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Are you confused about the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, and how each can benefit your health? You’re not alone. We’re going to clear all that up in a moment… But, for now, just know that prebiotics are the focus of recent research, and not for the usual reasons… Though prebiotic fiber is usually associated with digestive health, a new study indicates that prebiotics could promote better sleep, providing a natural alternative to narcotic sleeping pills that have dangerous side effects and are especially dangerous for people over 65.
Try prebiotic foods instead of narcotics to help you sleep
Newly published research could very well lead to new and natural ways to treat sleep problems. It also shows how prebiotics can change our body’s chemical reactions to stress.
“The biggest takeaway here is that this type of fiber is not just there to bulk up the stool and pass through the digestive system,” said Robert Thompson, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology and lead author of the study.
“It is feeding the bugs that live in our gut and creating a symbiotic relationship with us that has powerful effects on our brain and behavior.”
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In the study, rats were fed either standard food or food infused with prebiotics. Researchers tracked their sleep patterns, as well as their physiological responses to stress.
Rats that ate a prebiotic diet spent more time in restorative non-rapid-eye-movement sleep (NREM). After they were stressed, these rats also spent more time in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, the sleep phase where recovery from stress occurs.
Also, rats who ate a prebiotic diet were protected from the effects of stress on their gut microbiome (their temperature did not become wildly variable, and the bacterial content of their gut remained consistent).
How prebiotics differ from probiotics and where to find them
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in our gut and help with a variety of tasks, most notably digestion. But probiotics also support our immune system, have a positive effect on our mood, and help keep our weight under control.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, provide food for these beneficial bacteria.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that aren’t digested. Instead, their job is to feed those “good” bacteria in our gut and allow them to thrive.
Prebiotics are known to improve our health in a variety of ways, including:
- Boosting metabolism and reducing cravings
- Strengthening bones
- Controlling blood triglycerides and preventing heart disease
- Improving digestion
Prebiotics are found in a wide range of readily available foods, including:
- Flax seeds
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