The gut microbiome is involved in nearly every aspect of our health, including melatonin production. “Melatonin is primarily made in the brain but also in the gut,” says Lindsay Christensen, MS, CNS, LDN, a functional nutritionist in Conifer, Colo. “If the bacterial ratios in the gut are imbalanced, then gut-derived melatonin could be lower, which could affect sleep.”
Some gut microbes also help make calming neurotransmitters, such as GABA. “If we have low levels of those GABA-producing bacteria, we can be less able to wind down,” she adds.
Poor digestion, meanwhile, can contribute to irritability, diarrhea, constipation, and moodiness — conditions that by themselves can disrupt good sleep. “And with poor gut health, you’re not absorbing nutrients well,” nutritionist Karman Meyer, RD, LDN, author of Eat to Sleep says. This can lead to trouble getting the calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients you need.
Whole-Food Sources: To support a healthy microbiome, Christensen recommends, limit processed foods and eat a diet rich in prebiotics — foods that feed good bacteria in the gut. These include Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, lentils, unripe bananas, leeks, oats, and chickpeas. Probiotic fermented foods, such as yogurt and pickled vegetables, can also be a great source of beneficial bacteria.
Supplements: A daily probiotic can lend extra support. (For tips on how to find a quality probiotic, see “How Do I Find the Right Probiotic Supplement for Me?“.)
This was excerpted from “Which Nutrients and Supplements Can Help Me Sleep?” which was published in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.