The microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live mainly in your large intestine or colon. Together they weigh around 1-2kgs and until relatively recently they were largely ignored.
Lots of research has, over the last few years, shown that having the right mix of “good” bacteria in your gut is vitally important for your long term health. It’s a bit like rainforests being vital for the overall health of the planet.
We also know that by eating the right foods, and nurturing a healthy microbiome, your gut produces substances that act as natural mood boosters and help reduce anxiety. And these are important for good quality sleep too.
The microbiome can influence everything from your immune system to your mood, from the allergies you develop to the amount of weight you put on. As you get older having lots of “good” bacteria living in your gut is increasingly important, as they will help you fight infection and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, as well as depression and common gut disorders.
There are multiple benefits to having a healthy, happy gut. These include obvious ones, such as “being regular” (good-bye to constipation and diarrhea) to the less obvious, which include improved mood and better sleep.
In a study published in October 2019, researchers from Nova Southeastern University in Florida asked a group of men to wear activity monitors and have their sleep patterns analysed over the course of a month. The researchers also collected lots of poo samples from the men, which they then examined closely.
One of the things that came out of this research was clear evidence that the men with the most diverse microbiomes had the best-quality sleep, which included longer total sleep time, higher sleep efficiency and much less night-time waking.
How to improve your gut-health
Eating a range of prebiotics and probiotics will help improve your gut health, as will following a Mediterranean Style diet.
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms found in bacteria, yeast or fungi, that help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling the growth of harmful bacteria. They are the microbes are like the seeds that make up your lawn. Whereas Prebiotics are non-digestible food fibres that act as food for probiotics and act like a fertilizer for the lawn. Prebiotics and Probiotics work together to help maintain a healthy digestive system.
What foods are good sources of probiotics?
One of the best sources of probiotics is yogurt. Other good sources of probiotics are kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented soft cheeses (like Gouda), pickled vegetables and Kombucha Tea. The common feature of all these foods is fermentation, a process that produces probiotics. It is important that you check the label of these foods to make sure they contain live or active cultures, as sometimes these are removed in the packaging process.
What foods are good sources of prebiotics?
A prebiotic is a special type of plant fibre which your body can’t digest but which encourages the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut. There are many good sources of prebiotics and many of these are used in the recipes in the Fast Asleep book to help with sleep, including:
- Foods rich in inulin such as onions, leaks and garlic.
- Resistant Starch including those found in seeds and legumes. Pasta or rice that has been cooked, cooled and then either eaten cool or reheated also contains resistant starch.
- Other prebiotics might include wholegrains such as barley, whole oats, and flaxseeds as well as apples and even seaweed.
The Fast 800 shakes are also a good source of prebiotics and probiotics, containing the prebiotic inulin and a probiotic blend.