6 Ways Your Diet May Be Impacting Your Sleep

6 Ways Your Diet May Be Impacting Your Sleep

Mental Health Gut Article

Sleeping problems are on the rise and for a number of reasons. When we don’t get enough sleep not only do we feel tired and grumpy the next day but, we often tend to gravitate to stimulants such as coffee, sugar or carbs to help keep us going. When we don’t get appropriate sleep quality or quantity, our body does not have the chance to do all the amazing activities and tasks that kick in when we are asleep.  As a result ongoing sleep issues can lead to numerous health problems.

A study conducted by Dr. Charles M. Morin at Université Laval revealed that 40% of Canadians had experienced one or more symptoms of insomnia at least three times a week and only 13% said they had consulted their doctor about it.

The most effective way to deal with insomnia is identifying the underlying cause of it and then apply the appropriate recommendations. The most common causes of insomnia are depression, anxiety and stress, but your insomnia can also be due to hormonal imbalances, calorie restricting/eating disorders, food allergies, blood sugar imbalances, toxic build up and nutrient deficiencies. 

So, let’s explore a few of these…

  1. Consuming Stimulants such as Coffee and Alcohol

People often think having that one or two glasses of wine or beer a night can help them to relax, take the edge off and get a better night sleep but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although alcohol can help you feel relaxed, it actually interferes with sleep. Alcohol can reduce overall sleep time, and cause shorter, lighter, and less restful sleep. Alcohol also impairs the transport of tryptophan into the brain which is important in making melatonin to help us sleep.

As much as we love our cup of coffee it can hinder us getting a good night’s sleep and believe it or not even 1 to 2 cups a day can be problematic. That’s because caffeine can remain in our bodies for up to 20 hours so even sipping on your morning cup of joe can inhibit your sleep at night. As we know coffee gives us a pick me up; that is because it produces stimulating hormones such as adrenaline, nornepephrine and cortisol which help us to feel alert and energized. Caffeine has been associated with insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and periodic leg movement. Remember caffeine is also found in hot chocolate, chocolate and teas, so if you are not a big coffee drinker you might be having a problem with the caffeine in these foods and beverages.

Both caffeine and alcohol can also decrease the absorption of nutrients essential for sleep such as B vitamins, magnesium and calcium. They are also a natural diuretic so can cause you to have to wake up during the night to use the washroom.

Monitor you intake of these beverages and see if you notice a difference when you consume them and when you don’t.

  1. Food Allergies

Believe it or not food allergies can be a common culprit of insomnia. Food allergies can cause difficulties falling asleep and cause frequent awakenings. Foods that are high on the allergenic profile include wheat, corn, milk, chocolate, nuts, egg whites, seafood, red and yellow dyes and yeast, but basically it can be any food. The problem with food intolerances and sensitivities is that it can be hard to detect as there can be up to a 3 day delay in a response to a specific food that you ate. Imagine something you ate on Monday and having insomnia problems on the Wednesday. The other issue is that you may consume that problematic food on a daily basis and subsequently have sleeping problems every single night. Food intolerances can also cause the  release of histamine which can also disrupt the brain chemistry and lead to sleep disturbances.

Although you can do blood work for food allergy testing, the best way to determine if you have an issue is complete the food elimination diet for 2 weeks and then reintroduce one food type back into the diet for 3 days and monitor symptoms. If there is no change in sleeping patterns then this food is not the culprit and you repeat this procedure until you identify the problem food.

  1. Blood Sugar Imbalances

Consuming too much sugar and skipping meals can contribute to unbalanced blood sugars which can induce nighttime hypoglycemia. When blood sugars drop the body releases hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol that stimulate the brain and indicate that it is time to eat. This can awaken you or prevent you from entering into deep sleep.

  1. Avoid Smoking

Nicotine is a stimulant and as a result many smokers have difficulties with sleeping problems. In a poll conduced by the National Sleep foundation 46% of smokers reported experiencing sleep insomnia a few nights a week as compared to 35% of non-smokers. Nicotine found in cigarettes stimulates the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine, which are hormones that activate the body, increase heart rate  and elevate blood pressure as well as keep us awake.

  1. Dieting

Anorexia or when losing weight/dieting can contribute to poor sleep  with many experiencing frequent waking at the second half of the night. Both animal and human research has shown that starvation-level calorie restriction leads to sleep interruptions and a reduction in slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep (1).

In another small study of 10 young women, four weeks of dieting led to greater difficulty falling asleep and a decrease in the amount of time spent in deep sleep (2). Feeling as though you are too hungry to fall asleep or waking up hungry are major signs that you’re not getting enough to eat.

