Good news: prebiotic foods may improve sleep, proving that a little bacteria-friendly food goes a long way.
For the last few years, we’ve heard all about probiotic foods (like kimchi, sauerkraut, special yoghurts, and kombucha) and how they’re so amazing for our health. The presence of beneficial bacteria in these foods improve intestinal health, fortify our immunity, and the list of benefits goes on. But what about prebiotic foods, the foods that specifically nourish the bacteria living in our gut? Where’s their moment in the spotlight?
A new study from the University of Colorado Boulder sheds a bit of light on how awesome prebiotic foods can be. According to the research, a few of these foods may be all you need to have a better night’s sleep.
The researchers fed rats a diet of both regular and prebiotic foods. In monitoring the rats’ sleep cycles, their gut bacteria, and body temperature. The rats that ate the prebiotic-rich diet had better NREM sleep than the rats who ate normal food. Their sleep was more restful and restorative, and it was all thanks to the prebiotics.
But that’s not all! The rats were all exposed to stressors, then their sleep activity was monitored. The rats who ate prebiotic-rich foods spent more time engaged in REM sleep, which is vital for the recovery from trauma and stress. Studies have proven that spending more time in REM sleep after a trauma can actually reduce the risk of PTSD.
The fascinating thing about this study is that it linked gut bacteria to overall health. Previous studies have indicated that traumatic events can decimate healthy gut bacteria, leading to a flattening of the diversity present in the gut. Body temperature can also flatten out, which can have added consequences to overall health and immunity.
But not with prebiotic foods! The fiber-rich foods fed the bacteria, promoting bacterial growth and acting as a sort of buffer against the stress. The stressor had less visible effect on the rats’ bodies thanks to the prebiotic diet.
READ MORE: 7 Health Benefits of Kombucha
“That’s wonderful!” you may be thinking. “But what the heck is a PREbiotic food?” We’re all familiar with probiotics, but prebiotics are far less known.
Prebiotics are anything that feeds the bacteria living in your intestines. Simply put, it’s a special form of dietary fiber that occurs naturally in onions, leeks, raw garlic, artichokes, and chicory. As the bacteria digests this special fiber, they multiply and improve not just gut health, but your overall health. Research has suggested that the increase in gut bacteria caused by prebiotics can lead to better metabolic function and brain function.
These prebiotics should already be a staple of your meals. After all, onions, garlic, and leeks are used to flavor most of your favorite dishes. Eating more artichokes and chicory isn’t too difficult. However, remember that cooking the foods may decrease the presence of the prebiotics. Cooking can break down the dietary fiber, preventing it from nourishing your gut bacteria.
That means it’s time to add more raw garlic, onions, and leeks to your diet. You can dice them and add them into a delicious tomato soup, or even serve them with your omelet, pasta, or salad. They may be very strong (and give you pretty bad breath), but they can do wonders to improve your gut health. Adding them to your mid-afternoon/early evening meal could improve the quality of your REM and NREM sleep, encouraging better recovery of both your brain and body after a long day of activity and work. Definitely worth a try, right?