Circadian Rhythms and the 24 hour Body Clock
I love it when Science confirms a system we have in Chinese Medicine! As practitioners of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, we were taught that the body has a 24 hour body clock.
“Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the biological rhythm of the human body. The understandings of biological rhythm in TCM can be applied to etiology, health care, disease control and treatment. Many understandings in TCM have been confirmed by modern research and clinical reports. (Tianxing Zhang, 2016)
The inner workings of the body clock has now been scientifically confirmed by the 2017 Nobel Prize winners, Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for finding the molecular components of the circadian rhythm. (Jeffrey C. Hall, 2017). Not only that, but they also confirmed that the body clock regulates critical functions from hormones, behavior to sleep to name a few. Moreover, if there is a mismatch between the external environment to this inner clock, our health can be affected. To read further about their fascinating research click here.
Part of the clinical intake of a patient is to evaluate how certain issues may be better understood through the body clock. If you’re consistently waking at a certain time at night, for example, understanding the body clock can help point the practitioner in the right direction. It is believed that many health conditions can be helped or hindered according to how well we are in sync with our internal body clock. Our modern society is becoming less ordered by day and night cycles. The body clock can give us more clues how this may be affecting our health. I look forward to the deeper understanding of the physiological mechanisms that the Nobel Prize winners have discovered about circadian rhythm and the body clock. The implications for new approaches to certain health conditions are exciting and often help enhance treatment via integrative acupuncture and Chinese Medicine approaches. Moreover, perhaps the details according to TCM’s version of the body clock that are related to health and the emotions can now be scientifically verified or disproved. This helps us to hone treatment and gain better understanding as we control our modern environments around us more and more.
In Chinese medicine, there is a 24 hour body clock system that reflects the physiological systems and organs for repair and maintenance of the body. This system follows a rhythmic flow through the body over a 24 hour period. (holistichealthlibrary.com)
Below is the body clock chart according to Chinese Medicine. (Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine et al, 1980)
According to the Chinese Body Clock
Circulation of Energy Through the Primary Organs and Corresponding Physiological Systems
|Liver||1am – 3am|
|Lung||3am – 5am|
|Large Intestine||5am – 7am|
|Stomach||7am – 9am|
|Spleen (Pancreas)||9am – 11am|
|Heart||11am – 1pm|
|Small Intestine||1pm – 3pm|
|Bladder||3pm – 5pm|
|Kidney||5pm – 7pm|
|Pericardium (Circulatory System)||7pm – 9pm|
|San Jiao (Endocrine & Lymphatic)||9pm – 11 pm|
|Gall Bladder||11pm – 1am|
According to (Tianxing Zhang, 2016) research: “taking turn on duty by “liver–heart–lung–kidney” is the essence of quartation of day–night rhythm, it can be inferred that lung diseases most likely occur on the afternoon with risk of aggravation and death; kidney diseases from evening to midnight, and liver diseases from midnight to sun rise. It has been confirmed that severe liver disease (including severe viral hepatitis, decompensated liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma) has the highest mortality during the latter half of the night, and the period from 15 to 19 o’clock (Shenyou Period) witnesses the highest death rate of lung cancer patient, which seems consistent with conclusion in TCM, reflecting the accuracy of understanding of biological circadian rhythm in TCM.”
