Once you start loving your gut, you start to notice how wonderfully worthwhile it is to keep it healthy. What does the gut have to do with getting great sleep and maintaining healthy weight, you  might ask…

Our gut microbes help regulate the circadian rhythm function that is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Circadian rhythms are patterns of brainwave activity, hormones, cell regeneration and biological activities that occur on a daily basis.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that our sleeps patterns are an issue for our microbes. They need us to rest so they can do their thing while we sleep and keep their balance as it should be.

But wait, there’s more!!  The wrong gut microbes may be lowering your metabolic rate while you sleep and this can lead to weight gain. This is based on a mouse study at UI Carver College of Medicine which found that mice given a drug that lowers beneficial bacteria, had a lower metabolic rate both when resting and when asleep, causing them to gain weight.

So what should you do? Should you work on sleeping better to help the microbes or should you work on your gut health to help you sleep better? The answer is to do both. There are number of strategies that can help.

To help reset your circadian rhythm:

  • Go to bed at a set time and get up at the same time as much as possible
  • Avoid bright lights near bedtime
  • Avoid eating or exercising close to bedtime (3 hours minimum)
  • Sleep in dark space – light tricks the body into thinking it is time to be awake.
  • Develop a relaxing routine before bed whether it is taking a bed, deep breathing exercises or having a nice cup of herbal tea such as chamomile.

For those who have irregular work and therefore, sleep schedules, a melatonin supplement may be helpful.

Diet also plays a role. In another mouse study, both high fat and low fat diets played a negative role in the function of circadian rhythms and they also altered the microbiome. Short-chain fatty acid production was lower, especially butyrate which is essential for circadian rhythm function.  Butyrate is produced by beneficial colon bacteria from resistant starch found in complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, legumes and sweet potatoes.

To improve gut health:

  • Eat prebiotic foods, especially those with resistant starch
  • Take probiotics which can help melatonin levels which, in turn, help restore circadian rhythms.
  • Butyrate supplements are available if you wonder how well you are producing it.

Sleep is one more example of the potential problems caused by dysbiosis (poor digestion) and why we should be focused on improving our gut health.

References

  • Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota, Robin M. Voigt,1 et al, PLoS One. 2014; 9(5): e97500.
  • Effects of diurnal variation of gut microbes and high-fat feeding on host circadian clock function and metabolism. Leone V1, et al, Cell Host Microbe. 2015 May 13;17(5):681-9.
  • Melatonin regulation as a possible mechanism for probiotic (VSL#3) in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized double-blinded placebo study, Wong RK1 et al, Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Jan;60(1):186-94.