Can a Diet Reduce Your Stress?

Our lives are stressful, and thanks to pandemics and politics, it seems to get worse by the day. That stress slowly gnaws away at our mood and health, making anxiety and depression the leading causes of disability worldwide. But there is a light on the horizon. Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of John F. Cryan, Ted Dinan, and colleagues at University College Cork, we now have a way to stiffen our resilience to the stressors of life. Astonishingly, there are no drugs or surgeries involved. If you can handle a few changes to your diet, you can start to take life’s pressures in stride.

In 2013, Cryan and Dinan published a study identifying a set of microbes that could improve mood. They dubbed them psychobiotics. Full disclosure: Soon after that article, I started to work with them on a book called The Psychobiotic Revolution. They have never stopped impressing me with their dedication to this pioneering research. They had to overcome major headwinds from researchers who strongly doubted that microbes in the gut could affect the brain. Today, the gut-brain axis is widely recognized, but it was heresy just a decade ago.

Most of the early work was done with mice, which can be bred in germ-free environments, a major advantage when trying to isolate the effects of microbes. But there was a paucity of research on humans. Over the years, that mouse-orientation has been addressed, and several psychobiotics – both microbial and prebiotic – have now been studied in humans.

Excerpted from Psychology Today

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