Messing up your body’s circadian rhythms — the behavioral, mental and physical changes that follow a 24-hour cycle — can have a huge effect on your health and gut.
Merely traveling on an airplane across multiple time zones can trigger jet lag, a temporary sleep problem when your body’s internal rhythms and biological clock are out of sync.
Apparently, your gut bacteria have a circadian schedule too, and a pair of studies shows how they affect your health for better and worse.
Following a schedule
Research by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science on mice in a study appearing in Cell demonstrated how gut bacteria follow a schedule, adapting to changes in light and dark, metabolic fluctuations and even the timing of our meals, says Dr. Eran Segel.
In fact, your microbiome moves around within the gut and are exposed to different species and varying numbers of species over the course of a 24-hour day.
Moreover, those changes brought on by circadian rhythms affect not only the physiology of the body but tissues and organs like the liver. Those rhythms can even govern how your body may metabolize and detoxify a drug as basic as acetaminophen.
Scientists also learned how the circadian rhythms of the bodies of little mice (and perhaps humans too) are very dependent on the workings of the microbiome. Surprisingly, genes that show no signs of circadian rhythms take over when these microbial rhythms are disrupted too.
These findings were observed when researchers gave mice antibiotics that removed much of their gut bacteria and even when their feeding times were changed.
Circadian rhythms and obesity
This inter-dependence between the gut and the body’s circadian rhythms could play a role behind the scenes in promoting the accumulation of body fat that leads to obesity, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern and published in the journal, Science.
Based on tests that compared the health of germ-free, conventionally raised and genetically modified mice, scientists learned how the microbiome controls fat uptake and storage by “hacking into” and altering the functions of the circadian clocks within cells that line the gut.
They identified the mechanism by which gut bacteria regulate the composition of body fat and use a chemical (circadian transcription factor NFIL3) to establish a critical molecular link between the microbiota, circadian clock and metabolism, says Dr. Lora Hooper, lead author of the study, according to a press release.
So how does the microbiota hack into the lining of the gut?
A body’s circadian clock senses those day and night cycles, which are linked closely to feeding times, and transmits that information to the gut to turn on and off the metabolism (the uptake of lipids) when necessary.
More specifically, the circadian rhythms of the gut control the expression of NFIL3 and the production of lipids that are governed by this chemical in the intestinal lining.
“So what you have is a really fascinating system where two signals from the environment come in – the microbiome and the day-night changes in light – and converge on the gut lining to regulate how much lipid you take up from your diet and store as fat,” says Dr. Hooper.
How does this affect you?
Our go-go-GO! lifestyles create all sorts of havoc with our sleep schedules and often distract us from eating healthy meals on a timely basis, creating an environment for all sorts of health problems down the line.
Eating a balanced diet and getting the right amount of sleep your body needs every night really matters. And, we’ve learned in these studies, so does the health of the human gut, especially if you do a lot of traveling or work a crazy schedule that mixes daytime and nighttime hours.
That’s why it’s so important to give the health of your gut an added boost by taking a multi-species probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, that features 10 proven and protective strains of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic that feeds the good bugs and may improve your sleep too!