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Woman that looks sad while sitting on a couch

Coronavirus and the Gut-Brain Blues

There’s no doubt following social distancing guidelines when you and your family go outside is the smart and safe way to avoid the many health risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

But those guidelines don’t take into account the stress you’re feeling, whether you’re hunkered down for long periods of time with work-at-home responsibilities plus family responsibilities or not working at all.

We’ve talked a lot about the gut-brain axis, the connection between your brain, emotions and intestines.

If you’ve been doing a lot of stress eating lately, it could be a sign that your gut-brain axis needs some extra help to stay in balance and keep the weight off too.

Don’t fear, there’s many ways to rebalance your anxious gut-brain axis safely and gently, even in these stressful coronavirus times.

First, let’s take a look at how we got there.

Overeating processed foods

Consuming a typical Western diet full of processed, high-fat foods is a huge problem all by itself, which is often worsened by stress.

The more you eat, the more your gut produces higher levels of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), a hormone that manages the balance of energy in your body.

Last year, Baylor College of Medicine researchers discovered this extra GIP that the gut produces travels through the bloodstream to the brain where it slows down the impact of leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells that promotes a feeling of fullness or satiety, in a series of tests on mice.

(Messing up your sleep cycle affects how your body produces leptin too.)

Baylor scientists recognized the gut-brain connection when they took steps to block the production of GIP which reduces the appetites and weights of mice fed high-fat diets.

But that’s not all…

Too much real sugar

You may also recall our warning about foods sweetened with real, refined sugar that can be just as harmful to your health as those containing artificial sweeteners. It doesn’t take much of the real thing to trigger sugar cravings either.

The average American consumes at least 66 pounds of real sugar, if not more, every year, fueling the epidemic of obesity and many more health problems.

Real sugar affects the brain in a unique way by signals traveling from the gut all the way to the brain via the vagus nerve, according to a very recent study on mice appearing in Nature.

It was really hard for Columbia University researchers to ignore the connection. When given the option of being fed water with artificial sweeteners or real sugar, mice gravitated to the real thing after only two days.

What’s more, scientists found that the gut-brain connection kicks into gear in the presence of glucose (often added to processed foods as dextrose and extracted from corn starch).

Rebalancing your anxious gut-brain axis

Depending on how the coronavirus outbreak is slowing down in your area (or not), getting back to a normal routine may take a while.

With this in mind, ask yourself these four questions each day to help make sure you’re maintaining your balance, mentally and physically.

  • Are you taking breaks to exercise at home? At the very least, plan short walks outdoors (while practicing safe distancing).
  • Are you reaching out to your family and friends for support? All of us need some extra love and attention right now.
  • Are your sleep habits a real mess? Get back on a regular schedule!
  • Are your eating habits in hibernation mode? You have a golden opportunity right now to clean up your diet and lose some extra pounds.

A very safe and healthy way to relieve those gut-brain blues and boost your immune system without a drug — taking a multi-strain probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria — is one of the best choices you can make.

And, if you need some extra help to lose a few pounds, you may want to consider EndoMune Metabolic Rescue with its proven formula of Bifidobacterium lactis and the prebiotic XOS that promotes a greater sense of fullness and healthier blood sugar levels too.

Resources

Journal of Clinical Investigation

Baylor College of Medicine

Nature

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

University of California at San Francisco/sugarscience

Healthline

Image of Text: "5 reasons why you need to take a probiotic!"

5 Reasons Why You Need to Take a Probiotic

If you’re seeing our blog for the first time — or the tenth time — you may be wondering why we share tips and news about the ever-changing, ever-shifting, ever-growing world of gut health many times each month in this space.

Our lives — full of work, life responsibilities and stress — leave us so little free time just to be…

Many of us fail to take even the very simple and necessary step of protecting our gut health by taking a probiotic every day.

Gut health affects so many parts of our own health and well-being, that a natural boost with a probiotic can make a world of difference to keep our bodies working just as they should.

Need some solid evidence that probiotics can make a world of difference to your health? Consider these five questions when you’re considering why you need to take a probiotic for your health, based on the latest research.

Have you taken a lot of antibiotics?

