The findings showed that stress could upset the gut's microbiome, as well as restful sleep - essential elements for a healthy life. A diet rich in prebiotics was found to increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. In addition prebiotics also lead to the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.
"Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome," said Agnieszka Mika, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the US. "So far no adverse effects from prebiotics have been reported," Mika added.
For the study, the team tested rats that 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. The 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, the researchers said.
As the stressor that 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, the results may be relevant in humans, noted Robert S. Thompson from the University of Colorado Boulder.