You knew that gut microbes could affect your digestion, your weight and even your immune system. But did you know that that gut flora can also affect your circadian rhythm?
What is the circadian rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is a set of biological processes within our bodies that run on a 24-hour cycle. These processes enable our internal systems to perform specific functions depending upon the hour, like metabolism and production of energy during the day and muscle tissue repair at night. Our circadian rhythm or “master clock” is driven by the brain and connected to peripheral clocks in our liver, pancreas and other various organs.
What does this have to do with the microbiome?
Previously, the master clock in the brain had been considered the primary regulator of circadian rhythms. But now it is becoming clear that the intestinal microbiome has its own circadian rhythms, and the two systems are intertwined. So factors that influence the integrity of the gut, the microbiome, affect our circadian rhythms, and vice versa.
How does this work?
Our microbes move around our intestines every 24 hours and touch different cells that are important for regulating genes and other processes in the body. The bacteria touching these cells cause them to send signals to our brain and other internal clocks which regulate our sleep/wake cycles, hormone release, and metabolism.
Interestingly, the internal clock in our gut is especially affected by meal timing and diet. So, when we disrupt it by eating late at night or consuming unhealthy foods, we are disrupting all of the internal processes that our circadian rhythm controls.
What happens when your circadian rhythm is disrupted?
Recent research has shown that a disrupted circadian rhythm can lead to an increased risk of disease and accelerated aging. Some of the possible side effects include higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. So it’s important to “synchronize” your gut microbes with your other circadian rhythms in order to lower your chance of developing these diseases.
4 simple ways to synchronize your gut microbes and circadian rhythm:
Stick to a regular eating schedule and avoid late-night snacking! One way to normalize your eating schedule is through Intermittent Fasting. Recent research has shown that time-restricted feeding, a practice in which eating is limited to a certain window of time each day, can stabilize abnormal gut microbes and reverse the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm. If you’re curious about Intermittent Fasting, take a look at our recent article HERE!
Eat a healthy diet
Shift away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), a high-carb diet loaded with processed sugars. Studies have shown that the SAD undermines our gut’s circadian rhythm which affects the other internal clocks that regulate our body. On the other hand, eating a diet high in Omega 3s and antioxidants, such as the Paleo diet, can help regulate your gut circadian rhythm!
Have a regular sleep/wake cycle
Make it a habit to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday! It’s also important to practice good “sleep hygiene” like avoiding light from electronics before you go to bed and sleeping in a cool, dark room. Studies have shown that proper sleep hygiene helps the body sync up its circadian rhythms.
Recent research has shown that probiotics are able to nourish the good bacteria and help your gut’s circadian rhythm synchronize with the brain’s master clock. You can read more about the benefits of probiotics in our recent article HERE!