Optimizing Circadian Rhythm For Hormone Health

A circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats each day on a 24 hour cycle. It is most impacted by the light and dark cycles in our environment.

Why Does Our Circadian Rhythm Matter For Our Hormones?

Our circadian rhythm (CR) regulates our digestion, hormone production, metabolism, and energy production. This is everything we need for healthy hormones! CR is programmed into us–If you put someone in a room without them knowing what time it is, their body will naturally adjust to the circadian rhythm. They will produce melatonin in the evening and get sleepy at night. The hormones will change to make them more awake in the morning, and their peak production will occur in the afternoon. When the cycle is disrupted, for example, if we go to bed at four in the morning, we will feel awful the next day. If we continue to abuse the circadian rhythm for months, we put ourselves at risk of hormone imbalances, digestive issues, and increase stress on the body.

A Look At How Circadian Rhythm Impacts Us

Our internal clock or circadian rhythm regulates how we digest our food, our balance of gut bacteria in the daytime vs. nighttime, and how much energy we are producing. During the day, this looks like our internal clock helping us make stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Hormones and enzymes that support digestion and absorption also increase along with bacteria that are beneficial for digestion. Our light exposure during the day impacts blood sugar balance. Too little or too much blue light can affect insulin and blood sugar balance. And finally, during the day, our internal clock or CR helps us prioritize making more energy to support all of these essential functions.

At nighttime, we produce melatonin for restful and restorative sleep. We also do the most detoxification at night, including detoxing the glymphatic system, our brain’s detox process. Our tissues are actively being repaired to help us recover from exercise, illness, injury, etc., and our bacteria adjust to increase bacteria that support detox.

It’s pretty amazing how our bodies follow this rhythm every 24 hours!

What Impacts Circadian Rhythm?

This internal clock is essential for healthy hormones and a well-functioning body. So what can throw this clock off and lead to hormone imbalances and digestive issues? The two most significant impacts on this internal cock are when we eat and our light exposure. When we dial these two things in, it’s the best way to support a healthy circadian rhythm.

One common habit that can throw off our circadian rhythm is eating most of your daily food intake at night. Ideally, we are eating when it is light out. When we don’t give our bodies nourishment during daylight and wait until the end of the day, this is the opposite of what our internal clock is prepared for. Remember, our digestion is revved up during the day, and even our gut bacteria change to support food breakdown. When it gets dark out, our bodies are making melatonin and getting ready for sleep. Adding in a lot of food during that time will tell your body clock that it is wrong.

Another big one is light exposure. I think this is probably the most common thing throwing off the majority of our circadian rhythms. Many of us are surrounded by light all day and a good portion of the night. Light from screens and phones counts, especially since it is going directly into our eyes. This blue light exposure tells our bodies that it is daytime and that we need to be away. This means that we will make the stress hormone cortisol and not make melatonin, which will have a huge impact on your sleep. This then bleeds into the next day and slowly throws off your circadian rhythm more and more day after day.

To learn even more about circadian rhythm listen to these two podcast episodes from the Are you menstrual? podcast:

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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