  1. Nutrient Deficiencies

There are a number of nutrients that help us to get to sleep and maintain sleep throughout the night and deficiencies in these nutrients can cause us to experience difficulty falling asleep and having restful sleep. Vitamin and minerals deficiencies include B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and vitamin E.

Deficiencies in copper and iron have ben linked to greater difficulties in getting to sleep and decreased sleep quality. Studies indicate that low levels of iron correlated with an increased incidence of restless leg syndrome and vitamin E deficiency may also be a factor in restless leg syndrome (3). Although B vitamins are good for energy they are also important for sleep. Deficiencies in folate has been linked to insomnia and restless leg syndrome and  your body needs vitamin B6 to help convert tryptophan into melatonin which is our sleep hormone (4).

Calcium and magnesium are natural calming sedatives to the central nervous system. Magnesium is a natural muscle and nervous system relaxant so also important if sleeping issues are related to pain but also for stress, anxiety and irritability.

 

References

1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15033150/

2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8310984/

3 Arthur C, Guyton, MD and John E Hall PhD Textbook of medical physiology 9th edition (Philadelphia)

  1. Kennedy, Tighe, Brow. “Melatonin and Cortisol switches during mania, depression and Eythmia” Depressed Nocturnal plasma melatonin levels” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 1777:5 (1989), 300-303

Chia Oats With Kiwi

Chia Oats With Kiwi

Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast

This can not only be a great breakfast but also a great dessert or bedtime snack to promote healthy sleep and it only takes 10 minutes to make!

Believe it or not kiwis can help with sleep. In a 4-week study, 24 adults consumed two kiwifruits one hour before going to bed each night. At the end of the study, participants fell asleep 42% more quickly than when they didn’t eat the fruit before bedtime. Additionally, their ability to sleep through the night without waking improved by 5%, while their total sleep time increased by 13% (1).

The sleep-promoting effects of kiwis might be attributed to serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle (1,2,3). It has also been suggested that the anti-inflammatory antioxidants in kiwis, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, may also be partly responsible for their sleep-promoting effects (1,4).

Chia seeds for their little size chia seeds pack a big nutritional punch. A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains: 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat 5 of which are those healthy anti-inflammatory omega 3’s. They are loaded with antioxidants to help neutralise free radicals. It also contains 18% of RDI for calcium and 30% of RDI for magnesium which are also important minerals to reduce anxiety, stress and promote sleep. The word “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

Oatmeal is high in fiber and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatonin (5).

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to four days. For best results, reheat with additional liquid over the stove or in the microwave.

 

References:

  1. http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/20/2/169.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22652369/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4629050/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409706/

Chia Oats With Kiwi

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 cups Oats rolled
  • ¼ cup Chia Seeds
  • 2 Kiwi chopped

Instructions
 

  • In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the oats and chia seeds. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until cooked though. Be sure to stir often.
  • Divide the oatmeal between bowls and top with Kiwi. Enjoy!

Notes

Protein - 8g
Sugar - 4g
Fiber - 8g
Carbs - 37g
Fat - 7g
Calories - 235
12 Nutrition “Hacks” For Better Sleep

12 Nutrition “Hacks” For Better Sleep

Woman sleeping

Sleep is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. It impacts our emotions, cognition, mood, physical abilities and eating habits. When we sleep our body repairs and rejuvenates itself, it is where muscles are built, cells are replaced, hormones are released and healing occurs.

Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep (3,4).

Research shows that insufficient sleep can increase the risk of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults (10). Other studies conclude that getting less than 7–8 hours per night increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11,12).

Sleep and wakefulness are controlled by a series of chemical reactions in the body. Certain nutrients can affect these chemical reactions and alter how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up during the night, and how you feel the next day.

So, if you want to optimize your health or lose weight, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.

Here are 12 nutrition sleeping hacks to help get you into better and healthier sleeping patterns.

12 Nutrition Hacks for Better Sleep

  1. Stay away from spicy foods in the evening

Research shows that people that eat spicy food at night spent less time in both the light phase of sleep known as Stage 2 and the deep, slow-wave Stages 3 and 4. All of which means that they experienced less sleep over all and took longer to drift off (1).

  1. Try to avoid heavy meals at night-time especially if they are high in fat.

A heavy meal or fatty snack right before bed can cause discomfort and indigestion. This in turn can affect your sleep, causing you to wake up several times. Studies have shown that eating a large meal close to bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep. Aim for around 10 grams in the evening, or about what’s in three ounces of salmon.

  1. Cook with sleep friendly herbs such as parsley, dill, sage, basil, turmeric, garlic and nutmeg

Flavour your evening meals with these sleep-friendly herbs as opposed to spicy flavourings or sugar loaded sauces.

