Insomnia and digestive disrupts: How to part the common bedfellows

Published on January 20 2016

There are too many stomach-related quirks than I can cover in this limited space, so I’ll touch just those deadly in both active and passive modes. Passive means, it can stew beneath silently and triggers weird symptoms that have no visible logic behind. You’ll feel quite disturbed to know that extreme temperaments and a lack of clarity of thought and logic (in simple terms, brain-fogging) and an erroneous behavior could be symptoms of a disturbed digestive system.

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It’s much like asking the question on the hen and the egg; it’s tough determining what leads to what. All that can be said is inadequate sleep and stomach disturbances go hand in hand. But things are little more worse for them who just recovered from Crohn’s Disease. Sleep disturbances often trigger a relapse. Same with many of the other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Almost a year back I grabbed a study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (August 2013 issue) that did me good. No, I didn’t have Chron’s disease but night shifts at the job were showing me the effects of sleeping less. I ran some reverse engineering tallying the details over there with my own. The outcome was what I’m writing about.

If you know about the Circadian rhythms controlling the biological clock and therefore, our sleep/wake cycle, it’s fine; else, this internal clock inside the brain controls our hormonal flows and secretions for the body to do different things at different times. The clock is also responsible to make the pineal gland secrete melatonin and lower cortisol from the adrenals at night to induce sleep. So you can pretty well guess it also controls the flow of digestive juices, enzymes and the rest. When asleep, this bio-clock also slows down digestion and the movement of food inside the intestines. When the normal sleep cycle is disrupted, the digestion process goes awry and the build-up of stress makes it go awry further. It kills the probiotic bacteria inside your gastrointestinal track and brings down immunity. But that’s just one part of the story.

Did you know the gastric acid in your stomach is one of the first lines of defence for your body? Neither did I; when I learned, I gave up commercial antacids that I formerly used to control the acidity the morning after. Nowadays, I keep half-a-liter of yogurt handy and stand in the morning Sun for at least 10 minutes if I miss a night’s sleep.

The reason is, when you are awake, your gastric acid production doesn’t rest. Sleepless nights overproduces the acid and if it happens on a regular basis, the gastric acid production mechanism burns out and the acid turns weaker every day and finally, lessens in quantity to a point where it can’t destroy the pathogens present in the foods anymore. The pathogens get into the intestines and that’s the beginning of another set of troubles.

I spoke about stress weakening the probiotics; they can’t fight the pathogens and are easily outnumbered. There go all your vitamins and other essential biocompounds too, for many of the essential B-Vitamins (including biotin) are produced by them. Slowly, the liver, pancreas, colon and finally, the entire gastrointestinal tract runs a high risk of infections. Add to that adrenal fatigue and that’s a wonderful recipe for total blunder, some of the examples for which are lactose and gluten intolerance, body mass loss, obesity, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), Peptic ulcer and IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome).

So what did we learn?

  • Lack of sleep triggers gastric upsets.
  • Gastric upsets further interrupting sleep.

It’s a vicious cycle! So don’t neglect that rumbling in your stomach after the whole night of partying.

Assuming that you maintain the criteria for good sleep hygiene, the following are of great help:

  • Since the body breaks down food (in the evening) between 8P.M. and 4A.M (the assimiliation phase), try to finish dinner within 9 pm. This will help the body to reset its elimination cycle between 4A.M. and Noon. Also, abstain from any food between 6pm and 8 pm to help your body get into the assimilation phase properly.
  • Take effective natural digestive aids and stress busters along with probiotics. These will comfort an overburdened liver and pancreas and enhance their powers to produce the required hormones and enzymes, filter out the body’s toxins and break down fats, so that fish oil you spent a ton upon gets utilised properly. Try Fennel seed (chew ½ tsp after meal or whenever you feel indigestion) and Fenugreek seed (as a tea or as a powder; ½ tsp; with ginger); for stress-busting, try Indian Ginseng (Ashwagandha) and Arjuna (Arjuna Terminalia), the latter also effective in controlling BP and cholesterol.
  • Try the amino acids L-Tryptophan (helps to normalise low serotonin levels), L-Theanine (raises dopamine levels) and Glutamine with the fish oil. Added with magnesium citrate, it will work thrice its individual capacity. Glutamine feeds the epithelium, the membranous tissue covering internal organs and other internal surfaces of the body, including that of the intestines. Without a healthy epithelial layer, probiotic microflora just doesn’t survive. Glutamine also enhances your immunity and overall brain health.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine as much as you can.

BUT! If you think you can carry on without sleeping if you are taking these remedies, send me an invite for your funeral!

Written by Ukokeha

Published on #Health

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