Your Circadian Rhythm Matters!
I talk A LOT about this on my Instagram page. It’s an emerging topic in the nutrition world but I believe with all the research coming out, it will become an even hotter topic in the world of health & wellness!
So what is the circadian rhythm? It is your body’s internal clock that gives your organs and cells a schedule for when to function. We have a main central clock located in our brain (hypothalamus) that governs our sleep & wake cycle. It produces melatonin, the sleep hormone, and is activated from light/dark exposure.
We also have internal clocks in every single cell in our body which tell the cells when to optimize functions like metabolism such as glucose and fat metabolism, hormone secretion, the immune system and even the microbiome. These clocks are activated through feeding and/or fasting.
When your circadian rhythm is synced your body is efficient in performing all the tasks it needs to do.
Let’s go through a day and see how our circadian rhythm works. When we wake up & expose ourselves to daylight, we support the boost of cortisol – this helps us get out of bed & have the energy to start the day. Our digestion, metabolism and bile production, which we need for fat digestion, all peak by midday. We are even more insulin sensitive in the day. When the sun sets, typically, digestion actions are turned off, and the repair efforts are turned on. During sleep hours, tasks like detoxification and DNA/tissue repair are optimized.
Doing things against our body clock has negative impact on our health and wellness.
Check out this vicious cycle: If you eat late at night, this can result in slower digestion, inappropriate acid production, and insulin resistance. This results in blood sugar issues, G.I. symptoms, and even metabolic syndrome (insulin issues). You wake up feeling full and tired, and this can lead you to skip breakfast, running on caffeine and cortisol, only to crash and overeat at night. Also, if we eat very low carb for lunch & dinner, this can cause cortisol to increase in the evening – impacting our sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts our circadian rhythm and leads to increased hunger and calorie intake the next day thus increased body fat.
For optimal function and health, we need to improve and strengthen our circadian rhythm!
So how do we do that:
- Exposing eyes to sunlight as soon as you wake up
- Expose yourself to sunlight during the day
- Limiting blue light at night – this can delay melatonin upwards of 90 minutes! Blue light comes from screens (phone, TV, laptops)
- Eating the majority of your calories between 12pm- 5 pm
- Aim to have your bigger meals at breakfast and lunch with a smaller dinner
- Stick to whenever possible
- Limiting caffeine in the afternoon
- Moving in the morning – this can help strengthen your cortisol awakening response
- Walking outside barefoot
- Avoid intense exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime, as those can increase cortisol and affect sleep. If exercising at night, choose lower intensity, exercises like walks, yoga, stretching, pilates
- Stimulation the vagus nerve through deep breathing and lower cortisol levels to help prepare you for bed.