  1. Avoid high protein-meals before bed

Protein-rich foods release amino acids into the blood. When amino acids such as tyrosine flood the body, they are quickly used to synthesize stimulants such as the excitatory neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine, and thermogenic thyroid hormones. Excitatory neurotransmitters keep the brain active and thyroid hormones increase the body’s metabolic rate. Both effects disrupt sleep. Furthermore, by suddenly increasing the number of amino acids in the body, high-protein foods reduce the amount of tryptophan reaching the brain.

  1. Consume soy foods to reduce night sweats

If you struggle with hormone related night sweats and hot flashes you may want to consume more foods high in phytoestrogens such as roasted soy nuts, edamame, tempeh, tofu, soy milk and cheese (this should be non-GMO soy). Soy is also rich in important sleep promoting nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, calcium, vitamin E and magnesium.

  1. Best to consume a large breakfast, lighter lunch and an even lighter evening meal

This will take the strain off your digestion and enable your body to focus on sleeping as opposed to digesting
 

  1. Make sure you are getting adequate calories

Dieting and restricting calories can cause stress on your body and disrupt hormones which can have a negative impact on your sleep

  1. Avoid drinking too much in the evening

Try and consume most of your fluids during the earlier part of the day. Drinking too much in the evening can cause frequent wakings to go to the bathroom.

  1. Make sure you are eating enough fibre through more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains

Research shows that people who fill up on fibre spend more time in deep sleep, than those who get less fibre, and consume more saturated fat, and more sugar which results in waking up more often (2).

  1. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns (5,6). Alcohol also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm (7,8). Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and has many other key functions (9).

  1. Avoid MSG food products

A common food additive that is known to cause insomnia is MSG (monosodium glutamate). This compound is a common ingredient used in preparing Chinese foods as well as refined, packaged foods. However, it is a potent stimulant and can keep some people awake late into the night.

  1. Choose a nighttime snack that contains complex carbohydrates with a limited amount of protein and fat.

Dairy is a great sleep inducer (if you do not have an allergy or intolerance to it) because the brain can use the tryptophan and calcium from it to help make melatonin. Try and keep the snack to less than 200 calories and eat between 1 to 1.5 hours before bed.

Best Bedtime Snacks

  • Whole grain piece of toast with a nut/seed butter
  • A small bowl of low sugar cereal with low fat milk and a banana
  • Cottage cheese and tart cherries or kiwifruit
  • Yoghurt with cut up banana
  • Small bowl of warm oatmeal with milk and banana
  • Banana and nut butter on whole grain piece of toast
  • Small handful of almonds (28 grams)
  • Chia Oats with Kiwi

So, what are you waiting for? Try out some of our nutrition sleep hacks today and increase your potential for a long and restful sleep.

Good night.

 

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1399758/
  2. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.5384
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302758/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20669438/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7077345/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7258218/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8370699/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8345809/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8675588/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2398753/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21300732/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15851636/
Salmon Chowder

Salmon Chowder

Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast

This is a beautiful rich and hearty meal that helps feed the soul and is absolutely delicious. But the great thing about this meal is that it can also help support and promote sleep if consumed in the evening.

The combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in salmon has the potential to enhance sleep quality, as both have been shown to increase the production of serotonin (1,2,3).

 

In one study, men who ate 5-10.5 ounces (150-300 grams) of Atlantic salmon three times a week for 6 months fell asleep about 10 minutes faster than men who ate chicken, beef, or pork. This effect was thought to be the result of vitamin D. Those in the fish group had higher levels of vitamin D, which was linked to a significant improvement in sleep quality (4).

It is important avoid high protein meals at night as this can interfere with sleep. This meal is a well proportioned mix of carbohydrates (20g), proteins (21g) and fats (23g), making it a great balanced meal and low on the glycemic index to support healthy blood sugar balance and subsequently support great sleep. 

You can store this in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it.

 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/
  2. https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1096/fj.14-268342
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976923/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013386/

 

Salmon Chowder

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsps Coconut Oil
  • 1 bulb Fennel sliced
  • 2 cups Celery Root peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups Rutabaga peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups Organic Chicken Broth
  • 12 oz. Salmon Filet
  • 1 cup Organic Coconut Milk
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt or more to taste
  • ¼ cup Parsley chopped, optional garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large soup pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the sliced fennel, celery root, and rutabaga. Cover and let cook for about 15 minutes, or until tender.
  • Add the chicken broth to small saucepan and place the salmon skin-side down into the broth. Bring to a simmer and poach the salmon for 5-10 minutes. Remove the salmon and set aside.
  • Add the chicken broth to the pot with the softened veggies and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender to blend about half the soup so the texture is still chunky.
  • Remove the skin from the salmon, and flake the fish into chunks. Add to the soup pot along with the coconut milk. Season to taste with sea salt.
  • To serve, divide between bowls and garnish with chopped parsley if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Sugar - 8g
Fiber - 5g
Carbs - 20g
Fat - 23g
Protein - 21g
Calories - 373
How Your Gut Has A Direct Impact On Your Mood

How Your Gut Has A Direct Impact On Your Mood

Mental Health Gut Article

You may be surprised to know that the bacteria living in our gut often referred to as our microflora or microbiome can have a significant impact on our brain chemistry and how we feel, think and behave. We’ve written a little more about that here. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and has the ability to communicate via the nervous system, hormones, and the immune system.

