Dreaming of A More Restful Sleep?

Tossing and turning? Watching the hours crawl by? Even one night of poor sleep can make you an exhausted, irritable, sugar-craving beast the next day. We all have the odd sleepless night, but if sleep loss goes on long enough more serious problems like hormone imbalance, immune dysfunction and weight gain can result.

Let’s look at the latest research to see what’s going on when you’re asleep, the relationship between sleep loss and other health conditions, and how you can increase your dose of healing ZZZs.

Why Your Body Needs to Sleep

Imagine a city at night. Offices are being cleaned, roadways and transit lines are being repaired, garbage and recycling is being picked up…

If these activities took place during the day, they would get in the way. Office workers couldn’t work effectively, traffic would become gridlocked. When morning comes, the city has been cleaned and repaired, and is ready for another full day of operations.

Night-time Functions

It’s the same with your body. It is vital to your daytime functioning that your body has a chance to perform these functions every night:
– Repair damage to muscles, organs and DNA
– Hormone production and release
– Process toxins for removal
– Process the day’s events emotionally
– Store long-term emotional and immune memories

The Physical Toll of Not Sleeping Well

What happens if these functions aren’t carried out properly and regularly? Cellular repairs fall behind, hormones fall out of balance, toxins build up, emotions aren’t processed, and long-term immune memories aren’t stored for the future.

A Vicious Cycle: Sleep Loss Worsens Existing Health Conditions

We’ve all experienced the 2-way relationship between poor sleep and stress. Up all night stressing about a work project? The next day you’ll feel even more stressed about it, leading you into a cycle of stress and poor sleep. And the negative effects go deeper if you already suffer from an imbalance in your health.

Sleep Loss Affects Immune Health

Sleep loss can impact your immune system’s lines of defence, the various stages of immune response that are designed to protect the body from infection and disease.

Research points to sleep loss having the strongest impact on targeted antibody resistance. The immune system’s learning and remembering only happen while you sleep. If you’re not getting good quality sleep on a regular basis, your immune system won’t be able to produce the antibodies. This means you could be more
susceptible if that pathogen visits you again in the future. Several studies show that sleep loss increases the risk of an infection taking hold.

Sleep Loss Affects Menopause

Studies show that almost 70% of women in perimenopause and menopause regularly experience sleep loss. Why is that?

Waking up restless and dripping with sweat in the middle of night doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. And the less sleep you get, the worse the menopause-induced night sweats may get.

Research also shows that the increased anxiety and depression that often accompanies menopause contributes significantly to many aspects of poor sleep including waking up often during the night, less time spent asleep and waking due to troubling dreams.

Sleep Loss Affects Inflammation

Research shows that too little sleep, or a lack of quality sleep, results in increased levels of inflammatory markers and signs of cellular aging. Poor quality sleep can trigger low-grade, chronic inflammation that is characteristic of a wide range of diseases such as heart disease, metabolism disorders, chronic pain, some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Sleep Loss Affects Excess Weight

Have you ever noticed looking slimmer after a period of regularly getting proper sleep? It seems too good to be true – lose weight by spending more time being sedentary? There are several reasons for this phenomenon.

Did you know that fat stores toxins? When your body is having trouble getting dangerous toxins out of your system, it does the next best thing it can to protect our cells: it imprisons them in fat so the toxins can’t damage the rest of your cells.

Also, many hormones are produced and distributed through the body during sleep.
Those strong sugar and carb cravings after a night of tossing and turning might come down to your sleep quality. When these hormones aren’t functioning properly, you’re more likely to eat more and make poor food choices and when you are tired, you are likely to exercise less due to a lack of energy.

9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success

Sleep hygiene isn’t just about a clean bedroom. It’s all the little things you can do to make your bedroom a restful place and set yourself up for sleep success every night.

1 – Create a Consistent Sleep Routine
Our bodies love routine. Get up at the same time every morning, and your body will find it easier to wake up. With practice, you may find that you’re feeling sleepy even before you hit the sheets!

2 – Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Research shows that blue light from digital screens can negatively impact sleep. Try not to use your smartphone, TV, laptop or tablet for one hour before bed. Skip the social media in bed, and save that late-night show that you like for tomorrow.

3 – Keep Your Bedroom Quiet
Sound is one of the biggest obstacles to sleep. Unless a key part of your sleep routine involves listening to relaxing music, keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you can’t control the noise around you, invest in some ear plugs.

4 – Limit Bedroom Light
Darkness is one of the cues your brain is looking for to get into sleep mode. Bedside lamps, night lights and light coming in through your bedroom window can all interfere. A sleep mask can help if you are sharing a room with a night owl. If you work nights, consider installing blackout curtains for deep darkness.

