Prebiotics may help to cope with stress

Recent study shows prebiotic fibers can help to protect beneficial gut bacteria and restore healthy sleep patterns after a stressful event.


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Recent study shows prebiotic fibers can help to protect beneficial gut bacteria and restore healthy sleep patterns after a stressful event.

— Srividya Sundaresan

What are some ways you cope with stresses in your life? Do you do yoga? Meditate? Exercise? Perhaps you should add taking prebiotics to that list.

Probiotics are well known to benefit digestive health, but prebiotics are less well understood. Prebiotics are certain types of non-digestible fibers that probiotic bacteria feed on, such as the fibers found in many plant sources like asparagus, oatmeal, and legumes. Certain bacteria also feed on non-fibers such as the protein lactoferrin, which also acts like a prebiotic and is found in breast milk.

According to a new study published in the online journal, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience by Professor Monika Fleshner, PhD, and her team from the University of Colorado, Boulder, regular intake of prebiotics may promote beneficial gut bacteria and recovery of normal sleep patterns after a stressful episode.

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome,” explained Dr. Agnieszka Mika, a postdoctoral fellow and one of the authors of the study, “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.”

In this experiment, test rats received prebiotic diets for several weeks prior to a stressful test condition and compared with control rats that did not receive the prebiotic-enriched diet. Interestingly, rats that ate prebiotics prior to the stressful event did not experience stress-induced disruption in their gut microbiota, and also recovered healthier sleep patterns sooner than controls.

Given that these experiments were done in rats, are these results relevant for humans? “The stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful episode for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one,” said Dr. Robert S. Thompson, the lead author of the study. “A next set of studies will be looking exactly at that question – can prebiotics help humans to protect and restore their gut microflora and recover normal sleep patterns after a traumatic event?”

In the mean time, should we start including prebiotics in our diets to help cope with stress? “So far no adverse effects from prebiotics have been reported,” said Dr. Mika, “and they are found widely in many plants, even present in breast milk, and are already commercially available.” Healthy gut bacteria and restful sleep could be your benefits.

5 Comments on Prebiotics may help to cope with stress

  1. Alina Austin // February 14, 2017 at 7:27 am // Reply

    This is awesome. Thank you for sharing this information with us. Removing stress is very necessary otherwise it can lead to various diseases in future which cannot be cured easily.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information with us. This article is very helpful to reduce stress naturally.

  3. Kelsi M Hull // April 26, 2017 at 3:33 am // Reply

    I think this is one of the most interesting blog posts I have ever read. Acute stress is an immediate reaction to a stressful situation. Your hypothalamus is activated. It’s located above the brain stem and is responsible for linking your nervous system to your endocrine system by way of the pituitary gland. This also tells the sympathetic nervous system to fire off.This part of your nervous system controls what is also known as the fight or flight response. It is your body’s way of dealing with acute stress. Stress is an important factor that many people need to remove from their lives because it has been linked to horrible diseases such as heart disease. I believe that is crucial that we continue to find healthy ways to eliminate stress and the fact that prebiotics could potentially help people cope with it is very intriguing. When I first learned about how we actually gain weight differently (in our gut) from stress specifically I realized how much of a health impact it really was. Before reading this article I wasn’t even really sure what prebiotics were or what they did.

  4. Informative post! People with good health and those having gastrointestinal issues could get benefit from the use of probiotics.

  5. Great article. I was recently introduced to them & I’m enjoying the benefits of daily prebiotics.

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