Gut Health and Sleep
Our digestive system or gut, is a long muscular tube that goes from our mouth to our bottom.
The Gut-Brain Axis
Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain” because the gut is home to a huge complex of nerves known as the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is constantly communicating with the brain to regulate vital processes.
The vagus nerve connects the network of nerves in the gut to different regions of the brain. This is referred to as the gut-brain axis. How exactly does this happen…through our gut micriobiota!
Inside our gut, we have trillions of “good bugs” known as our gut microbiota. The gut microbiota produces specific neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin that communicate back to the brain through the vagus nerve. Serotonin is a key biochemical that regulates our mood. Serotonin is also a precursor for melatonin, a hormone essential to the light-dark cycle that eases us to sleep. Having a well-balanced, diverse gut microbiota is essential for daily functioning. When our gut microbiota is less diverse, it affects the production of serotonin, which then affects our ability to sleep.
Support Your Gut Health to Help You Sleep
Our environment and diet have a profound influence on the composition of our gut microbiota. Because of the way our gut health and sleep are entwined, it is crucial to treat the gut in order to improve sleep.
Rather than making big, unsustainable changes, set small attainable goals to promote a healthy gut microbiota.
Increase your prebiotics
Prebiotics are a type of food indigestible to you, but they feed the “good bugs” in your gut.
Prebiotics can be found in:
- Oyster mushrooms
- Good quality dark chocolate
Increase your probiotic
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation.
Probiotics can be found in:
- Miso soup
Swap out sugars
Research has shown that excessive sugar consumption increases the growth rate of the “bad bugs” and disturbs the gut microbiota balance. Skip foods and drinks with added sugars and seek out sources of carbohydrates with high fiber content.
Avoid excessive use of antibiotics
Antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Antibiotics work by destroying bacteria in the body. Antibiotics destroy both good and bad bacteria. Discuss antibiotic use with your physician before deciding if it is the best option.
Research has consistently found that regular physical activity positively changes the quality and quantity of the gut microbiota’s composition.