For decades, breakfast has been commonly referred to as ‘the most important meal of the day’. Like any other meal, breakfast has its own role to play in our wellbeing. As we know, diet is crucial, and what we put into the body matters. As well as staving off morning hunger, starting the day with a healthy and balanced breakfast kickstarts the metabolism and supplies the body with energy to burn throughout the day.
Still the most important meal?
Despite the belief that we should eat ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’, generally today, more people are skipping breakfast as attitudes, lifestyles and ideas change. Recent statistics show that nearly 50% of British adults do not regularly consume breakfast1, and many put it down to a lack of time in the morning. Meal skipping and fasting are quickly becoming commonplace for today's time-poor consumer. However, can breakfast, and the nutrients we take on board, help support sleep cycles? The emerging field of 'chrono-nutrition' highlights the importance of regular and nutritious breakfasts to support circadian rhythm functions.
Does the gut microbiome connect to the ‘body clock’?
Chrono-nutrition is a developing field of nutritional science that aims to better understand how when we eat may impact health2. The study considers the importance of the circadian rhythm in regulating when we eat and how the body metabolises nutrients. However, not much is known around how energy intake is distributed throughout the day. Could opportunities for exploration lie in the gut?
The relationship between the circadian rhythm (the body’s ‘internal clock’) and the gut microbiome is a key point of focus. The gut microbiome and its trillions of bacteria form a core part of digestive health. ‘Good’ gut bacteria, through the ‘gut-brain axis’, is understood to support the regulation of circadian rhythm and contribute to sleep health. While most circadian rhythm is triggered by the brain and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), other receptors can interact with the body’s natural cycle. Factors such as food, especially eating patterns, can affect this rhythm.
Can being well-rested support mental health and wellbeing?
Sleep is essential for the body to rest physically and aids in numerous mental processes. Sleep deprivation can lead to immunological challenges and contribute to mental health issues such as depression. A study published on behalf of Harvard Medical School took a closer look at the close connections between sleep and mental health1. The research highlights that while the relationship is not fully understood, clinical studies suggest that a good night’s sleep can support both mental wellbeing and emotional resilience, while long-term or recurring sleep deprivation can exacerbate stress. At one point or another, the vast majority of us will experience disrupted sleep or a particularly early start to the day, resulting in less time to recharge. As many of us can attest to, a poor night’s sleep makes it harder to focus or concentrate. Of course, this is heightened for those that suffer sleep deprivation over longer periods of time.
What we eat matters
How we fuel the trillions of bacteria in the gut microbiome can significantly influence physical and mental wellbeing, including sleep health. Diet is one of the largest factors supporting the gut microbiome's health. Small changes in the diet can cause an imbalance or disruption that could influence the quality of rest, demonstrating the importance of nutritional variety. Foods that are high in sugar and fat negatively impact the gut microbiome by facilitating a less favourable balance of 'good' and potentially 'bad' gut bacteria. Regularly consuming a nutritionally inadequate diet prevents helpful gut bacteria from thriving.
One of the most fundamental ways to support a healthy gut, allowing the 'good' gut bacteria to influence our sleep, is by including more fibre in the diet. Prebiotic fibre is a non-digestible fibre that the 'good' gut bacteria can turn into a short-chain fatty acid, called butyrate. Foods naturally high in prebiotic fibre include whole grain oats, bananas, berries, wheat bran and apples - ideal ingredients for a healthy breakfast! Sometimes, the fibre levels in these foods can be relatively small, which means larger amounts need to be consumed. A food-first approach is always recommended but increasing these foods in the diet isn't easily achieved for everyone, so it's often recommended that prebiotic supplements be introduced to boost fibre levels.
Can prebiotic fibre help to support sleep health?
Our ‘good’ gut bacteria have a clear relationship with the quality of sleep, which indicates that supporting them and nourishing these heroes of the gut, could help to create a more consistent sleeping pattern. This is where prebiotic fibre comes into the equation.
In addition to a balanced and varied diet, prebiotic supplements can be a way to get higher quantities of prebiotic fibre into a daily routine and diet. Bimuno® DAILY is one example of how simple it can be. When taken every day, Bimuno® DAILY nourishes bifidobacteria, a beneficial ‘good’ gut bacterium. Bimuno® DAILY is an easy-to-use powder that can be stirred into hot and cold drinks, or even sprinkled over cereal or porridge. Bimuno® DAILY contains galactooligosaccharide (GOS), a proprietary prebiotic composition that feeds bifidobacteria, helping them thrive.
Looking to support a more restful night’s sleep and help ‘good’ gut bacteria support natural circadian rhythm? The answer could lie with prebiotic-rich breakfast to begin the daily routine! For further information on prebiotics and the role they play in supporting physical and mental wellbeing through nourishing ‘good’ gut bacteria, including sleep health, please visit the Bimuno learning resources. Discover more here.
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