Have you been trying to introduce prebiotic foods in your diet to boost your gut health? New research suggests that you will reap even more benefits. Before we get into details, let me remind you that prebiotics are the substances that probiotics, a.k.a. the good bacteria in your gut, feed on.
They are dietary fibers occurring naturally in chicory, artichokes, garlic, leek, onion, and other foods. When introduced into our diet, they feed the beneficial bacteria and help it multiply, populate our gastrointestinal system, and improve our digestive, immune, and metabolic health.
While most studies focus on probiotics and their health benefits, the scientists at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, decided to pay more attention to prebiotics. It seems they made the right call, as their study had an important conclusion: prebiotics improve sleep and buffer the physiological impact of stress.
How Did They Reach This Conclusion?
The study stretched over a period of 3 weeks and had 3-week-old male rats as subjects. The subjects received a diet relying on standard or prebiotics-enriched chow. Throughout the test period, the team monitored the subjects’ body temperature, gut bacteria levels, and sleep cycles. They used EEG (brain activity testing).
The Impact of the Prebiotics-Rich Diet on the Subjects’ Sleep Patterns
They concluded that subjects on the prebiotic-enriched diet slept better, spending more time than the subjects on the standards chow diet in the sleep phase known as NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement), the most restful and restorative. It is already common knowledge that proper nutrition and sufficient NREM sleep support brain function and development.
Since many people suffer from sleep problems during their early life, the conclusions of the study suggest that a prebiotics-rich diet adopted in this period could improve sleep patterns, while supporting gut microbiota, and promoting optimal brain health.
The Impact of the Prebiotics-Rich Diet on the Subjects’ Responses to Stress
The study also covered the subjects’ responses to stress. The team exposed the rats to stress and monitored their responses. The subjects on the prebiotics-enriched diet spent more time in the REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep phase, known to promote stress recovery.
According to available research, subjects getting more REM sleep after a trauma have to lower risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Research also links stress to poor gut bacteria and temporary reduction of natural body temperature fluctuations. During the study, the subject on the prebiotics-rich diet maintained their gut microbiota and registered normal body temperature fluctuations after exposure to stress.
The study showed clearly that a prebiotics-rich diet can improve the sleep/wake cycle even in the presence of stress. It also mitigates the effects of stress on sleep patterns, and gut microbiota. However, since the subjects were rats, it will take further research to put together a functional and safe prebiotic diet for human subjects.
According to the team, following studies should address the dynamics of the microbial community structure during the prebiotics-rich diet and fully elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the above-discussed beneficial effects.
However, the study proves beyond the reason of doubt that a prebiotic-rich diet could help us improve our sleep patterns, mitigate the effects of stress, and maintain healthy gut flora. Until further research is concluded, nothing prevents us from introducing prebiotic foods like chicory, dandelion, artichoke, asparagus, bananas, barley, apples, konjac, cocoa, or flaxseed in our diet.
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