Many years ago, I wrote about a piece from the Scientific American magazine, where we were introduced to the term “Circadian Medicine.” They stated that circadian medicine would “revolutionize medicine as we know it,” and now we have 3 American researchers who won the Nobel Prize for their research on circadian medicine.
Circadian medicine fascinates me. All ancient medical systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine were based on an in-depth study of diets and lifestyles in sync with the daily, monthly and seasonal cycles of nature. It is great to see the academic excitement around the potential benefits human can glean simply by living a lifestyle in sync with the circadian rhythms.
I have been on the faculty of two Ayurvedic colleges for decades now, and every Ayurveda 101 class learns circadian medicine in the form of the Ayurvedic clock – a study of how to live, eat and breathe in harmony with nature.
Congratulations Are In Order
Congratulations to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young – the joint winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. They deservingly won for their discoveries of how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life.
At LifeSpa.com, we are dedicated to proving ancient medical wisdom with modern medical science, and this year’s Nobel Prize was perfectly aligned with a focus on modern science, ancient wisdom and the hope for a healthier future!
Researchers and ancient medical systems like Ayurveda have long described biological clocks, but the Nobel Prize-winning researchers now understand exactly how they work. Their research identified the gene that encodes certain proteins to build up in a cell at night and dissipate at night. Each cell carries these light/dark cycle genes.
The governor of the light/dark, seasonal and daily cycles that drives each one of the cell’s biological clocks is melatonin. Many think melatonin is simply a sleep hormone, but that is way over-simplifying its role.
Circadian imbalances, which affect most Americans, can be measured by testing melatonin levels at night and cortisol during the day. >>> Learn about at-home testing here
There are many strategies to reset your circadian clock that range from shifting your lifestyle, such as having a “no artificial light weekend,” to eating melatonin-rich foods, to a 3-month circadian reset with safe melatonin supplementation.
We RecommendEat Foods with Melatonin & Improve your Health
Ancient Clocks – Modern Clocks
The Ayurvedic clock takes us through 4-hour intervals throughout the day, with digestive strength being greater at midday and detox activity being greater at night. Studies show that the timing of meals can influence weight loss or gain. One study showed that early eaters lost 25 percent more weight than late eaters. (2)
Another study concluded that a high-calorie breakfast with reduced intake at dinner is beneficial, and might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome. (3)
If you compare the new Circadian Clock with the Ayurvedic Clock, the two completely complement each other. See the images below.
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The takeaway from the researchers is somewhat of a wake-up call. They suggest that jet lag, late nights, shift work, and a total disregard for the trillions of biological clocks cannot be without consequence.
Consider what happens, for instance, if we eat late or in the middle of the night. In the late evening, the master clock — which is set by the light/dark cycle — is cuing all of the other clocks in the body that it is time to rest.
“The clock in the brain is sending signals saying: Do not eat, do not eat!” says Fred Turek, Director of The Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology.
When we override this signal and eat anyway, the clock in the pancreas, for instance, is forced to start releasing insulin to deal with the meal. Research suggests that this late-night munching may start to actually reset the clock in the organ. The result? Competing time cues.
“The pancreas is listening to signals related to food intake. But that’s out of sync with what the brain is telling it to do,” says Turek. “So if we’re sending signals to those organs at the wrong time of day, we’re upsetting the balance.” (4)
There is mounting evidence that we may be more sensitive to these timing cues than scientists ever imagined. Ayurveda is founded on this very principle. Stay tuned for more on this topic.