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Lack of Sleep Affects Gut Health (and Vice Versa!)

Maria , 29, went through a very painful breakup 2 years ago and began having insomnia (trouble sleeping). Along with processing the grief through the loss of her relationship, she began to experience stomach pain and abdominal bloating. She had read that an imbalance in her gut could be contributing to her sleep issues, but she intuitively knew that for her it was the other way around. The sudden unexpected breakdown and the end of her relationship was the contributory factor to her gut health issues. And she is correct! Sleep and gut health inform and influence each other.

I have written before about gut health and the neurotransmitters produced as a result of that affects sleep, but did you know that a lack of sleep also affects gut health? Lack of sleep can influence cortisol secretion (the fight or flight hormone) and also influence insulin metabolism. Chronic stress, as I have written before, contributes to weight gain and the obesity epidemic is in part due to the availability of refined carbohydrates and increases in stress and lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep affects the composition of the gut flora. Gut flora affects neurotransmitter production as well, possibly contributing to increased levels of anxiety and depression. So it seems to be that alterations in the gut flora can cause a change in neurotransmitters which has an affect on sleep which further affects gut flora. A positive feedback loop of ill health!

Many of my patients report that they had no issues with anxiety or depression before they caught a stomach bug. Ever since the stomach bug they have felt unwell on a mental/emotional as well as a physical level. Conversely, many patients with anxiety, depression and sleeplessness also have concurrent digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and/or stomach pain.   Conversely when there is a lack of sleep perhaps due to anxiety or depression it will alter the composition of the gut flora.

Here are some scholarly research  studies on this. 

Sleep, sleep deprivation and infectious disease: Studies in animals

 Sleep deprivation worsens inflammation and delays recovery in a mouse model of coliti

Sleep loss tied to changes in gut bacteria

This means that chronic insomnia and lack of sleep has a direct effect on inflammation and gut health as well as exacerbating autoimmune disorders due to an increase in cytokine levels when sleep levels are suboptimal. So while you are trying to find relief for your stomach pain, bloating, cramping, and other gut health issues, it is very important to make sure that your sleep is optimized!

I work at the Corca Sleep Center, an integrative sleep center. Along with working with gut health to improve sleep, we also work with sleep to improve gut health! The 2 go hand in hand and it is almost impossible to separate the 2 systems of the body, they are so intertwined!

When Maria’s gut health improved after she and I worked together, her sleep also improved, which further encouraged her bloating, cramping and stomach pain to dissipate.

If you are having sleep AND gut issues, my clinic may be a great fit for you whether you are local or live far away. This is especially true if you want to get off of the highly addictive prescription sleep aids or want to avoid them completely I can work with patients remotely in most places, and some patients even travel to Colorado to work with me and the sleep clinic where I work. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that online here .  You can also call (303) 443-2206 to schedule M-F 9-5 Mountain time. If you want to jump right in, you can immediately schedule your initial visit. I hope to hear from you soon!


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