sleep

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How Gut Health Affects Your Sleep, Your Brain

You’ve probably heard a lot in the news about sleep hygiene, the behaviors and practices that you can do to protect and enhance your slumber time, and why that’s so important for your health.

However, one of those benefits – a healthier brain – can be at risk if you aren’t sleeping well, and changes in your gut may be the tell-tale sign, according to a study appearing in Sleep Medicine.

Over the course of the study, researchers monitored the sleep habits and gut health of 37 healthy patients (ages 50-85) who provided fecal samples and completed assessments for sleep, mental acuity, diet and overall health.

The interesting findings here were positive connections with two specific phylum of bacteria in the gut: Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae.

Higher amounts of both bacteria were associated to positive results – better sleep quality and good cognitive flexibility (your brain’s ability to switch between two different concepts or consider many concepts at the same time).

It certainly makes sense that sleep and our brains can be affected by these disruptions, given the growing amount of research that has shown how our gut bacteria follow a 24-hour circadian, wake/sleep schedule.

This inter-dependence between the gut and your circadian rhythms could also make your body more vulnerable to changes that promote obesity. Not to mention, we’ve also discussed how your circadian rhythms can get disrupted more easily due to jet lag, particularly when you travel long distances.

A growing number of experts believe gut health is linked to healthy sleep. “Scientists investigating the relationship between sleep and the microbiome are finding that the microbial ecosystem may affect sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a number of different ways: shifting circadian rhythms, altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, according to The Guardian.

As research continues on the gut-sleep connection, Dr. Breus suggests taking a probiotic along with a prebiotic in the meantime to feed your gut.

Separate from ensuring you follow good sleep hygiene and eat the right foods, keeping your gut and brain in alignment is as simple as taking a high-quality probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, that contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a prebiotic that feeds the microbes in your gut and may help you sleep better too.

Why Do I Need to Take a Probiotic?

For people who are reading our blog for the very first time or those needing a refresher course in good gut health habits, you may be wondering why we devote so much space to explaining why you need to take a probiotic.

There are A LOT of reasons for taking probiotics, in addition to promoting good gut health! Fortunately, you don’t have to do the research.

What follows are 10 important reasons why you should be taking probiotics for your good health, based on the latest research.

  1. Many cheap brands of probiotics contain a single strain of beneficial bacteria, which may be good for a specific problem. However, a multi-strain probiotic protects the diversity of your gut and treats common gut health problems like constipation too.
  1. Do you use an over-the-counter medication like loperamide (Imodium) to treat a case of diarrhea? Taking a probiotic is one of the most effective ways, not only to get rid of diarrhea, but to prevent it altogether.
  1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can do great harm to your gut and your emotions, disrupting your body’s gut-brain axis. Taking a probiotic and a prebiotic (EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and Endomune Jr. Probiotics for Kids contains both) may be a good way to treat IBS and depression without a drug.
  1. Are you taking antibiotics more than once a year to treat persistent infections? Antibiotics rapidly deplete the beneficial bacteria and make you more vulnerable to serious diseases such as colon cancer and more serious antibiotic-resistant infections. Taking a daily probiotic gives your body extra protection by replenishing the beneficial bacteria your body needs.

(You’ll also do your health a great deal of good by avoiding contact with antibacterial soaps that contain broad spectrum and synthetic antimicrobial compounds like triclosan too.)

  1. For patients who suffer from migraines, scientists have recently discovered a link between those painful headaches and nitrates, a common food additive. Some gut health experts believe taking a probiotic may become a safer, non-drug answer to treat migraines.
  1. Have problems with your teeth? Taking a probiotic is good treatment, as it may be a one more way to heal chronic periodontitis and reduce inflammation and levels of gingivitis and plaque, in addition to regular dental care.
  1. Hypertension can be a warning sign of serious health problems behind the scenes and even death. Taking a daily probiotic can improve your overall health, lower your blood pressure safely and lessen your dependence on prescription medications.
  1. Do you fly for your job or pleasure on a frequent basis or work a swing shift? The balance of bacteria in your gut is affected your body’s circadian rhythms as you cross time zones — often due to jet lag — but taking a probiotic prevents that yo-yo effect from harming your health.
  1. Protecting your sleep is an important part of restoring your body night after night. Be sure that any probiotic you consider taking also contains a prebiotic that can help you improve your sleep.
  1. Are you a new parent losing sleep over your baby’s prolonged crying due to colic? A number of studies point to probiotics as a safe, healthy way to lessen colic and prevent other common problems for babies like acid reflux and constipation.

Taking Prebiotics May Improve Your Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your good health. Apart from your body’s very obvious need for physical rest — anywhere from 7-10 hours depending on how old you are — to help you function throughout the day, the list of benefits is long.

For example, sleep gives your body a break that allows the brain, blood vessels and heart to do some much-needed maintenance.

But, if your sleep hygiene is poor or you don’t get enough of it, your chances of stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease increase, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

A healthy amount of sleep also helps you maintain the proper balance of hormones that govern your hunger: Ghrelin increases your appetite while leptin makes you feel full. Messing up your sleep wreaks havoc with those hormones, causing you to feel hungrier while increasing your obesity risks.

