Have you ever wondered why your body seems to operate on a schedule, with certain activities peaking at specific times of the day? The answer lies in your circadian rhythms, which play a crucial role in regulating your body’s functions and maintaining overall health.
In this blog, we’ll introduce you to circadian rhythms, explore their connection to gastrointestinal (GI) diseases like reflux, and highlight the importance of early reflux diagnosis, made painless and inexpensive with Peptest.
Your body’s internal clock
Circadian rhythms are the intricate timekeepers within your body, orchestrating a symphony of physiological processes over a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms influence everything from sleep patterns and hormone release to body temperature and metabolism.
At the heart of this orchestration is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a tiny region located within the hypothalamus of your brain. The SCN serves as the conductor of your body’s internal symphony, receiving input from light-sensitive cells in your eyes that help it calibrate to the external world’s day-night cycle.
Once the SCN has synchronised itself with the external environment, it sends signals to various parts of your body, dictating when specific activities should peak or decline. These signals encompass the secretion of hormones like cortisol to wake you up in the morning, or melatonin to prepare you for sleep at night. The SCN also plays a pivotal role in regulating body temperature, metabolism, and even cognitive function, ensuring that your body operates in optimal rhythm.
How these rhythms can impact you
- Sleep patterns: Your body’s internal clock helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. It dictates when you feel alert and when you naturally begin to wind down, ensuring you get the restorative sleep your body needs.
- Hormone release: Circadian rhythms play a crucial role in hormone secretion. They determine when hormones like cortisol (associated with wakefulness) and melatonin (associated with sleep) are released, helping you stay energised during the day and promoting restful sleep at night.
- Body temperature: Your body temperature follows a circadian rhythm, typically peaking during the late afternoon and hitting its lowest point during the early morning hours. These temperature fluctuations influence your overall comfort and alertness throughout the day.
- Metabolism: Circadian rhythms influence your metabolic processes, including digestion and nutrient absorption. Eating in alignment with your body’s internal clock can optimise these functions.
- Cognitive function: Your cognitive abilities, such as memory and problem-solving, can vary throughout the day due to circadian rhythms. Being aware of your cognitive peaks and valleys can help you plan tasks more effectively.
Circadian rhythms and GI diseases
The intricate relationship between circadian rhythms and GI diseases, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a subject of ongoing research.
A 2019 study published in the Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal highlighted that GERD symptoms, often exacerbated at night, are attributed to nocturnal reflux. Diurnal fluctuations in gastric acid production result in the lowest gastric pH levels during late evening/early morning.
In 2022, a report published in Frontiers in Public Health journal found an association between shift work patterns and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms.
The study identified that night shift or rotation shift work may elevate the prevalence of possible GERD symptoms, raising questions about how circadian disruptions might influence the disease. While both genders showed similar rates of these symptoms, the research highlighted two factors that could potentially lead to gender differences in GERD prevalence rates – a topic yet to be thoroughly explored in scientific literature.
Additionally, in 2020, research shared in the Journal Clinical Gastroenterology delved deeper into the mysteries of circadian rhythms, revealing that the gastrointestinal system dances to its own internal clock, particularly in constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Patients with disrupted circadian rhythms often present with gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation. Studies have indicated diurnal differences in bowel activity, bowel contractions, and sensitivity of rectal receptors.
Early diagnosis of reflux
Circadian rhythms add another layer of complexity to the understanding of reflux disease. Regardless of the precise connection, early diagnosis of reflux is crucial for effective management. This is where Peptest comes into play.
Peptest is a quick, painless, and cost-effective diagnostic test that detects pepsin in saliva, an enzyme linked to reflux. By diagnosing reflux early with Peptest, you can take proactive steps to manage your condition.