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Can’t sleep? Prebiotics could help

Specific fibers known as prebiotics can improve sleep and boost stress resilience by influencing gut bacteria and the potent biologically active molecules, or metabolites, they produce, new University of Colorado Boulder research shows.

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Photo by Anastasia Dulgier from Unsplash.com

Think dietary fiber is just for digestive health? Think again.

Specific fibers known as prebiotics can improve sleep and boost stress resilience by influencing gut bacteria and the potent biologically active molecules, or metabolites, they produce, new University of Colorado Boulder research shows.

The research could ultimately lead to new approaches to treating sleep problems, which affect 70 million Americans.

“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, published today in the journal Scientific Reports. “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.”

Food for our bugs

Most people are familiar with probiotics, friendly bacteria present in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. More recently, scientists have taken an interest in prebiotics – dietary compounds that humans cannot digest but serve as nourishment for our microbiome, or the trillions of bacteria residing within us. While not all fibers are prebiotics, many fibrous foods like leeks, artichokes, onions and certain whole grains are rich in them.

For the study, the researchers started adolescent male rats on either standard chow or chow infused with prebiotics and tracked an array of physiological measures before and after the rats were stressed.

As reported in the researchers’ previous study, those on the prebiotic diet spent more time in restorative non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. After stress, they also spent more time in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which is believed to be critical for recovery from stress.

While rats eating standard chow saw an unhealthy flattening of the body’s natural temperature fluctuations and a drop in healthy diversity of their gut microbiome after stress, those fed prebiotics were buffered from these effects.

The new study sheds light on how prebiotics can help bust stress.

“We know that this combination of dietary fibers helps promote stress robustness and good sleep and protects the gut microbiome from disruption. With this new study, we wanted to try to identify the signal,” said senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Monika Fleshner, director of the Stress Physiology Laboratory.

Using a technology called mass spectrometry to analyze the rats’ fecal samples, the researchers measured metabolites, or bioactive small molecules produced by bacteria as food is broken down.

They found rats on the prebiotic diet had a substantially different “metabolome”, or make-up of metabolites. Theirs was higher in dozens of them, including fatty acids, sugars and steroids which may, via gut-brain signaling pathways, influence behavior. The rats’ metabolome also looked different after stress.

For instance, the rats on the standard chow diet saw dramatic spikes in allopregnanolone precursor and Ketone Steroid, potentially sleep-disrupting metabolites, while those on the prebiotic diet saw no such spike.

“Our results reveal novel signals that come from gut microbes that may modulate stress physiology and sleep,” said Fleshner.

In search of a better sleeping pill

While prebiotic dietary fiber is certainly healthy, it’s uncertain whether just loading up on foods rich in it can promote sleep. The rats were fed very high doses of four specific prebiotics, including: galactooligosaccharides, which are present in lentils and cabbage; polydextrose (PDX) an FDA-approved food additive often used as a sweetener; lactoferrin, found in breast milk; and milk fat globular protein, abundant in dairy products.

“You’d probably have to eat a whole lot of lentils and cabbage to see any effect,” said Thompson.

Prebiotic supplements already abound on natural food store shelves. But Fleshner said it’s too soon to say whether a supplement or drug containing such compounds would be safe and effective for everyone. Depending on what their microbial make-up is, different people might respond differently.

“These are powerful molecules with real neuroactive effects and people need to exercise some caution,” she said.

Human studies are already in the works at CU Boulder.

Ultimately, Fleshner believes what they are learning in her lab could lead to a new class of options for people who can’t sleep but don’t like taking narcotics.

“Armed with this information, we might be able to develop a targeted therapeutic that boosts the molecules that buffer against stress and tamps down the ones that seem to disrupt sleep,” she said. “It’s exciting to think about.”

Health

Tips for walking 20,000 steps a day

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds.

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Photo by Sincerely Media from Unsplash.com

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few tips to help you reach your goal:

Invest in a Good Pair of Shoes

The first step to walking 20,000 steps a day is to make sure you have the right equipment. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will help to prevent blisters and injuries, and make the walk more comfortable overall.

Make Walking Part of Your Daily Routine

To reach your 10-mile goal every day, make walking a part of your daily routine. This might mean taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from where you’re going so that you have to walk more. You can also try waking up a few minutes earlier each morning to fit in a walk before you start your day.

Join a Walking Group

If you’re having trouble finding time to fit in 10 miles each day, consider joining a walking group or taking part in a local 5k race. This will help keep you motivated and provide social support along the way.

Start Small

Don’t try to walk 20,000 steps all at once. Start with a smaller goal, such as 5,000 steps per day, and gradually increase your mileage as you become more fit. This will help you avoid injury and burnout.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure to stay hydrated while walking by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help you feel more energized and prevent dehydration-related issues, such as muscle cramps or fatigue.

The Bottom Line – BetterMe Can Help You Walk More, Every Day

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, walking 20,000 steps a day can help. This simple form of exercise offers a host of health benefits, from improved sleep and digestion to reduced stress and anxiety. To reach your goal, use the BetterMe Blog as a guide and stay committed every day. With enough dedication, you can achieve your fitness goals and transform your body for the better.

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Health

How can the self-employed tackle burnout? Expert shares top tips

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry.

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Photo by Nubelson Fernandes from Unsplash.com

With workers returning to the office in their greatest numbers since the pandemic, the number of people suffering from burnout or stress-related illnesses is also on the rise.

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry. 

For many work and life have become intertwined, fortunately, Private Rehab Clinic Delamere has shared tips on how you can tackle burnout when self-employed and the common signs.  