Major illnesses aside, how can we translate this to better daily health and our understanding of our own biological clocks? There are a few interpretations of the clock, what is happening, what to do about it and the emotions involved. I will list common consensus below: (wellness.mcuniverse.com); (wellness.marliescohen.com); (www.saywhydoi.com)
5 -7 a.m. Large Intestine:
The large intestine prepares to remove waste from the nights repair and cleaning processes. Healthy bowels should move not long after this time period. Emotions that may affect this system: guilt, difficulty ‘letting go’
7 – 9 a.m. Stomach
Perfect time to start the day with a healthy breakfast to optimize metabolism with good nutrition. Starting the day with a good breakfast promotes healthy metabolism. See Warm Digestion Principles here. Emotions that may affect this system: worry, overthinking, pensiveness
9 – 11 a.m. Pancreas/Spleen
The stomach passes its contents on so that the enzymes from the pancreas continue the digestive process and nutrient energy is made available. This system is healthy when you digest food without bloating, distention, reflux or stagnation. Emotions that may affect this system: stress, worry, overthinking, pensiveness
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Heart
Nutrients enter the blood stream and the heart pumps them throughout the system. This is the time of day for action and getting things done. Emotions that may affect this system: anxiety; the absence or excess of: Joy, enthusiasm
1 – 3 p.m. Small Intestine
Foods requiring longer digestion times complete their digestion and assimilation. If this is a time period where you feel tired, the assimilation of nutrients may be compromised. Emotions that may affect this system: anxiety, joy, lack of joy, vulnerability, insecurity
3 – 5 p.m. Bladder
Metabolic wastes from the morning’s nutrition intake clear, getting ready for the kidney’s filtration. Kidney processes also begin around 3pm. Emotions that may affect this system: fear, general stress, vulnerability
5 – 7 p.m. Kidney
Filters blood and maintains proper chemical balance of blood based on nutritional intake. The blood then delivers useable nutrients to all tissues. Emotions that may affect this system: fear, general stress, vulnerability, over exertion of willpower or lack of willpower, loneliness
7 – 9 p.m. Pericardium/Heart
Nutrients are carried to capillaries and to the lymphatic system. Emotions that may affect this system: Inner tension, overexcitement and emotions of the heart system (see previous).
9 – 11 p.m. San Jiao (Endocrine/Lymphatics)
The endocrine system adjusts the homeostasis of the body. Emotions that may affect this system: feeling hopeless. More specifically:
- Pineal – Intuitive
- Pituitary – Analytical
- Thyroid – Self-pity
- Thymus – Self-esteem
- Pancreas – Sympathy
- Prostate/Uterus – Lack of Love
- Testes/Ovaries – Inadequacy
11 p.m. – 1 a.m. Gall Bladder
Initial cleansing of all tissues and processes cholesterol. The liver begins to cleanse toxins as well. Emotions that may affect this system: Indecisiveness, shyness, timidity, bitterness
1 – 3 a.m. Liver
Works hardest to clean the blood and process wastes. Emotions that may affect this system: Anger, suppressed anger, frustration, resentment
3 – 5 a.m. Lung
Respiration, oxygenation and expulsion of waste gases is most active. Emotions that may affect this system: Grief, detachment, sadness. Waking at this time may not be an imbalance, but the body’s way of processing information. Many meditators and yogis wake at this time to start their morning meditation and breathing practices.
Here are some examples of how the clock may be used
Click on the graphic to enlarge and read more about it.
Daily Biorhythm of Internal Organs
Click here for an info graphic that goes more in depth about associated emotions
Here’s a fun little read about the body clock in the Shanghai Times for another perspective. Some sage advice from Dr. Wang
“A little wine is good to activate blood circulation, according to Dr Wang, but don’t get drunk.”
Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine et al. (1980). Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture. Beijing, China: Foreign Languages Press Beijing.
holistichealthlibrary.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2017, from Holistic Health Library: http://holistichealthlibrary.com/the-body-has-an-automatic-clock/
Jeffrey C. Hall, M. R. (2017, October). www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from www.nobelprize.org: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2017/press.html
Tianxing Zhang, L. Y. (2016, October). Science Direct Article. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from www.sciencedirect.com: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816301028
wellness.marliescohen.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2017, from wellness.marliescohen.com: http://wellness.marliescohen.com/2011/the-chinese-body-clock-why-do-i-feel-differently-at-different-hours-of-the-day/
wellness.mcuniverse.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2017, from wellness.mcuniverse.com: http://wellness.mcuniverse.com/files/2011/06/Energy-Meridian-System-Body-Clock.pdf
www.saywhydoi.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2017, from saywhydoi: http://www.saywhydoi.com/the-chinese-body-clock-why-do-i-feel-differently-at-different-hours-of-the-day/
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