New study: Probiotics may offer immune balancing benefits while improving sleep and stress of shift workers

Irregular sleep patterns are associated with immune health and may underpin a range of health issues in rotation shift workers. By supporting the intestinal microbiota, probiotic supplements may lessen the negative impact of interrupted sleep on the immune system, new study suggests.

Chr. Hansen, in collaboration with Griffith University, recently completed a study* on the impact of stress, sleep, and the immune response. The aim of this study was to investigate the benefits of two independent probiotic strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus, DDS-1® and Bifidobacterium, UABla-12™, on the immune system of individuals working rotating shifts.

In order to keep society running, many people – security guards, transport workers and healthcare professionals among them – must work rotating shifts. In the USA alone, more than 22 million people work evening, rotating, or on-call shifts. While awareness of some of the costs of rotating shift work has been increasing in recent years, many aspects of rotating shift work remain under-discussed. One of these aspects is ‘night shift stress’: the mentally trying unease in anticipation of, or as consequence of, night shift work, coupled with challenged sleep. Night shift workers get a daily average of two to four hours less sleep than normal.

The findings of the new study provide initial support for the use of these probiotic strains to impact the effects of stress associated with working a rotating shift.

Early and unique area of research: Gut-brain-immune axis
“With this study we are taking steps into exploring the fascinating interplay between the gut-brain axis and the immune system, an early and unique novel area of research,” states Dr Gregory Leyer, senior director, Scientific Affairs, Human Health, Chr. Hansen.

“Our gut and brain are connected physically through millions of nerves, referred to as the gut-brain axis, and this is also connected through the immune system. The gut and gut microbes play an important role in our immune system by controlling what is passed into the body and what is excreted. Recent advances in research have described the importance of gut microbiota in influencing these interactions,” Leyer explains.

“In the study we looked at several stress markers in the body, such as the level of the stress hormone cortisol and a number of other biological markers identifiable in blood tests. Moreover, we had the participants evaluate the quality of their sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a self-report questionnaire used for research purposes. What we saw was that intake of the specific probiotic strains suggests a favorable impact on anticipatory stress and sleep quality. Subjects receiving Bifidobacterium, UABla-12™ reported a 22% improvement in sleep quality,” Leyer elaborates.

Lead researcher Dr. Nic West from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland notes that “probiotic supplements have a history of use in respiratory and gastrointestinal health and this study, one of the first examining the use of probiotics for sleep and the gut-brain axis, provides initial support for supplementing with specific probiotic strains for anticipation stress.”

May be applicable to a wide range of population
While the study points to the potential of probiotics to impact the change across markers of stress and the immune system in rotating shift workers, the findings may be applicable to a large, otherwise healthy population dealing with inconsistent sleep – be that new parents, students facing exams, people in stress-filled situations, etc.

“Sleep and immunity go together. What it comes down to is obtaining a balance in your body, and probiotics can be helpful in supporting a balanced immune function,” concludes Leyer, stressing that Chr. Hansen will continue to invest in scientific documentation of the immune benefits that can be obtained from probiotics.

*Probiotics, Anticipation Stress, and the Acute Immune Response to Night Shift

Nicholas P. West1*, Lily Hughes1, Rebecca Ramsey1, Ping Zhang2, Christopher J. Martoni3, Gregory J. Leyer3, Allan W. Cripps4 and Amanda J. Cox1

1 School of Medical Science and Menzies Health Institute QLD, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

2 Menzies Health Institute QLD, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

3 United Agricultural Services (UAS) Laboratories, Windsor, WI, United States

4 School of Medicine and Menzies Health Institute QLD, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia


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