MONDAY BASICS: break for 12.


Today's blog post is about loving your liver, and giving your body that rest it needs to recoup from the day and prepare for tomorrow.

Break for 12.

Funny that today is Labour Day. Today's post is all about giving your body that break it needs! The one it requires to stay in tip top shape. The concept in today's write up is about taking a break from eating foods for a good twelve hours a night. That would typically mean finish up dinner by 7pm, and get ready for breakfast at 7am. Seems like a pretty easy task to tend to, yes?

There are lots of good reasons why this is a good thing. Let's concentrate first on the liver. This important organ goes to work when we go to sleep. This whole schedule depends quite strongly on the fact that our Circadian rhythm is functioning optimally. According to the concept of the Chinese Body Clock, 1:00 am is the peak time for our liver's functioning. This means that for the next two hours, our wee lil liver is drawing energy inwards in order to help restore function to the body, to do some of that repair work that needs to happen. One of the principal jobs here is that our liver works at filtering out the blood, doing some pretty major detoxification and working at reducing inflammation in the body.

In the interest of balance, the organ that peaks at the opposite end of the clock twelve hours later is your small intestine. Yes, the organ that works at further breaking foods down and assimilating those nutrients in to the body we need.

When the liver is at peak time, the small intestine is supposed to be at the lowest time. If you had a late night snack or only got to dinner at 11pm when you finally came home from your meeting, you are engaging your small intestine to work late into the night. Doing so will engage your small intestine into the wee hours of the morning, which will prevent your liver from going in to that restorative time slot.

If we haven't quite finished digesting our last meal of the day by the time 1:00 am rolls around, we are starting to play with the way things are meant to work in the body, namely disturbing this very important detoxification work. If the body is still working at breaking down our late night meal or snack, our body is now concentrating on digestion and not on the restorative work of the liver.


Circadian Rhythm

By asking our bodies to digest late night instead of entering a twelve hour fast, we are contributing to throwing the Circadian rhythm off kilter. This can have serious impacts on our optimal health.

Want to know just what is our circadian rhythm, what's it all about? Click here.  Find some interesting studies and experiments based on the Circadian Rhythm here.  Disrupting our Circadian rhythm can negatively impact our health in myriad ways: obvious things like contributing to our inflammation, contributing to Parkinson's, hormonal shifts, optimal brain function can be impaired, and this is just the beginning. Remember this post on prioritizing sleep? It goes in to more detail on the importance of restorative sleep.  Head there for some good tips on how to ensure optimal sleep.

Back to snacking. Our bodies haven't evolved fast enough yet to allow for our late night snacking habits. Late night munchies means your body's clean-up crew (liver!) just won't be able to do the maintenance work it needs to do at night.

So give your digestive system a break, and influence your liver to rev up its cleaning duties by planning to finish eating by 7pm at the latest. Know that earlier is indeed better. My recommendation would be to aim to finish dinner a good three to four hours before you plan to hit the hay. That gives your body plenty of time to break down your last meal of the day and prepare for the clean up crew coming in at 1am.


The other part of this equation is this nasty lil thing called acid reflux. As we are now eating our heaviest meal at the end of the day, we are putting the most work on our digestive system as our body's ability to digest is at its weakest. Couple this with a late hour for noshing, and this starts to negatively impact our body's ability to produce hydrochloric acid enough to trigger proper and thorough breakdown of all foods coming down the pipe.

It is this release of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) that chemically triggers our body's protein enzymes to get to work. It is also this acid that chemically triggers the sphincter at the top of our stomach to properly close in order to keep everything in the stomach. As our ability to produce hydrochloric acid wanes as we age, this digestion process starts to take longer and longer to finish. Going to bed an hour or two after a meal, while we haven't quite finished breaking foods down in our stomachs, as we lay on our sides, we start to tip some of this acid out of the stomach, resulting in acid reflux. If you give your body adequate time to digest your last meal of the day and get it going down the digestive system, you will better reduce those chances of acid reflux interrupting your beauty sleep.

Coles Notes

Break for 12 hours. Stop eating by 7pm, have breakfast at 7am. Alternately, give yourself 3-4 hours between your last bite and when your head hits the pillow. Your liver will thank you by bringing in the cleaning service, and your body's natural superpowers of detoxification will be best supported.