Researchers from the University College Cork, and Teagasc Food Research Centre, both in Cork, Ireland, have found that a high fibre diet could help to relieve stress and anxiety. The researchers particularly looked at the role of short-chain fatty acids which are the small molecules produced when the digestive system breaks down high-fibre food, including fruits and vegetables. It is already known that they have a positive impact on biological processes such as the metabolism and immune system, so the researchers set out to discover if they could help in relieving stress.
It should be noted that this research involved mice not humans. The mice that were given supplements to mimic a high-fibre diet showed reduced signs of stress and had healthier functioning guts. But this does not necessarily prove the same or even a similar effect in people.
Eating the recommended amount of fibre does have some health benefits. It is thought to reduce your risk of disease including bowel cancer. But as of yet, reducing stress cannot be added to the list of benefits.
There are other ways however of fighting it. Sharing your problems with family and friends is first on the list. Making time for interests and hobbies as well as taking a break or holiday is another. Eating healthy and exercising has also been proven to work. Finally, making sure you get enough sleep is highly recommended. Sleep deprivation can be very dangerous and has been linked to heart attacks, depression, and suicide. On nhs.uk is a list of other activities that you may want to try if you are feeling stressed.
If these self-help techniques do not work, you can receive psychological therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, on the NHS and without a referral from your GP. You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service. However, you can talk it through with your GP first if that’s what you prefer. You can find more information as well as psychological therapies services on nhs.uk. Finally, you can find mental health apps and tools in the NHS apps library.