What You Need to Know About Circadian Rhythms

When our rhythms are in sync, life flows easily. We have more energy, and everyday tasks are easier to perform. When we're 'in our rhythm,' we're more socially engaging and life is more satisfying. Athletes call this "Being in the zone" or "having their game on." It turns out that ‘finding your rhythm,” is more than psychological. We each have a body clock that regulates how we feel and perform. These rhythms, called circadian rhythms, are the signals our body clocks produce, and they affect every aspect of our life. They tell us when to wake up, be active, sleep and how energetic to be. Even how we socialize and feel are affected by circadian rhythms. In fact, these rhythms are so predictable, you can set your clock by them. That's where the term ‘body clock' comes from. Our body clocks have evolved to depend on the sun to function properly each day. The problem for most of us though, is that our lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. We no longer get up with the sun, and we stay up hours after dark. This plays havoc on our body clocks—they don't get the signals they need and so don't produce the right hormones during the day.

A circadian rhythm is a roughly-24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of humans, animals and plants. The term "circadian" comes from the Latin circa, "around", and diem, "day", meaning literally "about a day." We now know there are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle. The circadian "clock" in mammals is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a distinct group of cells located in the hypothalamus. Destruction of the SCN results in the complete absence of a regular sleep/wake rhythm.

But recently, evidence has emerged that circadian rhythms are found in many cells in the body—outside the SCN "master clock" as well. Cells from many parts of the body appear to have "free-running" rhythms. So just when we thought that there was a master clock that dictated all the rhythms, it seems like rhythm is everywhere in the body...fascinating.

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Frank Lipman, M.D.

Pioneer in Functional Medicine
For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How to Be Well, The New Health Rules, Young and Slim for Life, Revive and Total Renewal. After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non-Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness. He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, “If antibiotics are right, he’ll try it. If it’s an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things.” In addition to his practice, he is also an instructor in mbg's Functional Nutrition Program.
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Frank Lipman, M.D.

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