Insomnia: Is Gut Pathological Testing Really Necessary?


“Pathological testing?  Is it really necessary if I experience insomnia?”

This is a question that I often get asked by my patients who are having trouble falling asleep and/or experiencing ongoing, intermittent awakenings.  However pathological testing, in particular gut pathological testing, can be one of the BEST WAYS to really drill down, and get to the root cause of why someone may be struggling to sleep well.

This is because our gut can affect our sleep, and vice versa.

Of course we know shift work itself plays a huge role in someone’s ability to acquire optimal sleep.

Let’s face it, there are many rosters out there that aren’t exactly “user-friendly” when it comes to getting good quality sleep!

However, shift work is just one piece of what can be a very complex puzzle in those experiencing insomnia.

One of the topics rarely discussed in most therapeutic sleep consultations is how the gut, or our gastrointestinal tract may be influencing our ability to sleep.  This is because many of our neurotransmitters such as GABA (which is a calming amino acid that is crucial for restorative deep sleep) and serotonin (which is the pre-cursor to melatonin, our ‘sleepy hormone’), are located in our gut, and form an integral role in the biochemical pathway to sleep.

Quite simply, the health of our gut plays a HUGE role when it comes to our ability to sleep, and sleep well.

This is because …

  • If there is an undiagnosed parasite infection (for example), it can lead to serious imbalances in the nervous system due to the depletion of GABA and serotonin levels, thereby potentially contributing to insomnia.
  • If there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, candida, yeast growth and/or parasite infections it can lead to inflammation in the gut, which in turn can contribute to nutritional deficiencies and poor sleep.
  • When we have a good balance of beneficial bacteria in our gut, they are able to produce and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters that can keep you feeling calm and relaxed, which are absolutely necessary in order for restful sleep to occur.
  • When our gut contains a healthy balance of gut microbes they are also able to lower levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone that can keep us awake by making us feel anxious.  Hello tossing and turning, and next-to-no sleep!

So depending on patient signs and symptoms, pathological testing such as a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis or CDSA, together with a Faecal PCR test (which tests for parasites) can be an excellent diagnostic tool (and investment) in patients with unresolved sleep issues.

After a comprehensive analysis of these tests is complete, a personalised treatment plan can then be put together which will help in the restoration of a healthy gut, which in turn, will lead to better quality sleep which is a wonderful thing for anyone working 24/7!

Audra x

 

References:

Gottesmann, C 2002, ‘GABA mechanisms and sleep’, Neuroscience, vol. 111, no. 2, pp. 231-239.

Yano, J., Yu, K., Donaldson, G., Shastri, G., Ann, P., Ma, L., Nagler, C, Ismagilov, R, Mazmanian, S & Hsiao, E 2015, ‘Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis’, Cell, vol. 163, no. 1, p. 264-276.

The Circadian Diet – What to Eat and When?

A Question I Get Asked a LOT in Clinic!

Food clock. Healthy food concept

One of the most common questions I get asked by shift workers in our student clinic at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Brisbane is – “What should I eat and when?”

This is a great question given shift workers rarely eat breakfast at “breakfast time”, nor do we necessarily eat dinner at “dinner time”.

I mean “breakfast” for anyone who happens to work 24/7 could be at 4am, or it may not be until midday – depending on your shift.

Given our body is carefully orchestrated by our natural circadian rhythms (the fancy word for our sleep/wake cycles), any variation from these rhythms can play havoc on our body temperature, blood pressure, mental alertness, hormone and neurotransmitter production along with countless other body functions including our gastrointestinal system.

This influence on our gastrointestinal system includes our metabolism, digestion, and absorption of nutrients from the food that we eat.

So in addition to what we eat, along with how much we eat, when we eat is also critical to our overall health and wellbeing.

This was illustrated in an 8-week clinical trial showing how eating mostly carbohydrates at lunch, and mostly protein at dinner, had damaging effects on glucose homeostasis (Alves et al. 2014).  This disruption to our blood glucose regulation can lead to an increased risk in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Which brings us to the “Circadian Diet”, or as it’s also referred to as “Chrononutrition”.

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