Is Poor Gut Health Keeping You Awake At Night
Lying awake at night? Tossing and turning? Exhausted but still unable to fall asleep? It could be your gut.
Insomnia and other sleeping issues are becoming more and more common, especially in Western society.
Its thought that around half of Americans sleep for less than 6 hours each night when the recommendation is actually 7-9 hours.
Youve probably heard about the many health problems that sleep deprivation can lead to. Moodiness, irritability, weight gain, unstable blood sugar levels, and even weakened immunity. Unsurprisingly, it can also be linked to higher risks of accidents on the job, depression, and reduced cognitive function.
Fortunately, new research has suggested that there are several solutions to sleeping problems that may be more effective than the standard sleep aids.
When it comes to deep and restorative sleep, many of us are overlooking one very important factor: gut health.
Recent studies show that one of the best ways to promote natural sleep is to look after your gut!
The Benefits Of Probiotic Supplements
Probiotic supplements do more than help to control yeast infections and regulate digestive health. They also help to reduce bloating by balancing the bacteria in your gut.
There are over 400 types of probiotics, and each performs a different function. For example, acidophilus supplements help to control yeast infections by fighting off bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Another strain, known as Bifidobacterium breve, reduces the effects of diarrhea and constipation by controlling bowel movements.
These benefits can help you to fight bloating, which is often a common side effect of weight gain during menopause. With less bloating comes the lighter feeling that you may experience after taking probiotics for weight loss.
Probiotics Can Cause Allergic Reactions
Another possible side effect of taking probiotics is an allergic reaction. Humans can be allergic to just about anything, including milk which is often used in the probiotic production process.
The purification process used in the production of some probiotics such as NexabioticÂ® Advanced should remove most of these allergens.
If you are lactose intolerant you should be able to tolerate the small amounts of milk in probiotics. Furthermore, probiotics themselves break down lactose. This is the reason why probiotic-loaded kefir yogurt is advertised as being lactose-free.
However, if you have developed an allergic reaction to milk ingredients that results in problems breathing then you should avoid probiotics.
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Can Probiotics Improve Insomnia Symptoms
Insomnia often comes with other health problems.
There are many causes of it, and a strong link between insomnia and conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and even irritable bowel syndrome .
Ive chosen to summarize the main ways that insomnia could be affected by probiotics and gut health.
But What Does This Have To Do With Prebiotics And Sleep
In the latest research, scientists have investigated how prebiotics influence the composition of the gut and how prebiotics affect stress and sleep, through their influence over the microbiome . This study was done in the laboratory and yet to be further investigated in human subjects.
Essentially, they found that dietary prebiotics can improve non-rapid-eye-movement sleep . This is the sort of sleep that is deep and restorative.
They also discovered that after being induced with stress, subjects with a diet rich in prebiotic compounds appeared to blunt the stress response. This also increased more time spent in rapid eye movement sleep . This type of sleep is critical for recovery from stress.
The researchers believe that its due to bacterial metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids signalling the brain through the blood and/or vagal pathways. They have theorised it is feasible that diets high in prebiotics help produce these bacterial metabolites and therefore affect the brain and sleep-wake cycle.
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Benefits Of Taking Probiotics
Not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of the bacteria have different effects. For example, one strain may fight against cavity-causing organisms in our mouths and don’t need to survive a trip through our guts.
Research has been promising for these friendly critters. Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of
- H. pylori
- vaginal infections
- infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile
- eczema in children.
Its A Personal Choice
Whether you choose to take your supplement first thing in the morning, just before bed, or any time in between, rest assured that in taking a probiotic supplement youre actively contributing to your continued health. Do what works best for you. Change what youre doing if its not working.
Taking probiotics at the wrong time is better than not taking them at all. You may simply have to wait longer to see an effect as the concentration has been reduced.
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Sleeping With Your Microbiome
Human beings are true superorganisms symbiotic collections of both human and bacterial cells that work together to keep us alive.
But did you know that the microbes in your body outnumber your human cells by 10 to 1, making you more bacterial than human?
Its true, and the trillions of bacteria living in and on your body are so important to your overall health that scientists have dubbed their collective ecosystem called the microbiome another human organ.
Whats amazing about your microbiome is that its responsible for so many life-supporting functions within your body, from regulating your immune system and supporting your metabolism to optimizing your digestion, balancing your moods, and yeseven helping you sleep.
You see, the beneficial bacteria in your gut can communicate with your brain via the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve extending from the brainstem to the abdomen that serves as a communication superhighway for your microbial friends. Its this constant dialogue between your brain and your gut that can help you get the snooze you need.
