When it comes to dealing with stress, we’re often told it’s the best option do exercisesdevote time to our favorite activities or try meditation or composure.
But the type of food we eat It can also be an effective way to deal with stress, based on research I’ve published with other APC Microbiome Ireland members.
How to reduce stress?
This latest research has shown that eat more fermented foods and of fiber per day in just four weeks has a significant effect on reduced stress levels perceived.
The news does not surprise us. Over the past decade, more and more research has shown this diet can have a big impact on our mental health. Actually, one healthy diet it may even reduce the risk of many common mental illnesses.
Supporting mechanisms the effect of diet on mental health are not yet fully known. could be connected with the relationship between our brain and microbiome (trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines) through the so-called gut-brain axis.
This two-way communication pathway allows the brain and gut to communicate constantly, enabling essential bodily functions such as digestion and appetite. It also implies that cemotional and cognitive parts of the brain are close connected to our intestines.
Anti-stress foods: onions, apples, bananas and oatmeal
Although previous research has shown that stress and behavior are also linked to our microbiome, until now it was not clear whether they were change your diet (and thus our microbiome) could have a different effect on stress levels.
In order to confirm this, we engaged in our study 45 healthy people with relatively low-fiber diets, aged 18 to 59 years. More than half were women. The participants were divided into two groups i They were randomly assigned a diet which they had to follow during the four weeks that the study lasted.
About half of them were put on a diet designed by nutritionist Kirsten Berding that would increase the amount of prebiotic and fermented foods they ate.
This diet is known as a “psychobiotic” diet.since it includes foods that are associated with better mental health.
This group received individual education with a dietician at the beginning and in the middle of the study.
They were instructed to include:
- From 6 to 8 daily meals of fruits and vegetables High in prebiotic fiber (such as onions, leeks, cabbage, apples, bananas and oatmeal).
- 5 to 8 servings of cereal per day.
- 3 to 4 servings of legumes per week.
- They were also asked to include 2-3 servings daily fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha).
Participants in the control diet received only general nutrition advicebased on the healthy food pyramid.
Psychobiotic nutrition against stress
Interestingly, those who followed the psychobiotic diet reported feeling less stressed compared to those who followed a control diet.
Likewise, there was a direct correlation between the strictness with which participants followed the diet and their perceived stress levels: those who ate more psychobiotic foods felt less stressed.
Sleep quality improved in both groups, although the improvement was greater in those following the psychobiotic diet. Other studies have also shown that gut microbes are involved in sleep processeswhich could explain this relationship.
The psychobiotic diet caused only subtle changes in composition and function intestinal microbes. However, we observe csignificant changes in the level of certain substances key chemicals produced by these gut microbes.
Some of these chemicals have been linked to mental health, which may explain why dieters reported feeling less stressed.
Limitations of the stress eating study
Despite the encouraging results, our research is not without limitations. Especially, the sample size is small because the pandemic limited employment. Second, the short duration of the study may have limited the changes we observed, and it is not clear how long they would last. So, longer term studies will be needed.
Third, although participants recorded their daily diet, this form of measurement may be susceptible to error and bias, particularly when assess food intake.
And while we did our best so that the participants did not know which group they were assigned to, they could guess based on the dietary advice which were given to them. This could have influenced the answers they gave at the end of the study.
Finally, our work only healthy people includedso we don’t know what effect this diet can have on someone who is not so healthy.
Nevertheless, our study provides strong evidence that changing the diet is an effective way to reduce long-term stress. Adding to the evidence in this area of research is the connection between diet, our microbiome and our mental health.
It will be interesting to see if these results can also be reproduced people suffering from stress-related disorderssuch as anxiety and depression.
So the next time you’re feeling particularly stressedmaybe you should think more carefully about what you plan to eat for lunch or dinner and include more fiber and fermented foods.
*The Conversation is an independent, non-profit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.
**The original note can be found by giving click here.
***This article was written by: John Cryan, Vice President Research and Innovation, University College Cork.