It is well established that brain regulates gut activity. Recently, more attention has been put on the influence of gut microbes on the brain. The so-called microbiota-gut-brain axis has then been identified as a bidirectional communication network, enabling regulation of the gastrointestinal tract by the brain and influence on brain function, especially areas devoted to stress regulation, by the messages from the gut.

The gut-brain axis

A good way to regulate the stress-related responses might be to promote a healthy and diverse gut microbiota. However, the foods eaten during times of stress typically favor those of high fat and/or sugar content, leading to disturbances in the gut microbes and digestion. Focusing on a high-quality diet may therefore help to regulate to microbiota and reduce the stress effects.

Recent studies have demonstrated that a healthy diet, rich in polyphenols (molecules abundant in plants), polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3, Omega-6) and vitamins has a positive effect on stress reactivity. Moreover, increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with increased reported happiness and higher levels of mental health and well-being. In conclusion, despite the fact that there are still few meta-analyses on the effects of diets on stress response, chosing a healthy diet will be beneficial on several levels.