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This article is meant to give you a better understanding of what happens during a normal 24-hour cycle of your biological clock. It may even help you solve a number of personal health problems. As you read through the events of the 24-hour cycle, see if you recognize any symptoms that coincide with the various times mentioned. By correlating your intake of certain vitamins, minerals, medications, etc., with these times, you might be able to achieve far better results in treating your problem.

Our Circadian Rhythm

Our internal clocks don't operate on a precise 24-hour cycle. Research shows that the norm is 24.18 hours. You must experience daylight, darkness, waking and sleep cycles, and other routine patterns for your body to maintain this daily cycle. Some people have internal clocks that routinely run either over or under 24 hours. These are the individuals who are known as night-owls (those with circadian cycles or body clocks longer than 24 hours) or early-birds (those with cycles shorter than 24 hours). Many of us believe that we fall into one of these categories, but true nightowls and early-birds are rare, only about 10% of the population

Our internal clocks regulate a surprising number of processes in our bodies. Here is a partial list based on what we know now:

Early Evening:  Under normal circumstances, our core body temperature begins to drop gradually four or five hours before bedtime. Then, an hour or two before bedtime, it drops sharply. As it drops, increasing amounts of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin are released from the pineal gland. As the temperature begins to drop in the early evening hours, several other things also occur:

1) Your stomach begins to produce more acid, which can aggravate any ulcers you might have. If you have stomach ulcers, you may be able to counteract this increase in acid by taking a deglycerized licorice root product prior to the evening meal.

2) Your blood pressure begins to drop.

3) Your urinary output becomes highest around 6 p.m.

4) Your pain threshold reaches its lowest point about 9 p.m. If you notice arthritic, muscular, or other pain increasing in the late evening, it would be worth trying one of the natural pain-relieving creams or tablets an hour or so before this time.

Late Evening:  As the evening progresses and sleep sets in, the following events take place:

1) Sensitivity to allergens increases, peaking around 11 p.m. This fact obviously suggests that asthmatics and other people with allergy problems should make sure they are using a quality air filtering device throughout the night.

2) Levels of interlukin 1, one of your body's immune system regulators, increase during this period.

3) The risk of stroke from bursting blood vessels or hemorrhage is greatest. If you bruise or bleed easily beneath the skin, you may want to read the article on vitamin K and also increase your intake of vitamin C and bioflavonoids. With the exception of vitamin C, it doesn't matter when you take these vitamins because your body will take some time to build reserves. With vitamin C, however, taking a dose in the evening will probably help.

4) The immune cells called helper T lymphocytes peak in number around 1 a.m.

5) Also around 1 a.m., pregnant women are most likely to go into labor.

6) Levels of human growth hormone (HGH) reach their peak around 2 a.m. HGH has become a favorite topic among anti-aging groups. Despite its extraordinarily high price, many people are undergoing HGH injections. If you want to insure that your HGH levels are as high as naturally possible, make sure you don't eat any sweets or high-carbohydrate foods before going to bed. Studies have shown that doing so will delay the release of HGH during the night or reduce its quantity.

7) The anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol, from the adrenal glands, reaches it lowest level during this time.

8) Pro-inflammatory and spasm-producing compounds called leukotrienes are also at their highest levels during the night. Because of this fact, the most common time for severe asthma attacks to occur is between 3 and 4 a.m. On a practical note, you can eliminate many asthma problems by making sure the adrenal glands are nutritionally supported during this period. The best way to do so is with glandular substances (such as Drenamin from Standard Process Laboratories), vitamin C, and a good B-complex vitamin just prior to bedtime, and again during the night if you awaken to go to the bathroom. I would also suggest taking a tablespoon or two of cornstarch mixed with water during the night if you awaken. It is also important not to eat any sweets prior to bedtime, since this will only further weaken the adrenal glands.

Early Morning:  As the sun begins to rise, daylight hits the retinas of the eyes. From the eyes, signals are sent to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which contains the body's biological clock. The SCN then sends signals to the pineal gland to reduce the production of melatonin, which allows the body to awaken. This process triggers other events:

1) The body temperature begins to increase, except in night-owls, who warm up an hour or two later. (Also, since night-owls' clocks are longer, there's a tendency for them to lie in bed a little longer each morning.)

2) Insulin levels are at their lowest, and levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol begin to increase.

3) Heart rate and blood pressure begin to rise quickly. Not surprisingly, angina problems, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac death also occur most commonly during this time. Because of this fact, taking vitamin E with the evening meal and also upon rising is a good idea. Other heart formulas that contain CoEnzyme Q10 could also be taken at this time. Since vitamin E is absorbed better with a meal that contains some fat, it would be a good idea to take the vitamin E with fresh-ground flaxseed or flax oil. Following this regimen could help prevent many early morning heart attacks and strokes. The risk of heart attack is greatest around 8 a.m., just about the time most people in this country are finishing their coffee and sweet roll.

4) The onset of menstruation is most likely around 6 a.m.

5) Hayfever symptoms are at their worst around 7 a.m.

6) Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are often their worst in the early morning.

7) The helper T lymphocytes of the immune system are fewest during this time.

