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A new immune study involving gut bacteria and stress has me a bit confused

Posted Mar 22 2011 10:32pm

A medical blog associated with Stanford University School of Medicine today talks about some new research

gut bacteria

showing that stress can disrupt the balance of good/bad bacteria in the gut, thereby impacting immune function in the body. The basic concept has been studied before and has several published reports supporting it. The blog post today talks about an Ohio State/Texas Tech study that showed stress led to “changes in the composition, diversity and number of microorganisms in the gut. As a result, bacterial communities in the intestine became less diverse, and had greater numbers of potentially harmful bacteria…”

What stumps me is a passage from the research summary stating, from the lead researcher, “”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. “This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity.”  I don’t get it. If bacteria in the gut were reduced, I would tend to think the effects of stress on the immune system would not be prevented, but rather would be amplified. Lower, imbalanced gut microflora should  mean less effective immune response. What am I missing?

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