Eating foods high in fiber may reduce the effects of stress on our gut and behavior, according to a new study published in The Journal of Physiology.
Stress is a significant health problem and can cause major changes in the gut and brain, which can lead to changes in behavior. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the link between gut bacteria and stress-related disorders, including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Bacteria in the gut produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are the main source of nutrition for cells in this area of the body. Foods such as grains, legumes, and vegetables contain high levels of fiber and will stimulate the production of these SCFAs.
The study by scientists from APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork and the Teagasc Food Research Center found that there was a decrease in stress levels and anxious behavior when SCFAs were introduced.
In addition, stress suffered for an extended period of time can affect the intestine by making the barrier between the inside of the intestine and the rest of the body less efficient and “leaky”. This means that particles of undigested food, bacteria and germs will pass through the intestinal wall leaking into the blood and causing persistent inflammation. Treatment with SCFAs can also reverse this “leak”.
These findings provide new information on mechanisms related to the impact of gut bacteria on brain and behavior as well as on gut health. The development of dietetic treatments targeting these bacteria will be important in treating stress-related disorders.
The study involved feeding mice the major SCFAs normally produced by gut bacteria and then stressing them. Using behavioral tests, the mice were assessed for anxiety and depressive-like behavior, stress responsiveness, cognition and sociability as well as the ease with which material passes through the gut.
The exact mechanisms by which SCFAs facilitate their effect remain unclear. SCFAs had no effect on the increased body weight caused by stress, so it will be important to understand why SCFAs only affect certain stress-induced effects.
Professor John F. Cryan, the corresponding author of the research, commented on the findings: “There is growing recognition of the role of gut bacteria and the chemicals they make in regulating physiology and behavior. The role of short-chain fatty acids in this process is so far poorly understood. It will be crucial that we examine whether short-chain fatty acids can improve symptoms of stress-related disorders in humans. ‘
The Journal of Physiology
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