Lets take a look at how a balanced gut microbiome can help you achieve that all-important good nights sleep:
How Your Gut Bacteria Affect Weight Loss
Your gut contains many different bacteria, which are part of your microbiome, a collection of over 100 trillion microbes.
These bacteria all work together to help your body do the following:
- Break down nutrients
- Keep your gut lining healthy
- Influence your immune system
Dysbiosis happens when the bacteria in your gut become unbalanced. This can cause digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, along with allergies and even brain disorders.
But the way bacteria affect your weight is still not fully understood. One study done on sets of twins found that those who were obese had less diversity of gut bacteria compared to those who were lean.
Other studies have discovered that certain bacteria strains may slow down weight gain. Some strains can reduce waist size, while others may help with weight loss. However, some researchers have not been able to find any connection between bacteria and weight.
Most scientists do agree that bacteria affect your metabolism. They do so by helping your body:
- Make vitamin K
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Thriving Healthy Gut Bacteria Is Linked To Better Sleep
Dr. Breus says that scientific studies have shown a strong connection between good gut bacteria and good sleep there’s even one particular bacteria strain that could make all the difference. “Scientists in Japan studied the impact of a daily serving of a probiotic on a group of students who were preparing to take an exam,” he says. “Scientists divided the students into two groups. For eight weeks leading up to the exam, and three weeks after, one group drank a placebo beverage every day, while the other group drank a probiotic beverage containing the bacteria lactobacillus casei strain shirotaâsometimes referred to as l. casei strain Shirota.”
It’s important to note that the participants in this small study were all students in Japan including more people with different cultural backgrounds and eating habits would make the results more conclusive. “The microbiome is incredibly complex and varies from one individual to the next. The bacteria thatâs beneficial for one person, or small group of people, may not have the same effects on another person,” adds Dr. Breus. But the connection between probiotics and good sleep is still an interesting takeaway.
Which Probiotics Are Good To Buy For Sleep
Not sure which capsules to try? Check out our list of the best gut-healing probiotics for women over 50. That way you can rest easier and get additional gut health perks like an energy boost and clearer skin.
As for me, Ill definitely be adding a probiotic supplement into my diet to help me get my rest at night!
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Should I Take Probiotics On An Empty Stomach
The concern here is that bacteria are delicate by nature, and that they may not survive stomach acid. Taking probiotics at a certain time of day could help you to ensure the highest survival rates of your probiotic. Confusingly though, different healthcare professionals and probiotic manufacturers, have different guidelines about when is best to take these supplements! So lets try to clarify a few things.
First of all, lets look at the logic behind having probiotics on an empty stomach, advocated by some. Seeing as acid is stimulated by consumption of food, it is thought that taking probiotics on an empty stomach is better because there is less residual acid in the stomach. However, its also important to note that there is a lag time between when food is eaten and when acid is released into the stomach. As a nutritionist, I like to recommend that clients take their supplements with a meal, as the food helps to buffer the effects of stomach acid it may also help to facilitate the passage of the probiotics through the stomach, and ensures that they are well mixed with the stomach contents as they pass into the small intestines.
We often get asked if you can take a probiotic before bed, well, some probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics could lead to initial bloating and gas, so these products might be best taken before bed. To learn more about prebiotics, read our article: What are prebiotics?.
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Improve Your Gut Health Improve Your Sleep
Its clear that a strong population of beneficial bacteria in the gut is crucial for restorative, health-enhancing sleep, so how do you make sure that your microbiome is ready to take on the challenge?
Besides maintaining healthy sleep habits, like keeping your room dark, establishing a sleep schedule, and staying away from blue light near bedtime, following a gut-healthy lifestyle will set the foundation for long-term vitality and sound, restful sleep:
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Clinical Studies Into How A Probiotic Before Bed Affects You
A 2008 study found that taking probiotic supplements before bed can help you sleep better. In the study, participants were given a placebo for three weeks followed by either bifidobacteria or yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus bacteria strains.
Participants who took the probiotics slept an average of 44 minutes more per night than those on placebo.
This may be due to how gut microbes interact with brain function: when our microbiome is healthy, it produces compounds like phenylethylamine which promote feelings of wellbeing as well as production and release melatonin this helps regulate your circadian rhythm so youre ready for deep restful sleep at nighttime.
If your gut isnt happy though, then your sleep can be disrupted and so too can your circadian rhythm.
Thats why its so important to pay attention to the gut health of children today, as they are forming healthy habits early on that can lead to more restful nights in the future.
