In the Brain and Gut Series Part 2, WU World Changer Dr. Melanie Dias shares about the correlation between the brain, the gut, and sleep deprivation. Late joining this series? Catch up on Part 1!
The Brain and Gut Series Part 2: Can’t Sleep? Your Brain, Your Gut and the Curse of Sleep Deprivation!
Last week in Part 1, I gave you an overview of how the gut (colon) affects the brain and vice versa. Keeping a clean, complete diet and lifestyle contributes to a healthier colon and as a result, reduces the toxic load on the rest of your body (I’m talking about the circulation of toxins and brain contamination).
So, if you are sitting in front of the boob tube with a bowl of Doritos and a few beers watching the games this Sunday Funday, well, you’re probably not reading this blog anyway! So, I will just hope that it comes across your screen or social media newsfeed to shed light on a few very important points to reverse the damage to your system.
The Risks of Not Sleeping Well
This topic hit close to home because I have quite a few friends and patients with sleep issues and I myself have been experiencing this mostly due to prolonged jet lag. Way too many people experience some nights of unfulfilling sleep. For many, it’s a chronic, struggle and over time it can lead to some troubling conditions:
- Early dementia
- Brain degeneration
- Weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Autoimmune disease
- Weakened immune system (more prone to infections)
- Accident prone
- Heart disease
… to name a few.
An article posted on healthline.com mentions chronic sleep deprivation interferes with balance, coordination and decision-making abilities. If you are prone to respiratory conditions, infections or you have a lung disease; sleep deprivation can make these conditions worse. Can’t lose the weight? Sleep issues lower your production of leptin (a hormone that tells your brain that you are full), hence the need to keep eating.
While you are Sleeping
- The body’s immune system produces your army of defense cells (cytokines and the gamete of white blood cells), which protect you against bacteria and other invaders. Sleep deprivation weakens your ability to prevent full-blown colds, the flu, and infections.
- Your brain makes melatonin, a powerful hormone to keep you in sound sleep but also protects against heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and migraines. The neurotransmitter, serotonin is the precursor to melatonin. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that calms down inflammation in the body. (full article on com)
- Anti-age! Who wants to speed up the aging process? If you don’t, then sleep should be a top priority. According to org, a clinical trial in Cleveland found a link between sleep deprivation and skin aging. Oh no! If you’re investing in pricey anti-aging crèmes and facials, you better get proper sleep!
What’s Your Sleep Complaint?
If you experience any of these problems below, it’s time to address the underlying systems that are sabotaging your short and long-term health.
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty falling into a restful sleep
- Not getting enough sleep or rest
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up tired and sluggish despite getting sufficient sleep
- Heart palpitation or a racing heart feeling while trying to fall asleep
Here’s the Connection:
These problems are results of poor blood glucose regulation (sugar metabolism and peripheral utilization of sugars). Glucose is critical for the brain. Poor glucose management is related to the health of your adrenals (stress handling glands). Adrenal dysfunction causes abnormal secretions of cortisol through the day leading to insulin resistance; glucose spikes then promote symptoms such as difficulty waking up in the morning, insomnia and low energy throughout the day.
You don’t want to end up with dementia especially not Alzheimer’s! The medial temporal lobe is one of the earliest brain locations for dementia including Alzheimer’s. Inside this lobe is the hippocampus, which controls memory and regulates your cortisol (stress handling hormone produced by your adrenals). Your hippocampus is at risk of degeneration under excessively stressful periods (by excess cortisol released by adrenals). As a result, impaired cortisol rhythm causes insomnia, afternoon crash naps, and difficulty waking up.
Your Eating Habits Dictate Your Ability to Sleep Well.
Does this describe you?
- Is coffee your complete breakfast?
- Do you wait too long between meals?
- Do you wake with no appetite?
- Do you feel like crashing between 3 pm and 5 pm?
If any or all apply, you may be a functional hypoglycemic and prone to not being able to stay asleep through the night.
- Do you wake up with sugar cravings?
- Do you eat a high starch, high sugar breakfast?
- Do you need stimulants (i.e.: coffee) after meals?
- Do you wake up not feeling rested or recovered?
If any or all apply, you may be suffering from insulin resistance.
Where does your gut health come in?
Well, a gut infection, leaky gut, sluggish bowels impair the adrenal function, therefore, impairing the cortisol rhythm, leading to sleep issues.
If you are taking supplements to support blood sugar regulation and you are still not improving, then your clinician should rule out stressors affecting your adrenals. Typical stressors include unidentified food intolerances, chemical exposure, subclinical infections (gastrointestinal or oral) and subclinical autoimmune reactions. A good place to start is a functional evaluation of a recent (within 30 days) comprehensive blood test.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are interested in having your blood test analyzed from a functional perspective, I invite you to contact me.
The Bottom Line:
Your ability to adapt to the stressors in your life, to go with the flow when needed, to practice a regular routine to unwind, check out, time out and decompress from the impact of the hectic world in which we live will dramatically help regulate your brain activity to allow for restful and restorative sleep. Often, I work with patients who just want the supplements and diet handed to them thinking this is the complete package to resolving their issues. So they pop the supplements and shift towards the healthier diet but they are not working on the mind-body aspect of care. Rolling out of bed and onto your keyboard with a mug of coffee is not a healthy practice. Taking a time out by unplugging (yes, that means shutting down the cell phone) for just a few minutes to meditate, be in nature, think of nothing is SO rejuvenating and makes a dramatic difference in cortisol regulation, sleep hygiene, mood, decision making, everything!
An easy quick guide to help you create YOUR strategy to achieve healthy sleep!
My approach to restoring function doesn’t lie only in what is given to you in exercises, adjustments, and supplementation. It also includes the very important aspect of creating balance to de-stress your brain, relax the mind and feed your soul with positivity.
If you found this article interesting and helpful, please click the share buttons and post to your social media channels. Feel free to post a comment below too! Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series next week!
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