5 – Stay Cool
Research indicates that it’s much easier to get good quality sleep in a cool room. Experiment with different temperatures to see what feels right for you by pre-programming your thermostat to dip at bedtime. If your bed mate has different sleep temperature needs, keep the room cool and go European with individual blankets.

6 – Wear Breathable Nightwear
Polyester and other synthetic fibres are not very breathable, making it more likely you’ll heat up overnight. Opt for natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo to encourage airflow and allow your body to comfortably regulate its temperature.

7 – Don’t Eat Too Late
Digesting food is a huge task, using over 80% of the body’s energy. Ask your body to do this while you’re sleeping, and it won’t have the energy left to carry out that long list of overnight cleansing and healing functions. Even worse, digestion slows down at night, so it is best all round to avoid eating meals after 8pm.

8 – Work Out in the Morning, Yoga at Night
Strenuous exercise does contribute to great sleep at night, but not when it’s done within an hour or two of bedtime. Doing gentler forms of exercise (like yoga) right before bed promotes longer, deeper sleep.

9 – Use a Weighted Blanket
Recent research shows that using a weighted blanket can soothe your nervous system and result in deeper, more restful sleep.

Not Sleeping Properly? We Can Help!

As you can see, the one-third of your life spent asleep directly sets you up for success in the other two-thirds of your life. If you are not feeling your best and suspect sleep is the issue, it’s important to address the root causes.

Let’s work together to design a personalized treatment plan with calming nutrients and effective lifestyle changes that will work for you. We can run tests to check your hormone and immune system function, and see if chronic inflammation is present.
Please give us a call to get started.

References:

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Is Your Gut Calling All The Shots?

Are your sugar cravings impossible to ignore? Is bloating, gas and foggy thinking part of your every day? If so, your “bad” bacteria may be calling the shots!

The field of microbiome research has exploded recently. Every day new studies are revealing how the various colonies of gut bacteria and yeasts influence every major system and process in the body, and a sweet tooth may be part of that picture.

Research tells us that a diet high in sugar changes the makeup of the microbiome, helping bad bacteria thrive, suppressing good bacteria, and creating an imbalance that wreaks havoc on your digestive system.

Why is Sugar Bad for Your Microbiome?

With trillions of bacteria and yeasts representing hundreds of species in our gut, this microbial community is more influential than we think. Like any diverse community, there are great differences between members. Different species like different foods, have different jobs, and perhaps view life differently.

A Balanced Microbiome

In a healthy, balanced microbiome the various strains of yeasts and bacteria can co-exist happily. But unhealthy microbes, which often feed on sugar, can quickly overwhelm the friendly strains in your gut. Just as a pregnant woman is ‘eating for two’, every day we are ‘eating for trillions’. When sugar supplies in your gut are running low these bad strains send signals for you to ‘crave’ something sweet.

Candida & Cravings

Ask anyone who has experienced an overgrowth of Candida yeast in their gut will tell you that the sugar cravings are powerful and sneaky. They can influence your thoughts and decision-making strategies, manipulating you into eating sugar.

The Worst Dietary Sugars For Your Gut

Many healthy whole foods, especially fruit, are high in natural sugars and can exacerbate an imbalance, but the most damaging sugar is sucrose – plain old table sugar. Sucrose is a combination of fructose and glucose, and research shows that this combination changes the microbiome the most.

4 Ways an Unbalanced Microbiome can Affect Your Health

1 – Leaky Gut Syndrome

If left untreated, an overgrowth of unfriendly microbes can irritate the intestinal wall until it starts to break down, with yeasts such as candida taking the opportunity to bore holes in the soft mucosal lining – this is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Entire protein molecules, bacteria and food particles may escape from the intestinal tract directly into the bloodstream, undigested.

Once in the blood, these undigested molecules are sometimes seen as foreign invaders, causing what should be a normal, healthy inflammatory response to go out of control, potentially leading to a host of issues from sensitivities to allergies and even autoimmune conditions.

2 – Autoimmune Conditions

When your immune system is working overtime and inflammation becomes chronic throughout your body, the stage is set for autoimmunity. Many studies have shown that increased sugar consumption increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases, as well as increasing flare-ups of existing issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia.

3 – Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are often considered early evidence of potential autoimmune issues. Remember that overactive immune system? If it identifies food as a foreign invader, it won’t just try to fight it off. It will ‘remember’ the food and create antibodies against it. Next time you have this food your body will put its defense system into action, and you may experience bloating, gas, abdominal pain, rashes, and other symptoms. Before you know it, you could develop sensitivities to foods you’ve been eating all your life.

4 – Depression & Low Mood

Recent studies show that depressed individuals have a less diverse microbiome with fewer species of bacteria. Some bacterial species found in healthy individuals can be missing entirely, while other bad bacteria is found in much higher numbers.

