Our mental stamina is hidden in both the brain and… the gut

Finding ways to avoid stress can help prevent heart disease, strokes, obesity and diabetes

How is it different from people who embrace change and follow their instincts? Who responds well to adversity, without too much emphasis, briefly considered “more resilient”? Brain and gut, UCLA researchers answer.

Scientists looked at the brains and gut microbiomes of people who coped effectively with stress from a variety of factors, including social isolation and discrimination. Finding ways to manage stress can help prevent heart disease, strokes, obesity and diabetes, researchers say.

“If we can define what a healthy, robust brain and a robust microbiome look like, we can develop targeted interventions to those areas to reduce stress,” said Arpana Gupta, co-director of the UCLA Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center.

For the study, Gupta’s team looked at how adaptable and resilient 116 people were and divided them into two groups: high performers and low performers. Participants provided stool samples and underwent brain MRI.

Research has shown that people with high resilience have better brain activity in areas related to emotional regulation and better thinking than others.

“Individuals with high resilience have been found to be better at regulating their emotions, less prone to catastrophizing, and more logical,” added first author Desiree Delgadillo, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA.

What is hidden in our intestines

In addition to their brain differences, something unique was happening in their guts.

Their gut microbes produced chemicals and exhibited low levels of inflammation and gene activity associated with a strong gut barrier. Inflammation causes a thing calledleaky gut“, which disrupts the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients and block toxins.

The researchers were surprised to find these microbiome characteristics in highly resistant study subjects.

“Resilience is really a whole-body phenomenon that affects not only your brain, but also your microbiome and the metabolites it produces,” Gupta said.

The results were published in the journal June 21 Nature Mental Health.

The next step is to investigate whether a tolerance-enhancing intervention changes activity in the brain and gut.

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