The Importance of Keeping Your Circadian Rhythm on Beat

Our planet Earth is the residence of all life as we know. Interestingly, we are the planet Earth for an entirely different species of organisms: microbes. Microbes cover every square inch of both our outsides and insides… from our skin, to our eyelashes, even to the inside of our intestines. Not all microbes are bad—most of them live in symbiosis with us. Our intestines are home to the gut microbiome. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what exactly the gut microbiome does, but it experiments show that changing the composition and health of the gut microbiome seems to have a body-wide effect. In mice, poor care of the microbiome often leads to health issues, such as weak immune systems and diabetes, that are not present in mice with healthy microbiomes.

It’s clear that keeping our microbiomes healthy is in line with keeping ourselves healthy. But what exactly can we do to keep our gut germs healthy?

1. Try to eat around the same times.

Our gut microbiome has a sleep/wake cycle, just like us. But for them, what tells them to wake up and go to sleep is not the sun rising or setting. Rather, it is when they receive nutrients (when we eat). They have their own circadian rhythm that is tuned to the clock of our daily meals. Consistency in our meals helps keep this clock on track. Why is this important? During periods of food, microbes prefer to repair themselves. During periods of fasting, microbes detox themselves. When their circadian rhythms are lost, microbes aren’t able to repair or detox well. This is bad for their health. 


2. Also… try to go to bed around the same time.

This is a really tough one! But it is very important. Because our gut microbiome responds to different day/night stimuli than we do, it’s important to keep our circadian rhythm on the same page as the circadian rhythm of our gut microbiome. After light stimulates our nervous system, our nervous system sends a message to the rest of our body that it is “wake” time. Therefore, it is also very important to try to sleep and wake up at the same time.


3. Try to eat healthy!

Unfortunately, consuming alcohol and eating a high-fat diet really stresses out our microbiome. Too much alcohol and hot dogs increase the number of pro-inflammatory bacteria and, among other things, change the ratio of certain kinds of bacteria in our gut. This change in ratio has been most linked to obesity. 

A study by Thaiss et al. showed that when gut bacteria were transferred from jet-lagged humans into mice with no gut microbiome, these mice became obese and intolerant to glucose. When gut bacteria were transferred from non-jet-lagged humans, these mice did not develop metabolic syndrome. We should take care of our gut microbiome the same way we take care of the rest of ourselves. I urge all readers to take a look at this recent, very well-written literature review called Circadian Rhythm and the Gut Microbiome, by Voigt et. al (2006) for an in-depth read.


Image Credit: Feature, 12