Circadian rhythm constipation is real and could be the REAL reason you experience constipation on a regular basis (especially if you already eat a healthy diet).

Here’s what you need to know about how your circadian rhythms—your 24-hour biological clock—affect your gut health and hormones, and how to optimize your circadian rhythms to feel amazing inside and out (Constipation included).

THE IDEAL CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

In an ideal world, our bodies would “rise” and “set” with the sun. 

physically active people during the day circadian rhythm

For the vast majority of our ancestors’ evolutionary history, we lived in peace and harmony with the natural rhythms of day and night, no exposure to artificial light included. 

Humans were physically active throughout the day and rested at night.

We would wake up about sunrise with refreshing vigor and energy to do our best work during the sunlight hours.Then, come night time, we would “set with the sun”—our work day would end, we’d spend time with our family and friends, and we’d candle down, tucking in not too long after the sun sets and no more light exists.

Unfortunately, our bodies do not live in an ideal world.

Exposure to light has a profound influence on our HPA axis (stress and hormone system). 

Thanks to artificial light and technology, we have access to “wakefulness” at ALL HOURS OF THE DAY —whenever we want.

Although electric light and technology are (non-negotiably) wonderful things, our use of artificial light and technology today is far outside of the evolutionary norm for humans and our bodies don’t know how to handle this—especially our gut health and hormone health when they are in constant wake and stress mode!

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM DYSFUNCTION

Your gut health and stress levels (adrenal health and hormones) are HIGHLY intertwined with your circadian rhythm—your internal biological clock that runs on a 24 hour cycle. 

In short: If your circadian rhythms are off, your health gets “off” over time.

Modern day stressors wreak havoc on our body’s preferred lifestyle, and over time, our circadian rhythms get “off.” This phenomenon happens subtly. 

Common examples of stressors that cause circadian rhythm dysfunction include:

    • Going to bed looking at our phones
    • Waking up first thing to a loud buzzing alarm, News feeds and social media scrolls
    • Watching TV into the late hours of the night
    • Working late at night on screens
    • Staying indoors most of the day
    • Lack of fresh air and natural light exposure during the day
    • Working out super late or super early
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Drinking more than 1 cup of coffee/day (especially at night)
    • Shift work (over nights)
    • Jet lag (frequent travel)
    • Sedentary lifestyles
    • Eating late at night or at “off times”
    • Pulling all nighters in college for years
    • “Running off” energy drinks and caffeine (5 Hour Energy)
    • Pre-workout drinks to get “pumped up”
    • Nighttime light exposure
    • Using stimulants or medications, like caffeine pills or Ritalin, to stay awake

Couple these stressors with statistics like: 

  • 1/3 of all Americans sleep less than 7 hours per night (ideal=7-9 hours) (1)
  • More than 90% of Americans drink coffee daily, consuming an average of 300 mg of caffeine, making it America’s drug of choice (2)
  • The average American sits at least 12-hours per day (3.)
  • Americans spend more than 10 hours on screens per day (4.) (and 95 percent of Americans report using some type of electronics at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed)

—It’s NO WONDER our circadian rhythms are “off” and our bodies are stressed out.

(Hello HPA-Axis Dysfunction”—stress—that causes a myriad of health complications and side effects!)

HPA-AXIS & CIRCADIAN RHYTHM STRESS

Your HPA-Axis (hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal axis) is the key system that controls your cortisol (stress hormone) production and keeps your body healthy and in balance (such as healthy digestion). 

woman holding a phone stressed circadian rhythm

However, if your stress hormones get off from circadian rhythm dysfunction, so does the rest of your body!

As cortisol levels rise or plummet (stress hormone roller coaster) because your biological clock is “off,” your body either thinks:

(a.) it’s “running from a bear” at all times inside, OR,

(b.) it is completely fatigued—with no energy to operate as normal

The result?…

Signs of HPA-Axis & Circadian Rhythm Dysfunction

….Any of these sound familiar?

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion 
  • IBS
  • Leaky Gut
  • Low libido
  • Hormone and blood sugar imbalances
  • Adrenal stress
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Fatigue 
  • Acne and skin breakouts
  • Allergies & Low Immunity
  • High cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Super low blood pressure and heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

If so, your health may not be in “tip top” shape because of circadian rhythm dysfunction—not necessarily what you are eating.

If you’re “doing all the right things” for your health (eating healthy, taking supplements, working out), but still struggling with “health issues,” your circadian rhythm function may be the bigger reason.

10 HACKS TO RESET YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS

Rewire your circadian rhythms with a few simple lifestyle hacks to help bring your cortisol levels.

1. “Candle Down.”

Shut screens off 2-3 hours before bed. Read a book instead or connect with loved ones.

2. Download f.lux https://justgetflux.com or add “Night Shift” to your phone and computer screens.

In addition, leave it on the screen all day to eliminate blue/white light OR wear orange-tinted glasses when looking at screens.

3. Create a bedtime routine.

You wouldn’t put a 3 year old to bed without a bedtime routine to wind down (bath, books, light snack, mediation/prayer, etc.), so why are you trying to “jump” into sleep?! Create a bedtime routine for you (such as: warm shower, reading, warm tea, light snack, prayer, reflection, meditation).

4. “Rise with the sun.”

Don’t wake unnecessarily early (4 or 5 a.m. if you don’t have to, or unless you’ve gotten 7-9 hours of quality sleep).

5. Get 30-60 minutes of fresh air and sunlight exposure every day.

At least.

6. Workout early in the day or afternoon.

Especially, if you have a tough time falling asleep at night.

7. Request a consistent shift schedule if you do shift work.

Particularly, if you are working all night shifts or all day shifts, instead of interchanging. 

8. Limit coffee to 1 cup quality (organic) coffee/day.

Sip herbal tea or Teecino (coffee flavored tea) and drink plenty of water for energy.

9. Eat your last meal 2-3 hours before bedtime.

woman eating hours before bedtime circadian rhythm

A smallish snack of protein, healthy fat or a little bit of carbohydrate may be ok for you if you have blood sugar imbalances. Some ideas: Grass-fed full fat yogurt, coconut yogurt or cottage cheese; scrambled pastured egg; 1/2 green tipped banana with coconut butter; dark chocolate square (100%) with herbal tea; cup of bone broth; salmon or chicken with avocado; a few fried plantains in coconut oil; sun-butter with half an apple; grass-fed kefir with frozen blueberries.

10. Test your hormone levels and melatonin (sleep hormone).

Supplement with melatonin if needed or a cortisol balancing protocol, depending on if your cortisol levels are too high or too low. Work with a practitioner to find the right protocol for you. 

—Start with ONE thing, and add on as you go. 

Circadian rhythm constipation be gone!

Resources

1. Gallup. (2013). In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep.  http://news.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx

2. Villanova.(2018). https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/health/promotion/goto/resources/drugs/caffeine.html 

3. http://www.juststand.org/the-facts/ 

4. Nielsen (2016). The Total Audience Report: Q1. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2016/the-total-audience-report-q1-2016.html?wgu=12765_54264_15264284401264_eef7c8d6a0&wgexpiry=1534204440&afflt=ntrt15340001&afflt_uid=oF_mqjB48Dw.X_xBXi8H9opflqO0_xWZaEQK7flmtZCb&afflt_uid_2=AFFLT_ID_2