A new study suggests that getting your fill of foods rich in prebiotics may help you cope with stress. Researchers from the University of Colorado discovered in their study, published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, that regular amounts of prebiotics in your diet can:

  • help promote a better balance of gut bacteria; and
  • help our bodies recover and resume normal sleeping patterns after a particularly stressful event.

Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are non-digestible. They stimulate the growth of probiotics. Their key benefit, along with probiotics, is to help your body maintain a healthy digestive system. Prebiotics can be found in the following foods:

  • Asparagus
  • Oats
  • Legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas
  • Bananas
  • Burdock and chicory root
  • Chinese chives
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Rye
  • Maple sugar
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Dandelion greens

According to Agnieszka Mika, MD, lead author of the study, acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, which is why the researchers wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria in addition to protecting gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions.

The researchers say the results of the study can apply to humans even though the study was done on rats. The study’s lead author, Robert Thompson, MD, said “the stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful event for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one.”

Prebiotics are not known to produce any undesirable health effects. Almost everyone needs prebiotics, especially those who don’t get enough from their diet. And although it’s unclear exactly how much prebiotic fiber the body needs every day, experts agree that four to six grams are ideal.


“Are Prebiotics the Stress Reliever You Never Heard Of?” Lauren Rearick, rd.com, Feb. 20, 2017.

“The Pros of Prebiotics,” Veronica Anderson, huffingtonpost.com, July 2, 2015.