Did you know that gut bacteria make many of the neurotransmitters that affect mood? The majority of our natural supplies of GABA (gamma-amino butyrate), norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine are made in the gut – this is why the gut is often referred to as the “second brain”. When those good bacteria aren’t functioning well, or have been wiped out altogether it can have a significant effect on moods and feelings of depression.

How to Bring a Sugar-Influenced Microbiome Back into Balance

As socially acceptable as it may be, sugar is both a microbiome-damaging toxin and an addictive drug. Here’s what you can do to release yourself from sugar’s grip and bring back balance:

Fight Back Against Sugar Cravings

Say No to Your Little Friends

When a strong sugar craving hits, trying to ignore it will only get you so far. Take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself: is this my craving? Or are the bad microbes manipulating me to get their own sugar fix? When you reduce your sugar intake, these microbes go into starvation mode and up the ante. Your sugar cravings become more powerful, and you may find you’re ‘talking yourself into’ getting that
chocolate bar or pastry. Realizing that the microbes are only using you to be fed is a good first step in regaining control over your eating habits.

Identify Sugar Triggers

Perhaps you crave sugar under specific circumstances. Think about the last time you had a sugary treat. Were you feeling stressed? Fatigued? Depressed? Anxious? Knowing your own sugar triggers will help you ride out that craving when it arrives. Bringing conscious attention to your cravings is a powerful way to lessen their power over you.

Feed Your Healthy Gut Bacteria

The best rule of thumb is to eat more real food, and incorporate more plants into your diet. Prebiotics from plants are what our microbiome was built to eat!

Prebiotics

Unlike probiotics, which are themselves beneficial microbial community members, prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that these microbes love to eat. In fact, the reason that many foods are ‘good for us’ is actually because they’re good for beneficial microbes. A well-fed microbe is a happy, active microbe that will keep the bad bacteria at bay and your microbiome healthy and thriving.

The Best Prebiotic Foods
● Chicory
● Jerusalem artichokes
● Dandelion greens
● Asparagus
● Garlic
● Onions
● Bone broth

Add Probiotic Foods To Your Diet

When your microbiome is unbalanced, adding more healthy bacteria can help to temporarily crowd out the bad bacteria, giving your friendly strains a chance to thrive. The easiest way to do this is regularly eating fermented foods which are rich in a variety of strains of soothing, helpful bacteria.
It’s important to note that prebiotics cause bloating and irritation in some individuals, especially if you suffer from SIBO or IBS. If you increase your veggie intake and the bloating continues to make your life a misery, be sure to contact your health practitioner for testing and the right support.

The Best Probiotic Foods
● Kefir
● Yoghurt (read the label to ensure it contains good bacteria as not all do)
● Sauerkraut
● Kimchi
● Miso
● Kombucha
● Lacto-Fermented Pickles (Not those made with vinegar)

Starve the Bad Bacteria

While increasing foods that help feed and nurture the good bacteria and yeasts in your microbiome is important, reducing the foods that feed bad bacteria is just as much a part of the big picture. Removing hidden and not-so-hidden sources of sugar can pave the road to success when it comes to easing your digestive troubles.

Foods to Avoid to Starve Bad Bacteria
● Processed and packaged foods
● Sugary treats (especially those containing sucrose)
● Alcohol
● High sugar fruits like mangoes, grapes, figs, watermelon and pears

Eat Mindfully

Eating isn’t the best time to multitask. If you’re watching TV or scrolling through your social media feed during meals, research shows that you’re likely to be eating faster, chewing less and eating more food that you would otherwise.

At your next meal, try putting your phone away and keeping the TV off. Consciously chew every bite thoroughly before swallowing, and really taste the flavours. Not only will this result in better digestion, you will naturally eat less and enjoy your meal more. And don’t miss out on one of the great joys of life – catching up with friends and family over a good meal.

Reduce Mealtime Stress

If stress has you in frequent “fight or flight” mode at mealtime, you won’t digest your food very well. In this mode your body’s resources are focussed on either fighting an attacker or running away from them.

Resources are actively removed from digestive function to focus on these tasks. So if you sit down to dinner feeling stressed about something you read in the news or a work assignment that’s due tomorrow, you won’t be able to extract or absorb many nutrients from your meal. The opposite of the fight or flight mode (‘rest and digest’ mode) is the goal. Before you sit down to any meal, try some deep breathing to calm you down.

Are you ready to take control back from those bossy bad bacteria, reduce bloating and feel energized by the food you eat?

Let’s work together to kick the sugar habit for good! If you want to delve deeper and find out what’s really going on in your microbial community, we can run a range of tests from stool analysis to food sensitivity, leaky gut and more and guide you through a healing plan that’s uniquely tailored for you.

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