How you can tackle burnout

1. Set Goals and Priorities

Having a mountain of work, with no plan in place to move forward can sometimes feel overwhelming. It can help to take a step back to assess which of your tasks need prioritising, and which ones will help you to achieve your goals.  

2. Speak to Your Colleagues or Clients

Being honest with the people that you are working with or for, about your mental health can often make things a lot a lot easier. You may be surprised at how understanding other people are of your situation.

By being open with others, you will have a better understanding of what to expect from each other, meaning that you will have a stronger professional relationship going forward.

3. Ask for Help

Never be afraid to ask for help if you feel that your stress is becoming too much to handle and you start to show signs of burnout. Getting external advice through counselling or therapy can give you a new perspective on a situation to guide you through any problems.

If you do not feel comfortable with counselling, then simply reaching out to friends and family can be enough to help you talk through your problems.

4. Schedule Time-Off

Sometimes when work life is becoming too stressful, all you need to do is take a short break from it all. Returning to work after a much-needed break can give a person a more positive mindset.

Those who are self-employed are often in charge of their own schedule and can over look the need to take holidays. In fact, some surveys have shown that nearly one in ten business owners go up to five years without taking a holiday.

5. Consider Changing Things

If your line of work is causing you constant stress and it feels that there truly is no way out, then it may be worth considering if you are genuinely following the right career path for you.

It may be the case that you do not need to change your career path altogether, but that your daily work routine simply needs to be altered. Consider making small changes such as your place of work. If you are stuck in an office or at home all day, you may benefit from finding a co-working space or coffee shop to work in.

Sometimes changes can be as simple as investing in new equipment or simply taking more regular breaks from your working day. By implementing these small changes you are less likely to burnout from stress.

6. Put Self-Care First

Work-life can be demanding, especially for any self-employed people who are under pressure to meet deadlines for various clients. However, when we demand too much of ourselves, it can be damaging to our physical and mental health.

Remind yourself that you come first. Maintaining a healthy sleeping and eating pattern, while keeping up a rewarding social life and strong relationships is more important to your mental well-being than anything you do while on the clock. 

Spotting the signs of burnout

1. Feeling Tired All The Time

If you are waking up feeling exhausted and find that you are still feeling drained even after you have been awake for a few hours and a cup of coffee in your system, then this may be a sign that you have burnout.

2. Lack of Motivation

During burnout, a person may find themselves completely withdrawn from their workplace or work tasks. Simply going through the motions while at work without any kind of motivation – or taking no joy whatsoever from your accomplishments at work – could indicate that you are experiencing burnout.

3. Recurring Health Problems

A person suffering from burnout may experience frequent and recurring headaches and muscle pains, as well as feelings of indigestion and stomach aches.

4. Feeling Irritable

Finding yourself easily irritated or frustrated, even by small things, and then snapping out at others is a possible sign that you are carrying too much stress from work.

6. Self-Deprecating Feelings

When someone is suffering from burnout it can have serious effects on their mental health. A person can have a heightened sense of self-doubt, feel like a failure and even experience impostor syndrome.

A person with burnout may also experience increased feelings of isolation and detachment from their colleagues, friends and family.

7. Increased Procrastination

When burnout occurs a person may find themselves avoiding their responsibilities, regardless of how small those responsibilities may be. Instead, a person will fill their time with procrastination and indulging in comforting distractions.

8. Coping Mechanisms

During burnout, a person may be more likely to turn to other comforts and coping mechanisms such as comfort eating junk food or even consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Engaging in any habit excessively to cope with stress may be a sign of burnout.

9. Change in Sleeping and Eating Habits

Stress can mess with our natural cycle and someone who is experiencing unnaturally high levels of stress may find that their sleeping habits are altered as they end up staying up late and sleeping in.

A person may also find themselves skipping or avoiding regular meal times, having a loss of appetite at some points in the day, or craving comforting junk food at others.

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Fitness

6 Exercise safety tips

Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are more aware of their health and wellness. Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

Sprains, strains and injuries can happen to even the most seasoned athletes. When you’re testing your limits, even a minor injury can alter your performance. Consider products and supports like these from the CURAD Performance Series product line, available at Walmart and Amazon, to help you get back in the game quickly and safely.

Find more resources to support your fitness journey at CURAD.com.

Keep Dirt and Germs Away

The more active you are, the harder it can be to find a bandage that stays with you all day or all game long.

Spray Away Sore Spots

Controlling mild pain can help keep you at the top of your game, and a topical analgesic works fast to heal common pain brought on by fitness and exercise, such as pain in knees, feet, shoulders and backs.

Put Pain in the Past

When recovery becomes the name of the game and pain relief is needed after daily workouts or bodily injuries. Cold packs work to heal bruises, reduce swelling and relieve headaches and general pain points while microwavable heat packs provide satisfying heat therapy to address sore and stiff joints, muscle cramps and tension.

Reduce Impact of Knee Strain

Weak, injured or arthritic knees can come from many sources, including tendonitis and a wide range of conditions that result in strain or overuse. An adjustable band can provide support for on-field sports and during workouts or everyday activities.

Manage Pain and Relieve Pressure

If you participate in endurance and strength exercises or certain sports, you may ask a lot of your joints. Kinesiology tape can be configured a multitude of ways to help reduce pain and improve blood circulation, as well as relieve tension and pressure.

Control Back Strain

When your back is strained, your body and performance can suffer. A mild or moderate sprain can benefit from strong support and compression.

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