Knowing about how your digestive system works and what helps it work properly is very important. It is vital to listen to your body as well as understand what is going on inside your body. Today we are focusing on the digestive system, probiotics, prebiotics, and sleep.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The long muscular tube inside our body that goes from our mouth to our bottom is called the gut or the digestive system.
Our gut is like your “second brain” because this is where you can find the huge complex of nerves known as the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is constantly communicating with the brain to regulate vital processes.
So the vagus nerve connects the network of nerves within the gut to the different regions of the brain. This is process is referred to as the gut-brain axis. So how does this happen? Well through your gut microbiota.
Gut microbiota or “good bugs” are found within our gut. We have trillions of these “good bugs’ in our gut. Gut microbiota produce specific neurotransmitters and hormones, like serotonin, that communicate back to the brain through the vagus nerve. A key biochemical that regulates our mood is serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor for melatonin, which is a hormone essential that eases us to sleep. So having a well-balanced, diverse gut microbiota is essential for daily functioning. When we have a less diverse gut microbiota then it literally affects our production of serotonin, which will also affect our ability to sleep.
Supporting Your Gut Health to Help You Sleep
The environment that we are in and diet we have are a big influence on the composition of our gut microbiota. Since our gut health and sleep are entwined, it is crucial to treat the gut in order to improve sleep. Instead of making big, unsustainable changes, you should set small attainable goals in order to achieve a healthy gut microbiota.
Increase your Prebiotics
Prebiotics are a type of food indigestible to you, but they will 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. You an find probiotics in:
- Miso soup
Swap out sugars
Research has shown that excessive sugar consumption increases the growth rate of the “bad bugs” and can disturb the balance of gut microbiota. You should skip foods and drinks that have added sugars and seek out sources of carbohydrates with high fiber content.
Avoid excessive use of antibiotics
One of the most commonly prescribed drugs are antibiotics. They work by destroying bacteria in the body. So antibiotics are destroying both the good and bad bacteria. You should discuss antibiotic usage with your physician before you decide if it is the best option for you.
Research has found that regular physical activity can positively change the quality and quantity of the gut microbiota’s composition.
If you would like more information about children’s gastrointestinal digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Walia at 470-228-4778 or visit her online at gainesvillepediatricgi.com.