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Eating for Your Circadian Rhythm

We all know that the circadian rhythm is what wakes you up in the morning and puts you to sleep at night. But did you know that every organ in the body is impacted by the circadian rhythm, even organs like the liver and stomach which are normally not associated with sleep?

In this blog, we'll break down what the circadian rhythm does for your body and how you can keep it functioning properly through your diet.

The circadian rhythm:

Our circadian rhythms are designed to help the body to repair and rejuvenate. The circadian rhythm tells our body when it’s time to sleep, thus signaling to the body to begin the nightly process of repair.

As we sleep, our brain is repairing and rejuvenating itself by removing toxic materials, strengthening synaptic connections of our neurons, and resynthesizing neurotransmitters. However, it’s not just the brain repairing itself overnight. In fact, every single organ in the body is repaired and rejuvenated as we sleep.

Some of the biological processes that happen during sleep include:

  • The brain stores new information and remove toxic waste

  • The immune system is bolstered

  • Nerve cells reorganize and communicate, supporting healthy brain function during the day

  • Cells in the muscles and tissues are repaired

  • Energy levels are restored

  • Molecules like proteins and hormones are released

  • Hormones to support bone and muscle development are released

To summarise, your body needs complete and total rest during the night to rehaul the damage done during the day and get you ready for the next!

What hinders your circadian rhythm?

One reason why our bodies are able to repair as we sleep is the lack of outside factors, like food. When we eat, many hormones and enzymes need to be activated to change the nutrient levels. This is a timely and exhaustive process. Every cell in the body must process, store, break down, and interconvert every molecule from the food you eat.

After we eat, it takes around 5 hours for our stomach to digest the food. It then takes another several hours for the intestines to absorb the nutrients from the digested food. So, if you finish dinner at 6 pm, your digestive tract will still be working until 11 pm to digest and process the food. That means your digestive tract will not be able to repair and rejuvenate for the entire time you’re asleep.

This is why eating in an 8-10 hour window is so important. If you restrict your eating to only 8-10 hours, and digestion takes around 3-6 hours, you’re giving your body around 8 hours of complete organ rest with no digestion or other work. This allows sufficient time for your organs to repair and rejuvenate. This fashion of eating is also known as time-restricted eating.

More about time-restricted eating:

Research by Dr. Satchin Panda of the Salk Institute has shown that eating within a narrow window is essential for health. Time-restricted eating is the phrase coined by Dr. Panda to describe his recommended methodology. In this fasting pattern, you reduce the amount of time spent watching without reducing overall caloric intake.

The concept of eating only during daylight hours is based on several biological factors:

  • The circadian rhythm regulates the metabolic processes within the cell. In the morning, as the sun rises, your metabolism is at its peak. So eating a big meal in the morning will quickly be metabolized to provide energy for the rest of the day. But if you eat a big meal in the evening, when the metabolism slows, the likelihood that the food will be stored as fat increases.

  • The liver metabolizes glucose during the daylight hours and halts overnight. Glucose metabolization is strongest in the morning and weakens throughout the day.

  • Cells are much more sensitive to insulin during the day and less so at night. This is because melatonin will inhibit the release of insulin from your pancreas. Melatonin produced in the gut goes directly to the pancreas and modulates the secretion of insulin. For most people, the secretion of melatonin begins 3 hours before you go to bed.

  • The circadian rhythm is responsible for managing biological functions like cellular repair and hormone signaling. If you eat in sequence with the rhythm, hormones like cortisol and thyroid will all function properly.

The molecular pathways of time-restricted eating have been identified in Dr. Panda’s lab. He has shown that eating in a shorter window is linked to the breakdown of toxic materials, detoxification, and improved mitochondrial function which reduces ROS, improves metabolism, and autophagy.

Experiments have found that not adhering to this time-restricted eating pattern can lead to an increase in weight, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

Obtaining optimal health is more than what we eat. It’s also about when we eat. Avoid eating later in the evening to avoid a circadian disruption. It is best to stop eating around 3 hours before bed. Moreover, while time-restricted eating can be a very beneficial eating regime to follow, the most beneficial dietary plan is one based on your unique genomic sequence.

Through DNA testing, we can precisely identify the patterns and imbalances of your unique metabolism and use nutrients to suppress the expression of disease, illness, and other unhealthy patterns. If you're interested in genomic testing, click here to learn more! Or contact our office at

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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