Stressful events happen, and when they do our bodies must find a way to cope with them and maintain our health. Now, scientists from University of Colorado believe prebiotics may be able to help us recover from unexpected stress.
We know from previous studies that stress can impact our gut bacteria and alter the positive microbial balance that supports digestive and immune health. However, study authors believe the addition of prebiotic fiber in the diet may help us recover from stressful situations and even sleep better afterward. (Prebiotic fiber sources include acacia fiber, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, and asparagus.)
According to study author Dr. Agnieszka Mika, “Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”
Researchers used two groups of rats for the study. One was fed a prebiotic-rich diet for several weeks leading up to the test period, while the other was used as a control group. The rats then underwent test conditions designed to elicit an acute stress response.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the prebiotic rats faired far better—with no alterations in gut bacteria as the result of stress. In addition, they returned to healthier sleep patterns more quickly than the control group. Also of note, in the weeks leading up to the stress experiment the prebiotic rats experienced an increase in beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut, which may have played a role in protecting the rats from the effects of stress. Next, researchers plan to examine whether or not the same benefits apply to humans.