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Keep Your Body Clock & Your Health on Schedule With Prebiotics


Your internal body clock regulates your wake and sleep cycles to ensure your body gets the sleep it needs for repair and recovery. Unfortunately, frequent traveling, working the graveyard shift, and pulling all-nighters can disrupt the rhythm of your internal clock. When this happens, more than just sleep gets disrupted. Your overall health does too. But, a recent study shows that prebiotics may help. 

Your circadian rhythm makes sure you get sleep when you need it. Chronic disruption can cause other systems in your body to become misaligned, which increases your risk of disease. In light of previous evidence that prebiotics can help reduce the impacts of stressors, it is believed they can help mitigate the chronic disruption of circadian rhythms on physiology.

The solution shouldn’t be a surprise. Prebiotics are nutrients that fuel the good bacteria in your gut. These bacteria do more than just promote healthy digestion. Seventy percent of your immune system is housed in the gut so that a healthy gut microbiome can support immune system alignment. If it can also help keep your internal clock aligned, your overall health will benefit.

A research team from the University of Colorado at Boulder recently studied the role prebiotics play in regulating your sleep. Previous studies found that prebiotic-infused food helped rats to sleep better. Building from here, the Boulder team sought to learn if prebiotics could also help promote resilience to body clock disruptions. 

The animal studies involved two groups of rats. One group was raised on regular food, and the other was raised on food enriched with two prebiotics. Researchers then manipulated the light-dark cycle for all rats for eight weeks, equivalent to traveling to a time zone 12 hours ahead every week. At the end of the study, they found that rats that ate prebiotics:

♦ More quickly realigned their wake-sleep cycles

♦ More quickly realigned their core body temperatures

♦ Resisted the gut microbiome alterations associated with stress

Woman opening the curtains after a night restful sleep

These findings allowed researchers to finally answer the questions: How can ingesting prebiotics impact how we sleep? When evaluating the gut microbiomes of the rats that ingested prebiotic-enriched food, the CU Boulder team found an abundance of health-promoting microbes, including Ruminiclostridium 5, which is known to reduce fragmented sleep.

Prebiotics nourish the good bacteria in your gut, which supports healthy digestion, and by promoting and balancing these beneficial microbes and the metabolites, they produce the body can become more resilient to circadian disruptions. In addition, a healthy microbiome can promote immunity and encourage better sleep and body clock alignment. 

Clinical trials are currently underway at CU Boulder to determine if prebiotics can have similar effects on humans. Millions travel for work and pleasure year-round, military personnel frequently change locations, and close to 15 million Americans work the night shift. This new research could lead to the development of prebiotic-based solutions for those whose lifestyles and careers expose them to frequent circadian disruption. 

Journal reference:

Robert S. Thompson, et al. (2021). Ruminiclostridium 5, Parabacteroides distasonis, and bile acid profile are modulated by prebiotic diet and associated with facilitated sleep/clock realignment after chronic disruption of rhythms. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, vol. 97, p. 150.