For any of you out there who have worked the evening or night shift, you know that it does something to your bodies. Sure, there are a few night owls who thrive past midnight, but they have just adapted their body clocks to run differently that others. For those who disrupt a more day-oriented body clock with work shifts or late night for whatever reason, the difference in their body is noteworthy. Prior research revealed that inflammation increases in organisms when the circadian rhythms are disrupted. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), University of Medicine and Health Sciences researchers report on one of the mechanisms for this increased inflammation.
Besides the rare anomaly, humans generally function on a 24-hour circadian rhythm coordinated with the day / night cycles. Hormones, alertness, cognitive function, and the immune system all fluctuate in response to these rhythms. As noted, prior research looked at a variety of inflammation markers like the immune messenger Interleukin 1 Beta to recognize the increases in inflammation for organisms whose circadian rhythms were not allowed to follow their normal course. Given the rising incidence of chronic medical conditions like heart disease, autoimmunity, and diabetes which arise from such inflammation, understanding these circadian rhythm effects would be beneficial to medicine.
Without getting into the intricate complexities of our biological clock mechanisms, we can just say that multiple pathways are involved, and these multiple pathways influence numerous other metabolic pathways which govern our daily functioning. One of these proteins, BMAL1 is considered the master clock gene. Our immune cells called macrophages respond to the function of this BMAL1 clock gene in providing immunity against a number of pathogens (microbial invaders).
Once again, we can appreciate how the immune system functions interdependently with our mitochondrial energy production system. As metabolic products fluctuate, our immune system may be stimulated or suppressed through the very same chemicals we push through our energy cycle to produce energy. Our immune system can also push back on the mitochondria potentially increasing the production of reactive oxygen molecules which then raise body inflammation. It is a two-way street.
Their research showed that experimental removal of the BMAL1 master clock gene released the brakes on inflammation generated by the increased immune system messengers and the increased reactive oxygen species. Both lead to more inflammation and potentially more chronic health issues. These same mechanisms occurred with sleep cycles were disrupted implicating this mechanism as a likely source of the increased inflammation triggered by disrupted circadian rhythms.
Practitioners of functional medicine greatly enjoy when researchers uncover these mechanisms which explain our daily clinical practice. We see from hundreds of studies that rhythms of life which include a balance of rest and work lead to healthier patients. From a biblical worldview, this makes sense in how we were designed. Now we can explain to our patients that their macrophages become more inflammatory and raise oxidative stress damage when they are not getting adequate sleep. Sure, we could just tell them to sleep more, but it often helps our patients to know a little more, to know the ‘why’ rather than just the ‘because your doctor says so’. Helping them live healthier more abundant lives requires us to help both to know what is good for them and to understand how to care for their bodies.
George A. Timmons, Richard G. Carroll, James R. O’Siorain, Mariana P. Cervantes-Silva, Lauren E. Fagan, Shannon L. Cox, Eva Palsson-McDermott, David K. Finlay, Emma E. Vincent, Nicholas Jones, Annie M. Curtis. The Circadian Clock Protein BMAL1 Acts as a Metabolic Sensor In Macrophages to Control the Production of Pro IL-1β. Frontiers in Immunology, 2021; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.700431\
Thanks to Science Daily:
RCSI. “Researchers find new link between a disrupted body clock and inflammatory diseases.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211124154033.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.