There is an increasing level of attention on the relationship between the health of our digestive system and our emotional health. There have been studies looking at the impact of prebiotics on the emotions of people as well as mice. Prebiotics have been associated with a reduction in anxious behavior. This is a long way from showing prebiotics are a proven treatment to decrease anxiety in humans, but the possibility is intriguing.
What are prebiotics? These are components in food which are hard for our intestines to digest, but are broken down by bacteria in the lower intestine. Prebiotics include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). When they are present in the diet, the intestines tend to have a healthier spectrum of bacteria present.
What foods contain prebiotics? Many fruits and vegetables. Bananas, garlic, onion, asparagus, artichokes, and beans are rich in prebiotics. Because prebiotics are broken down in the lower intestine, some people tolerate them better than others. If adding these foods to your diet causes abdominal distress, cramping, or diarrhea, be sure to consult your physician.
While there is not a clear causal connection between prebiotics and mood in humans, we know fruit, vegetables, and legumes are important cornerstones of a healthy diet. Perhaps with time we will learn exactly how prebiotics may have a role in maintaining our emotional health as well.