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You may not even realise this, but there is actually a connection between gut health and sleep. But does sleep affect gut health, or is it the other way around? Let’s find out.
To set the stage on gut health and sleep, there are a few things to mention. The first is that there is a very close relationship between the gut and the brain. In particular, both our gut and our brain contain many neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and hormones that are involved in our sleep pathway or that have an influence on our sleep. This shows that the state of our gut health, as well as our brain health, can impact our sleep.
Some other keys factors to note:
- The human gut consists of 100’s of millions of neurons (nerve cells) and brain tissue, which is partly why the gut is known as the second brain. This part of the gut is called the enteric nervous system. The term “enteric” simply means within the intestines or in the gut.
- Serotonin – Most of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is involved in the sleep pathway and is the pre-cursor to the sleep hormone, melatonin, is produced in the gut.
- The pathway between the gut and brain is the Vegas nerve. A UCLA study found that most fibres actually carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. This is quite profound as we usually learn that it is the brain that is governing everything.
- Melatonin – Researchers have found that there is actually 400 times more melatonin produced in the gut than in the pineal gland in the brain.
- The Microbiome – This refers to the micro-organisms, primarily bacteria that inhabit our bodies, are on our skin, in our mouths, our hair, and most predominantly in our guts. We are actually 10x more bacterial cells than human cells. UCLA researchers also found that are there are trillions of bacteria in our guts that are continuously communicating with the enteric nervous system, and that certain bacteria in the gut play a significant role in serotonin production. Basically, these bacteria literally influence the cells that create our neurotransmitters and hormones in our gut.
All of these factors greatly highlight just how important gut health is for regulation of a healthy sleep cycle. If your Microbiome and gut health is out of balance your serotonin and melatonin production will be affected, and those are two of the most important compounds for sleep. In addition, sleep (or lack thereof) influences the state of the microflora in your gut and is one of the FREE ways to keep your gut bacteria healthy.
Sleep is something you are going to do anyway so you may as well make it the best you can! Many people with imbalances in gut health find that they have sleep issues, and when healing their gut see improvements in sleep. By the same token, it is very likely that people who have sleep issues probably also have poor gut health.
So to answer the question, “Does sleep affect gut health, or is it the other way around?”
You can probably now gather that is it an intricately connected cycle where both factors influence each other and it is extremely important to look after both.
How else can you look after your gut health?
- Food – Good nutrition through a wholefoods diet that includes probiotic and gut healing foods such as bone broth, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or yoghurt, gelatin, collagen. Other interesting and powerful foods for gut health are medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga. These are not only potent immune system modulators, they are also powerful adaptogenic life forms that help us adapt to stress.
- Supplementation (as recommended by your health practitioner) – Some gut supporting supplements that can be useful for some people are: Probiotics, Prebiotics, L-Glutamine, Slippery Elm, Curcumin.
- Movement – Regular movement activities have been found to increase the diversity of microbes in your gut. This diversity has an influence on many functions in the body including your mood, immune system function, brain operations and your metabolism.
- Nature immersion – Our Microbiome and immune system’s interaction with the microorganisms out in nature is of great importance. We evolved as part of a natural ecosystem that includes a symbiotic relationship with the abundance of microorganisms in our natural environment that help us physiologically in countless ways, especially in regards to our immunity and prevention of health issues. We are supposed to be exposed to a vast array of microorganism species for health, which is what happens when we walk through a forest and what we were doing many moons ago.
- Minimise stress – Stress has an effect on our gut health in several ways. From lowered nutrient absorption, less oxygen flow to decreased enzyme activity and decreased blood flow to the digestive tract. It also has an effect on the gut-brain connection and its associated processes.
- Minimise chemicals and toxins – This can be through food, personal care products, cleaning products, environmental pollutants, etc. All of these things are not only damaging to your gut, but also all organ systems in your body.
Here is the link and code again for ease of access to the Quirky Cooking for Gut Health Program:
Use the discount code special10 to receive 10% off the total price of the program.
Here is the link again for ease of access to the Swanwick Sleep Blue Blocker Swannies glasses.
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DISCLAIMER: All content I share here on my blog is written from my own personal experiences, thoughts and opinions and is not intended to replace medical or lifestyle advice from a practising professional.