top of being a living organism, each person is also a habitat to millions of microorganisms. This doesn’t mean you’re sick, this is the natural order of things. This is the microbiome, and everyone has one. The microbiome is originally transferred from mother to baby at birth, and then changes. Sometimes, this is normal, like at puberty. Sometimes, it’s different, like influences from the environment or even what we eat. Now, it’s being discovered that stress changes may affect the microbiome in your gut, and vice-versa.
This revelation came from the discovery that the gut is a sort of second brain, with gut bacteria communicating to the actual brain, but also receiving messages. Discoveries also showed that stress had a direct impact on said bacteria, potentially contributing to indigestion and other issues.
Stress can be that much more devastating depending on the person and the underlying condition. For some, the only result is a few headaches or missed nights of sleep, only to revert back to normal. But issues with stress response can go far beyond that, and PTSD is a great example. PTSD is a response to a traumatic or near-death experience, where the person in question is unable to come down from the high of a stress response. Certain people are particularly at risk to this, especially veterans, who are often exposed to traumatic incidents in combat. If things get out of hand, they may require treatment at a veteran’s medical center in Los Angeles or elsewhere, as they potentially become a risk to themselves.
These are extreme examples, and until more studies are done, probiotics and the microbiome aren’t going to be enough to fully handle extreme stress issues. However, as the mystery of the gut-brain axis is unraveled, don’t be surprised if you see more people saying to take care of your digestive tract along with taking care of your mind.