People rely so much and so often on antibiotics as a quick fix to solve all sorts of health problems — even minor ones like colds and sore throats — that doctors tend to over-prescribe them.

This excessive use has created an antibiotic-resistant world in which these drugs are quickly losing their ability to do the healing work they were meant to do.

The problems have become so acute that more people than ever are being sickened from exposure to superbug infections like Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) and some will die from them.

Antibiotics deplete the beneficial bacteria in your gut that keep your immune system strong. If you really need an antibiotic to solve a health problem, to take a probiotic two hours before taking an antibiotic to give those beneficial bacteria some extra time to reach and protect your gut.

Have you felt constipated lately?

Even a common gut-related health problem like constipation can be a sign of more serious health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and kidney disease. Taking a probiotic restores the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and lessens the need for harsher medications like mesalazine.

How are your emotions?

Disruptions in your gut-brain axis — the vital link that connects your gut, emotions and intestines — can add to challenges you may have with your sleep, mental health and mood. Taking a multi-species probiotic every day protects your gut’s ability to produce neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin.

Could eating fermented foods help or hurt your gut?

Depending on how they’re prepared, fermented foods — such as pickles, yogurt, kombucha tea, pickles and miso — don’t provide the dependable gut health benefits that probiotics do and, in some cases, create more problems for your health than they’re worth.

Are you having trouble sleeping?

Shifts in your body’s circadian clock (the biological levers that control your wake-sleep schedule) due to work schedules or traveling long distances affect your gut health. Taking a quality probiotic that also contains a prebiotic (food for the good bugs in your gut) can help you get your sleep schedule back on track.

When evaluating a quality probiotic, you’ll want to consider a product that contains multiple strains of proven and beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Advanced Probiotic.

BONUS QUESTION: How is your bone health?

If you’re having trouble maintaining your bone health, probiotics aid the production of butyrate (short-chain fatty acids created when your gut processes soluble fiber) that may increase bone mass.

European Journal of Public Health

Frontiers in Psychiatry

Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

BioMed Research International

Sleep Medicine

Microorganisms

Immunity

Mayo Clinic

Illustration of probiotics at a cellular level.

The Multi-Species Advantage For Your Brain and Mood

The human gut is one very diverse sector of the human body.

More than 1,000 unique species of gut bacteria have been identified by medical investigators so far. That doesn’t include 2,000 more species recently discovered in populations of people living in Asia, Africa and South America.

What we do know (for the moment): Experts believe about 150-170 species live in the human gut at any time.

So, when we talk about the value of treating health problems like constipation, C. diff infections and even colon cancer, probiotics that contain multiple species of beneficial bacteria have been proven to do much more good than single-species products or even “probiotic” foods.

The gut-brain axis difference

The very same can be said for your gut-brain axis, the vital connection that links your brain, emotions and intestines, according to recent research appearing in the medical journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry.

For this study, researchers at the University of Verona (Italy) tracked the progress of 38 healthy volunteers (ages 18-35) who took either a placebo or multi-species probiotic including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium longum for six weeks.

(This trio is part of the 10 species of beneficial bacteria contained in every bottle of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

Scientists monitored the mood, mental health and sleep quality of patients before the study began, then in three-week intervals during and after the study concluded.

The group who took probiotics reported significant improvements in fatigue, mood and anger, better acceptance (a marker of decreased depression) and enhanced sleep quality.

In fact, scientists were surprised to find benefits from taking multi-species probiotics lingered at least three weeks after the test subjects stopped taking them.

Those positive results for multi-strain probiotics aren’t surprising at all, given that the gut produces neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin (governing your mood) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (controlling anxiety and fear).

Getting good sleep matters too

A healthy gut helps you get the right amount of sleep too. Not only does it promote better sleep, good gut health eases disruptions in your body’s circadian rhythms — governing your 24-hour biological clock — particularly when jet lag can be a factor due to traveling across multiple time zones in short periods of time.

Another gut-healthy way to promote restful sleep: Be sure you’re eating enough prebiotics, the natural, non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber contained in whole foods like almonds, jicama, artichokes, onions, leeks, apples and bananas.

If you’re not getting enough whole foods, that’s just one more important reason to take a daily probiotic like Endomune, that features fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic made from plant sugars.

a woman taking a nap on her couch

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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