Healthy Gut Bacteria Could Be The Secret To A Good Night's Sleep

by Dr Jonathan D'Souza
Our brain and gut are more intricately connected than scientists initially thought. For this reason, getting a good night’s sleep is no longer about counting healthy gut bacteria; it's about cultivating it.

The Human Microbiome Project made us increasingly aware of the trillions of bacteria that live in our bodies, many of which are in the gut alone. These microbes impact human health in many ways and recent studies suggest a possible link between gut health and depression, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.

Phyllis C Zee, MD, PhD, the director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says that “Recent evidence indicates that what you eat and when you eat can, in turn, affect sleep and circadian rhythms.” Zee says that emerging research “points to a bi-directional relationship”.

In a recently aired episode of Health Soup, host Ereka Vetrini meets up with Cara Pescatore & Alexandra Lopez, the owners of Seed to Sprout, to talk about foods that are good for the gut, what it means to have a healthy gut, and why probiotic foods are healthy.

What Are Circadian Rhythms & How Do They Influence Sleep?

The circadian clock is the body’s natural body clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycles by taking cues from the environment. For example, the body releases the hormone melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) in response to darkness.

Circadian rhythms are closely interlinked to other body processes such as metabolism and newer studies suggest that they could be associated with the health of gut microbes.

The gut is literally like the second brain of the body. Scientists call this the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS consists of two layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract right from the esophagus to the rectum. Since the brain and the gut are so closely interlinked, you wouldn’t want them operating on completely conflicting schedules.

Robin Berzin, MD, functional medicine physician and Parsley Health founder told Yahoo Health that “When people stop eating foods that are triggering their immune system [resulting in an inflammatory response], they have a much easier time sleeping”.

Zee says “When you don’t get enough sleep or when your clock is out of sync with sleep or work schedules, there are negative effects on metabolism and glucose control, as well as [effects on] the types and amount of food you consume. Lack of sleep or late eating makes one crave more junk food. Not salads!” 

Here’s What You Can Do To Improve Gut Health

Sleeping for seven to eight hours is a must. Maintaining a proper sleep-wake routine is important. Make sure you get regular exercise and do not compromise on your meal times. Switch over to probiotic foods such as kefir and kimchi. And as always, watch out for sugar and refined carbs.

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