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Listen to your gut. A recent study done by researchers at Georgia State University revealed that psychological stress alters gut bacteria and impacts how an individual feels. The study, which was performed with Syrian hamsters, showed gut microbiota ( a complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts) sent signals to the brain and vice versa—and the same is true for humans. The research also revealed that social stress can trigger, or worse, mental illness in humans. No surprises here.

For the study, pairs of male hamsters were placed together and immediately began to compete on their wheels. Their gut microbiota was sampled before and after their first interaction, then again after nine interactions. These samples were compared to a group of hamsters that were never paired and didn’t experience any social stress. “We found that even a single exposure to social stress causes a change in the gut microbiota, similar to what is seen following other, much more severe physical stressors, and this change gets bigger following repeated exposures,” said Dr. Kim Huhman, Distinguished University Professor of Neuroscience at Georgia State.

Regardless of who won or lost, the changes in microbiota were similar. From the group of never paired hamsters, microbiota samples seemed to show which animal turned out to be a winner or loser. These findings imply bi-directional communication occurs—stress impacting microbiota and on the other side bacteria impacting the response to stress. Now that we officially know that your gut sends signals to your brain in response to conflict, here’s how you can make the right decisions.

Trust It: Your gut feeling is usually the initial response your body gives before outside interference can happen. It’s preparing you to take action. The initial reaction to stress, in ideal situations, is the best. That rush of adrenaline, a directive of fight or flight, are your natural instincts at work. Unfortunately, people can complicate things when they try to rationalize their wants over what your body is telling you to do.

Handle Your Business: Take action. Your stress will only be magnified if you try to ignore your gut response to a situation and remain idle. Do something.

Talk To Someone: If you’re still having trouble trusting your gut, get a second opinion from a dependable friend, mentor or elder. But tell them what your instinctual decision is first. That way, you’ll build confidence and the ability to discern best practices for yourself.


Arielle Neblett is a freelancer for CASSIUS.