When not managed properly, jet lag from airplane traveling and shift work can harm, not only your sleep and waistline, but your gut health too, which explains why some experts have recommended probiotics as a protective measure.

Not only do probiotics play an important role in promoting better sleep, so do prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut — according to a recent study appearing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

The prebiotic sleep aid

To study the benefits of prebiotics, researchers at the University of Colorado fed two sets of three-week-old rats food that contained it or a control diet that didn’t, then monitored their body temperature, gut bacteria and sleep-wake cycles for four weeks.

Test animals that were fed a prebiotic-rich diet spent more time in a deeper, more restful state of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. Plus, when these prebiotic mice were exposed to unexpected stressors, they were better equpped to achieve rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, a critical tool for promoting relief from trauma.

Not surprisingly, those same mice maintained better gut bacteria diversity — higher levels of Lactobacillus rhamnosus — and normal body temperature fluctuations too.

Given these test results, University of Colorado scientists believe “a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health,” according to a press release.

How do you get prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a natural component of whole foods ranging from onions, leeks, artichokes, raw garlic, almonds and jicama to fruity fare like bananas and apples.

To ensure you get the right amount of prebiotics your body needs, the easiest way is to take a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria. EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior contain fructo-oliggosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic derived from plant sugars.

So, when you’re looking for ways to improve the quality of your sleep naturally, consider taking a probiotic that features a prebiotic as a key ingredient.

Pain Medications and Gastrointestinal Injury

Every day we are bombarded with ads for medications to ease the pain of arthritis. The majority of these ads are for a common class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. These are very commonly used drugs – more than 30 million Americans take these medications on a daily basis.

NSAIDs include aspirin, over the counter medications like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Nuprin and the generic version, ibuprofen. A few of the well-known brand name prescription medications within this same class include Naprosyn, Mobic, Indocin, Relafen and Clinoril.

These drugs are also combined with antihistamines and marketed as a sleep aid such as Advil PM. Additionally, NSAIDs are combined with a decongestant and marketed as Motrin Cold and Sinus.

While NSAIDs are very effective medications for lessening inflammation and fever and easing the pain of arthritis, they can also cause serious side effects, mainly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Both limited and chronic use of NSAIDs can lead to stomach ulcers and may also cause damage to the lining of the small intestines and colon. These injuries are referred to as NSAID-induced gastropathy, enteropathy and colopathy.

The general public is aware of the risk of stomach ulcers, but lesser known is the risk of NSAID-induced intestinal ulcers, strictures, perforation and colitis. Studies in humans taking chronic NSAIDs have shown 50-70% of the individuals have evidence of damage to the small intestines(1,2).

 

Decreased Intestinal Inflammation: Yet Another Benefit of Probiotics

NSAIDs prevent the production of a protective mucus barrier in the small intestines. Without this protective barrier, bile acids, enzymes and harmful intestinal bacteria are able to damage the intestinal lining cells. However, experimental studies in mice have shown that the NSAIDs cannot cause this injury to the small intestines if the intestinal tract is sterile(4).

Since our intestines and GI tracts are not sterile, a study was undertaken to determine if probiotic bacteria given to individuals taking NSAIDs could protect against small intestinal damage(3). They studied 20 healthy volunteers who took either a placebo or a probiotic. All volunteers received indomethacin, and their stools were collected to measure for a protein called calprotectin. This protein is increased in stools if there is damage to the intestines(4).

The study found that the volunteers receiving the placebo had a statistically significant increase in calprotectin concentration in their stools beginning on the second day of taking indomethacin compared to the group that received the probiotic. The authors concluded that the results of this study suggest that a probiotic given before and during indomethacin therapy could be useful in decreasing intestinal inflammation. They recommended that further studies be performed to confirm their results.

 

Take Home Message

Each year scientific studies are discovering new health benefits of probiotics. Based on the current study, I would suggest if individuals need to be on NSAID drugs, they should consider taking a probiotic with a mixture of bacteria in a dose of greater than 10 billon per serving – like EndoMune Advanced.

Finally, I think it is important for the general population to understand that taking NSAIDs in any form has potential adverse effects and the risks versus benefits should be considered.

Thank you for your interest in EndoMune.

Eat healthy, exercise and live well!

Dr. Lawrence Hoberman

 

(1) Is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) enteropathy clinically more important than NSAID gastropathy? Adebayo D, Bjarnason I.Postgrad Med J. 2006 Mar;82(965):186-91

(2) Present status and strategy of NSAIDs-induced small bowel injury. Higuchi K, Umegaki E, Watanabe T, Yoda Y, Morita E, Murano M, Tokioka S, Arakawa T.J Gastroenterol. 2009;44(9):879-88. Epub 2009 Jul 1

(3) The effects of a probiotic mixture on NSAID enteropathy: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled study.Montalto M, Gallo A, Curigliano V, D’Onofrio F, Santoro L, Covino M, Dalvai S, Gasbarrini A, Gasbarrini G.Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Apr 7

(4) Fecal calprotectin as a promising marker of inflammatory diseases. Paduchova Z, Durackova Z.Bratisl Lek Listy. 2009;110(10):598-602.

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