The most important faculty of health?
What is the most important faculty of health? Is it fitness? Is it diet? Or maybe it is something we do see or ever think of all together?
Many modern day diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and obesity (yes obesity is a disease) come down to the cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters our brain and glands release through out the day. When w e look at these diseases they all generally start with some type of hormone resistance that causes a cascade of problems down the line, the most well known is insulin resistance of course. So what is in charge of this equilibrium, what stimulates this cascade of hormones and what controls normal release?
Your circadian rhythm is the 24 hour cycle of biological processes that happen in your body, these cycles are controlled by various environmental ques like light and magnetic fields. The reason this is important is that every gene in your body has a clock gene in front of it that tells it what time it is and when to act, all of these clock genes are controlled by a master clock that is your SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus).
Here is an example of a normal circadian rhythm:
Around 6am we will have a surge of cortisol to wake us up, this can change dependent on light levels and seasons. At this time Ghrelin should also be high (the hunger hormone) stimulating appetite, ghrelin has an inverse relationship with leptin which signals fullness and the receptors for both are found in the same areas of the brain.
6.45am we have a sharp rise in blood pressure and once light hits our retina the pituitary gland shuts off the production of melatonin.
At around 8.30am the gut is awakened and starts the process or moving yesterday’s food to the final stages of removal.
Around 9-10am we have the highest sex hormone levels that lead to our highest levels of alertness and stimulate us to go out and explore our environment.
Optimal muscular co-ordination comes in from 2.30pm with reaction speeds following an hour later.
At 5pm our cardio vascular system reaches optimal, this being the best time to do more intense workouts.
As the sun sets we see more changes that lead to the highest blood pressure of the day and an hour after sun set we see our body release leptin and IL-6 (interleukin 6) to signal the brain about our fat mass and inflammatory status.
For the next few hours leptin levels slowly rise as insulin and adiponectin levels fall. These fat hormone signals are what stimulates adenosine raise which leads to sleepiness.
This peaks around 10pm and the circadian clock SCN allows for melatonin secretion after around 4 hours of darkness, leptin levels will be high at this point and start to enter the brain.
By about 11.30pm the digestive tract is shut down for the night and the vagus nerve starts to power down.
As we hit midnight our body temperature starts to drop, by now melatonin levels should have risen enough to allow leptin to enter the hypothalamus. When this occurs our hypothalamus sends a signal down to our thyroid to allow UCP3 (Uncoupling protein 3) to burn excess fat as free heat.
3-4 hours after your last meal (also affected by light) you will see a surge of prolactin, this sets of growth hormone release which in turn stimulates autophagy (the recycling of cells). This all happens between the hours of 12am – 3am in a healthy human.
Now while your circadian rhythm is vastly important, your environment is constantly stimulating these hormonal patterns. However what you do in the morning will dictate how you react to those stimuli for the rest of the day. The food you eat will also effect how your body reacts and the timing of that food will also have a great effect for example if you have food too late in the evening you will not have that surge of prolactin during sleep so vital to the process of recovery.
Here are a few tips to improve your circadian rhythm the key to your health
1.Stand in the sun every morning
Morning sun light is crucial for a good day it is the stimuli to wake and to start many key reactions in the body, make sure the first lights you look at is the sun stick your head out the window or get in the garden and look 10 degrees away from the sun. It does not matter if its cloudy, raining or cold it only matters if your in shade and that you spend 2-5 mins. And no looking at your phone first it has a much high color temperature then the morning sun and your eyes will take that to mean its the afternoon. If you can show as much of your skin as possible to the sun as your skin has photo receptors to that will contribute to your circadian rhythm.
2. Eat within 30 mins of rising
Eat your breakfast as soon as you can after getting up as this will increase leptin sensitivity, leptin is your master hormone that controls the energy balance in every single cell. What you eat will also play a role, protein is generally the best option which also aids leptin sensitivity and has shown to improve body composition too.
3. No snacking
60% of food you eat is stored in your liver and other storage tissues, this energy is released gradually during the day to balance energy levels. Snacking actually inhibits the liver from doing its job and processing the signalling pathways for use to burn fat as fuel which completely alters our hormonal cascade. The more we eat the more insulin we release the more resistant we become the less we release balancing hormones like glucagon that signal the break down of stored energy in the body. And if your worried about breaking down muscle, our body only does that if our mitochondria are not working properly and cannot burn fat as a fuel which improving your circadian rhythm and leptin sensitivity should solve.
4. 4 hour fast before bed
Eating late will inhibit various process’s that lead to growth hormone release and autograph, autophagy is the process of cell recycling. If this does not happen recovery is limited aging speeds up and we have dead or dying cells running our body’s systems.
5. 4 hours of darkness before bed
Not only does this help us sleep but it is key for recovery as mention above to set of a hormone cascade that results in slowing the aging process and increasing recovery. we also burn any excess fuel as free heat at night if this process happens, when leptin binds with the hypothalamus at night, which can’t happen if we do not have enough melatonin in the system.
Melatonin has an inverse relation ship with cortisol and blue light (think led lights, screens etc,) causes a rise in cortisol, darkness causes a rise in melatonin so to help you sleep you need to either live by candle light at night or buy a pair of blue light blocking glasses to wear in the evening after the sun sets (Dont worry the come in clear view lenses as well as the super cool orange tint). Cover your skin also as they have photo receptors to so will contribute to balancing your circadian rhythm.
Follow these 5 tips and your health will improve, your waistline will improve and your mental well being will improve as what I didn’t mention above is the stimulating effects of various natural opiods and endorphins that will be stimulated by morning sun shine and a four hour fast at night.