Our gut is composed of trillions of bacteria and over 1000 different species. The composition of the microbiome varies from person to person, with contributing factors including age, diet, behaviour, environment, and genetics (Yang A.L., Kashyap et al., 2015).

Unfortunately, the microbiome is often under looked as an influencing factor in a wide range of neurological conditions despite the fact that it plays a role in Autism Spectrum Disorder, chronic pain, stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease as well as Depression and Anxiety (Mayer EA, et al. 2014)

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many facets of human behaviour, such as mood, stress response, appetite, happiness and sexual drive. Interestingly enough, up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by the gut microbiome.  Research demonstrates a connection between healthy gut bacteria and lower rates of depression (1,2,3,4,5).

The common bacteria that we know are lactobacilli and bifidobacterium. These “friendly” bacteria have actually been shown to lower levels of brain-toxic compounds and can lower inflammation in the brain by reducing certain cytokine levels (inflammatory markers), These specific cytokines can cause anxiety, depressive symptoms and cognitive disturbances (Logan, 2006).

Research published in the American Society for Microbiology in 2012 has found that “good” gut bacteria can have a marked effect on GABA levels in the brain (a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating anxiety, digestion, sleep and relaxation), which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and elevate our mood.

Another interesting factor is that the gut microbiome can have an influence on the medications that we take as it can play a role in, not only the effectiveness of the medication, but also on whether a person experiences side effects for the medication that they are taking  (Flowers S.A., et al 2015).

So what do we need to do to help support a healthy gut microbiome and therefore a healthy mood?

#1. Eat your fruits and vegetables

Dietary fibre supports the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.  In fact, one study found the diversity in the gut microbiome was directly related to the variety of fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet. It also found that the microbial composition of the gut can be rapidly altered with dietary changes. (McDonald D., et al 2018).

A recent study found an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetables and future depression or anxiety. They found that eating four extra portions of fruit and vegetables could boost people’s mental health. The more fruit and vegetable people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with a mental illness (Redzo. M, 2019).

Health Canada’s Recommended Fruit and Vegetable Intakes:

  • Children 11 and under, 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
  • Children 12 to 13 years, 6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Females 14+ to 50 years, 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Males 14 to 50 years, 8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

Meanwhile, The World Health Organization recommends 7-13 a day for adults and 5 servings for kids, plus eating the colour of the rainbow everyday.

If you or your kids have a difficult time consuming enough fruits and vegetables everyday, check this out.

#2. Consume fermented foods

Fermented foods are foods produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms. In this context, fermentation typically refers to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol using yeast, but other fermentation processes involve the use of bacteria such as lactobacillus, which help to make foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, may improve gut health, and subsequently, mood.

The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids. During this process, probiotics are created. These live microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may increase serotonin levels (1,2).

If you don’t tend to consume a lot of fermented foods, check out this recipe for Crunchy Yogurt Clusters!

#3. Consume Prebiotics

Unlike probiotic foods, prebiotic foods do not contain living organisms. They are the food for the probiotics which contribute to the health of the microbiome because they contain indigestible fibres that ferment in the GI tract. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and oats.

Additionally, research shows that consuming green tea, ginger, omega 3 in the form of fish oils, olive and flax oils can all help to increase the production of lactobacillus or bifidobacterial which can lower inflammation and toxins in the brain that can contribute to depression (Logan,2006).

#4. Take a Probiotic

There are a wide variety of probiotic supplements out there on the market and it can be hard to know which one is best for you. What we recommend is that you look for something that has at least 10 billion cultures, and has multiple strains.

We recommend HMF Multi-strain from Genestra. Genestra is well known for it’s probiotic line of supplements and this one comes with 15 billion cultures and contains 16 different live cultures. If you are interested in purchasing the product please check it out on our online supplement dispensary.

So, to support a healthy mood you need to support a healthy gut. A good start is to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet, get appropriate levels of fibre, consume prebiotic  and fermented foods – and for an added bonus take a high quality probiotic.

References

Logan, Alan ND., The Brain Diet, Cumberland Publishing House, 2006

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25860609/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25078296/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864293/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26760398/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23384445/

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