Interestingly, those who took probiotics had better quality sleep too. This may be because gut bacteria help us digest our food better which means were getting more nutrients from the food we eat, and thats been linked to a boost in quality sleep.
Not only did people who took probiotics sleep better and longer, but they also said they felt less fatigued during the day than those on placebo.
How Sleep Influences The Microbiome
You may be familiar with the circadian rhythms role in regulating your sleep-wake cycles. Many other functions in your body run on an internal clock too, including the microbiome. The microbiomes circadian rhythm is affected by what you eat, when you eat, and how you sleep.
According to research, even just mild sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on gut health. A 2016 study looked at healthy young adults who had regular sleeping and eating patterns and looked at what happened to their microbiome after two nights of only 4.24 hours of sleep. The staggering results showed:
- A decrease in insulin sensitivity
- A decrease in healthy types of bacteria in the gut
- Microbiome changes that are linked to type 2 diabetes
Growing evidence shows that sleep disorders, like circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia, and others, can upset the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, and this damage is linked to a range of health problems, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory disease.
Lately, a lot of attention has been focused on the role of sleep in the development of Alzheimers disease later in life. Some new research suggests that the bacteria in the microbiome may be behind these cognitive changes. A 2017 study of healthy older adults found that better sleep quality was linked to better cognitive functioning and a healthier microbiome.
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How Stomach Acid Works
The worst time to take probiotics is immediately after a meal, as this means that your digestive system is hyperactive after digesting the meal consumed by you earlier on, and your stomach is full of acid with a PH of 1.5 and 2.5 but in the large colon the PH is far higher making it a better environment for probiotic bacteria to survive.
Stomach acid is known to be lethal to most types of gut bacteria, including the good ones which are found in probiotic supplements. If you take them after having a meal, then most of the good gut bacteria will be killed as soon as they reach your stomach.
Because it can take up to 6-8 hours food to pass your digestive system if you eat a large meal you should take this into account when timing your probiotic usage. Eating larger meals will require more time needed to wait before and after your meals.
Taking a walk after a large meal has been shown to speed up the digestive process so if you want to take your probiotic supplement after your evening dinner then simply go for a walk first instead of laying on the couch. This may help limit stomach acid production.
Take Probiotics Before Bedtime
Taking probiotics immediately before bedtime on an empty stomach may help to reduce gas and bloating. Your gut is relatively inactive at night, but probiotics can produce gas when combined with certain foods. Taking food on an empty stomach ensures that the probiotics dont have any obstacles in the way, which also allows more of the live bacteria to reach your large intestines.14
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How Probiotics Support Restful Sleep
We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep, but most of us dont know why sleep is so important to our well-being. Much more than just an intermission from the stressors of our busy, waking lives, good sleep is crucial for our overall physical, emotional, and mental health.
Researchers are discovering that the duration and quality of our sleep affect everything from our cognitive performance, mood, and memory to the health of our immune and endocrine systems. In fact, drowsiness is so prevalent that hundreds of thousands of crashes, injuries, and accidents each year are attributed to a lack of sleep.
Quality sleep can improve your memory, reduce temporary inflammation, sharpen your focus, control your weight, and lower your stress levels. So, how does your body know when and how much to sleep?
Our Circadian Rhythms
Contrary to the feeling that we are shutting down for the night when we go to bed, sleep is a very active physiological process. Indeed, we usually pass through all five stages of sleep four to six times every night! From healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels to balancing hormones and supporting growth and development, sleep is a critical time of restoration and renewal.
Although external cues play a big part in telling your inner clock when its time to slumber, your microbiome plays a surprising role as well.
Gut Health and Sleep
Bacteria in the gut can produce and regulate a number of neurotransmitters and hormones that impact our sleep:
Take A Daily Probiotic
When it comes to replenishing and maintaining the friendly flora in your gut, supplementing with a multi-strain, time-release probiotic formula is the single most important step you can take on your path to a healthy gut.
The good microbes that set up shop in your digestive tract will work to produce and regulate sleep-inducing hormones and neurotransmitters, and crowd out inhospitable bacteria that can lead to dysbiosis and pain.
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Life Extensions Florassist Gi With Phage Technology
Were big fans of Life Extensions Florassist GI Phage because it is unique and it includes bacteriophages and a proprietary probiotic blend thats been shown to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and promote the growth of good bacteria, say The Nutrition Twins . Its designed to reach the lower intestine for a greater benefit, they continue, specifying that this is key since many probiotics dont do this and that accounts for why they dont work.
Bonus rec? We live for their magnesium, too. So helpful during these stressful times, its like a massage before bed.