- New research shows improving your gut health can help to improve your sleep and vice versa.
- Learn how you can improve your gut health by eating specific gut-friendly foods at the right time for your circadian rhythm.
- Explore this blog to improve your gut health and positively impact your sleep.
Our previous blog, ‘When Sleep Deprivation Becomes a Pain in the Gut’ explained that it’s not just you that feels grumpy after a poor night’s sleep, the bacteria in your gut don’t like it either and poor gut health can further disrupt your sleep.
Luckily, the balance of our microbiome changes on a daily basis and we have the power to improve our gut health and set ourselves up for a great night’s sleep by making a few smarter choices recommended below.
1.Manage Your Stress
Coping with an unhealthy level of stress has been shown to compromise your gut lining and interfere with your ability to digest and extract the nutrients from your food which further impacts the balanced of your good and bad gut bacteria. While some stress is needed to get us out of bed in the morning, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms your body is coping with an unhealthy level of stress. This could include a racing or anxious mind, anxiety, increased heart rate or level of breathing, sweating, headaches or unexplained pain. When experienced at night all of these symptoms can further interfere with your sleep.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s important to have a range of stress busters in your toolkit that help you feel more relaxed and less stressed. This could include making time for a 2-minute mindfulness or meditation practice or some deep belly breathes. It could also mean getting out for a short walk in the sunshine to help clear your head or a long bout of physical activity. Physical activity even for as little as ten minutes can help to reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol and give you a mood-boosting endorphin hit. Another great stress buster is having a laugh or talking to a friend or family member about your worries or stress levels. Remember a problem shared is always a problem halved!
2.Consistency is King
Consistency is king when it comes to establishing sleep and wake patterns and research shows your gut bacteria also flourishes when it has a consistent routine for eating and fasting between meals. Specific research1 has shown regular meal patterns including eating breakfast, reduced meal frequency (i.e. from five meals down to two or three meals/day), and regular fasting periods between meals improves both your circadian rhythm and the balance of your gut microbiota. Consistent mealtimes also help to reduce your level of inflammation and make your gut more resistant to stress. Fasting between meals also allows time for your gut to clean out any damaged cells in order to build healthier new cells, a process known as ‘autophagy’.
3.Diversity is Queen
Research has shown a nutrient-dense diet that includes a diverse range of plants is important for a healthy gut. This includes filling up your plate with a variety of different coloured, fruit, vegetables, legumes and beans. These plants are high in fibre which feeds the good bacteria in your gut and simulates their growth (known as prebiotics). Specifically, research has shown apples, artichokes, blueberries, almonds and pistachios increase the healthy bacteria Bifidobacteria in the gut which can help to prevent intestinal inflammation and enhance gut health.
4.Include Fermented Foods in your Diet
Fermented foods are foods and beverages that contain good bacteria which can help restore the balance and diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Some common fermented foods and beverages you can add to your diet include drinking Miso soup, Kombucha, (fermented tea) or kefir (fermented dairy drink). Or adding 1-2 Tablespoons of kimchi or sauerkraut as a condiment to salads, omelettes or stir frys.
5.Support Great Sleep with Essential Minerals
Magnesium serves to relax the body by acting on our central nervous system to reduce the production of our stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are often the cause of why we wake through the night preventing us from reaching those beautiful restorative deep stages of sleep. Magnesium works with our sleep hormone Melatonin to facilitate deep restorative sleep so we can not only build a healthier microbiome but wake up feeling refreshed.
Many people are suffering from low magnesium levels and deficiencies as it is difficult to obtain through diet alone due to low nutrient levels in our soils. Low magnesium levels make us more susceptible to stress and sleep deprivation and vice versa, another vicious cycle. This means nearly everyone could benefit from taking a high-quality magnesium supplement that includes at least 350mg per serving. However, not all magnesium supplements are created equal and we recommend choosing a supplement that includes the most specific forms of magnesium such as magnesium citrate and magnesium phosphate so they can be utilised by our demanding nervous system.
6.Sleep on the Left Side
Give your gut a helping hand by sleeping on your left side at night. When you sleep on your left side, gravity can help take waste on a trip through the colon — encouraging a visit to the bathroom in the morning.
Many of us are guilty of eating breakfast on the run or lunch at our desks without really stopping to take the time to chew and enjoy our food. Research shows that eating meals in a stressed state can compromise the absorption and digestion of the nutrients in your meal. Help your gut to maximise the nutrients in your food and your own enjoyment by prioritising meal times and trying to relax before eating. This could be as simple as taking the time to do a couple of deep belly breathes before eating your lunch away from your desk or sitting down to a screen-free dinner with your family or friends. Not only is this simple tip better for your gut health, but it’s also a lot more fun.
Please note if you think you are suffering from a more serious gut or sleep disorder such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Coeliac disease, or food allergies or intolerances we recommend booking a full gut health and sleep assessment with our Naturopathic Doctor. To book today call 0800 345 888 or book online here.
The SleepDrops research team
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1.Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):719. Published 2019 Mar 28. doi:10.3390/nu11040719