A BRIEF PRIMER ON CIRCADIAN BIOLOGY
Consider this: every cell in your body is tied to CLOCK genes. The name fits these genes — they act like little cellular clocks, keeping track of the time of the day. Their primary environmental time cue is light.
Your body has trillions of cells, which means it has trillions of clocks. They communicate with one another to keep track of your circadian rhythm, which ultimately governs every aspect of your biology, from body temperature to hormone regulation to cell regeneration.
The master timekeeper of these trillions of clocks that keeps everything in sync is a mass of 20,000 nerve cells in the hypothalamus of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
Given that coordination between cells (and, in turn, their clocks) is so crucial, it’s unsurprising how research continually turns up health problems tied to disorders in circadian rhythm. Did you know that
Proper sleep suppresses inflammation via the BMAL1 CLOCK gene?
When CLOCK genes like PER2 and BMAL1 get uncoupled, lung tumor formation is more likely?
If CLOCK genes like BMAL1 and REV-ERBα don’t function correctly, cells can’t rest, which allows cancer to replicate more quickly?
Artificial blue light — regardless of time of day — alters glucose metabolism (blood sugar) and sleep cycles?
There is a specific field in medicine — called chronopharmacology — that the looks at the interactions between drugs and CLOCK genes. Timing matters when introducing agents into biological systems. For example, did you know that whether a mouse administered e. coli lives or dies depends on the time of day of the injection?
The simplest analogy to your body’s circadian rhythm is a symphony. The orchestra are your trillions of cells. The conductor is the SCN. When everything sync ups, you get a beautiful song — the composer’s intent. When people start playing in different times, out of tune, etc., you lose the song entirely.
With an actual symphony, the toll paid for an “off” performance is a bad song. When it comes to biology, the penalty is poor health and disease states — whether it be cancer, more inflammation and/or altered blood glucose levels — as some of the research bullet points above show.
Instead of boring you with more science and research, I will give you the basics of what causes a circadian mismatch (disrupts proper circadian cycles) and in the next blog we will discuss what you can do to help fix you circadian biology.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland and most people know it as the hormone that makes us want to sleep. However, melatonin controls many more important functions in the body. It plays a critical role in mitochondrial function, which is undoubtedly the beginning of most, if not all diseases, which are not related to a true genetic defect. True genetic defects are less than 5% of the population. Melatonin is made first in the eye in the waking hours of the morning. Melatonin production and secretion are done through the SCN with the proper light cues. Sunrise light has the proper spectrum of light to start the production of melatonin. Melatonin levels should be high at night after sun set. Artificial Blue light destroys the secretion of melatonin and its production. Artificial Blue Light of Non native Blue Light is more than abundant today. Every smart phone, TV, iPad, other pads etc… all emit non native blue light and destroy not only melatonin production but destroys DHA on the cell membrane, as well as many other biological systems are disrupted and destroyed.
When melatonin levels are disturbed and start to drop, the sleep/wake cycle is thrown into disarray and your body can’t properly utilize autophagy —an essential cellular maintenance and cleanup process. Melatonin is critical not only for this sleep/wake cycle, but the hormone itself
Is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E
Reduces oxidative stress
Makes mitochondria (your cell’s power plants) more efficient
Given the melatonin-suppressing effects of violet and blue light, it should be self evident that if you block that range of light (380–495 nm) from hitting your eyes, you help preserve melatonin levels and thus keep sleep/wake cycles in order.
If melatonin helps you sleep, what helps you wake up? Cortisol is the hormone that helps you get out of bed and wake up. In a normal person under close-to-natural conditions, you should get 2 distinct bell curves, as seen below, with cortisol peaking in the morning and lowering toward evening, and melatonin peaking in the evening and lowering throughout the day.
Most people with chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and leaky gut all have high levels of cortisol throughout the day and even into the evening. They have chronic stress signals and have chronic inflammation. In order to correct your biological clocks you need to implement certain strategies and dietary protocols. Over the next 3 blogs we will talk about the strategies.