Midday:  By noon, several other events are starting to take place:

1) Natural killer cell activity increases.

2) Blood hemoglobin levels peak.

3) Migraine headaches are most common.

4) The risk of stroke due to clot formation and blood vessel blockage is at its highest. There are numerous foods and vitamins that naturally decrease the coagulating tendency, or "stickiness," of blood platelets. By including these in your diet, especially during the noon meal, you can help lessen your risk of both stroke and heart attack. In France, a glass of red wine is routinely consumed with lunch, which undoubtedly helps lower the risk of such problems. Our lunch in the U.S. is often some form of fried fast food, which only contributes to blood clotting and the vessel blockage associated with stroke.

Afternoon:  Around mid-afternoon, body temperatures begin to cool down again. The early-birds will begin to feel drowsy as the afternoon progresses, but the night-owls won't start to slow down until later in the evening.

1) Around 3 p.m., breathing becomes easiest. Airway openings are at their peak.

2) Your reflexes are at their highest level.

3) Your strength is also at a peak.

4) Around 4 p.m. your body temperature peaks.

Because these periodic daily events have such a profound effect on our lives, altering your sleep habits can sometimes be helpful. There are ways to do so constructively. Dr. David Williams has written a report, titled Curing Insomnia Through Sleep Stage Manipulation, that details ways to adjust your sleep patterns. (The report is available for $4 by calling 800-718-8293, ext. 0H6908.)

Whatever method you use, the first thing to do is establish proper sleep patterns and routines to give you the rest you need and enable your body to keep its 24-hour internal clock set correctly. As more research becomes available, it may be possible for us to adjust our diet and supplement intake to coincide with the events that take place throughout the 24-hour cycle.

Timing is Everything

Unfortunately, although the research into this subject is growing, there seems to be very little interest in applying these findings to our everyday life. The main emphasis still seems to be only on how to treat problems, without any regard to when to treat.

The practical implications of timing surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, nutritional intake, medications, and other treatments to take advantage of the precise events occurring during our 24-hour cycles are enormous. Unfortunately, physicians are not being trained in "chronobiology," and until they are, millions of people will continue to suffer needlessly or even die prematurely.

Nearly ten years ago, I read about a study showing that women who schedule their breast cancer surgery to coincide with specific days of their menstrual cycle, significantly increased their chance of surviving the disease. Women who had surgery on days 3 to 12 had a 54% chance of surviving for another 10 years. Women who had their surgery at any time other than these days had an 84% chance of 10-year survival. Starting with day one, when menstrual flow starts, the worst time to undergo surgery would be from day 3 to day 20.

When a woman's chance of survival can be increased from 54% to 84% simply by performing the surgery on the right day, you would think that surgery would be scheduled on only the safest days. That's not the case. Even after 10 years, women are still not being told about this research. Surgeons still schedule their surgical procedures according to convenience, and not based on what might be best for the patient. Unfortunately, other, similar research is also being ignored.

In two groups of ovarian cancer patients, it was found that simply by varying their schedules of treatment, the number of serious side effects such as nerve and kidney damage, bleeding, and hair loss could be cut in half (Science 85;228(4595): 73-5).

For colorectal cancer patients, adjusting the timing of their chemotherapy improved the response rate by threefold and increased the median survival time by 50% (Cancer 85;(1 2):2534-40).

In another colorectal cancer study, it was found that when the chemotherapy drugs were given at the right time, doses could be increased since there was far less toxicity. This action resulted in an increased response rate of 66%, and increased the 3-year survival rate of the patients by over 20% (J. Pharm Pharmacol 99:51 (8):891 -8).

Animal studies have found that the toxicity of over 30 anticancer drugs varies by more than 50%, depending on when they're administered. More importantly, drugs given at the least toxic times demonstrated the most potent anti-tumor effects. Another study found that the tolerability and outcome of cancer treatment could be accurately predicted based on whether or not the treatment was coordinated with the body's circadian rhythm. (Novatis Found Symp 00;22 7:11 9-36:discussion 136-42)

The use of psychotropic drugs is another frightening area where little regard is given to the time of administration. Studies have shown that the effects of drugs like antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and psychostimulants vary greatly depending on when they are administered. (Psychosom Med 99:61 (5):61 8-29)

Millions of doses of these drugs are routinely being passed out daily in nursing homes and psychiatric wards throughout the country, without any regard for timing. Moreover, prescriptions for these same medications are also becoming more and more common throughout the general population. Yet the same drug that helps one person function normally in society can cause another person to commit some horrible criminal act.

Some physicians are beginning to utilize some of this information, especially in the field of cancer treatment. Most, however, have little or no knowledge of the importance of establishing proper sleep cycles, or timing treatment to take advantage of the body's biological clock. In one recent study, most doctors couldn't even correctly identify the time of day when common medical events are most likely to occur. (Chronobiol Int 98;1 5(4):3 77-94)

Keep in mind, we are still living in a somewhat primitive, yet complex, body that lives, breathes, and dies on a 24-hour internal clock. We may be smart enough to manipulate it, reset it, and fool it, but in the long run we do so at our own peril.


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