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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Guided by your Gut!

Sometimes parenting can feel a lot like permanent jet lag. Kids are up at all hours, for hours and hours, and if you’ve got more than one, or they’re sick, it can wreak havoc on your routine.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

We all know disruptions to your sleep can also have serious health consequences, like weight gain, aging more rapidly, diabetes, and heart disease. This is because of your circadian rhythms, which influence nearly every process in your body, but especially sleep and digestion. These two are closely linked, and they are unfortunately the first to be thrown out of whack when our schedule is altered.

Luckily, there are a few ways we can fight it! The main way to fight jet-lag-like changes in our schedule is by eating our meals at consistent times. This means not eating within 3 hours of going to bed, and not skipping breakfast or eating breakfast at 3am because your kids woke you up. Keeping your mealtimes regular will help keep your sleep schedule regular and will help keep you healthy as your gut clock (digestion) influences your body clock. Your body clock in turn tells your hormones, blood pressure, temperature, and hunger to sync up. All of these systems work together to signal your body to be awake and alert when you're up, and help you sleep when it's time to rest. 

And if you are suddenly on an opposite schedule (working the night shift, up late repeatedly with the kids, or traveling), here is a link to the meal plan that the Navy Seals, CIA, and Army use, as well as a more modified modern version from Harvard and Beth Isreal Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Both involve mild fasting to help reset your gut-clock to coincide with your sleep-clock.

So remember, even if your schedule is out of whack, sticking to regular mealtimes will help use your gut clock to your advantage, recalibrate, and remain your healthiest! 

Further reading on digestion and circadian rhythms here, here, and here.

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