How Inflammation Disrupts the Body’s “Clock”

One of the most magnificent ways the body performs its daily activities is by its internal “clock” system known as the circadian rhythm. Using the circadian rhythm, the body is able to adapt to and anticipate daily changes that may influence it. The mammalian circadian system is governed by a “master” clock, known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located in the hypothalamus. The SCN is synchronized according to light received by the eyes. This information is passed along by the SCN to other various “clocks” throughout the body, even at the cellular level. It’s been established that these clocks may influence genetic expression in certain tissues, and especially affecting the immune system.

With inflammation being at the basis of most diseases, and even affecting gene expression, researchers are interested in finding out whether inflammation may also affect the body’s circadian rhythms. Similarly, some believe that this reaction is bi-directional, with circadian rhythm modifications promoting an inflammatory response. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found a possible link between circadian rhythm disturbances and an increased inflammatory response elicited by the immune system. The researchers discovered that the absence of a key component in this clock system can actually activate inflammatory signaling within the body.

The basis of this research implies that finding underlying inflammation may allow for treatment before this inflammation leads to inflammatory diseases like diabetes and cancer. The results of the Salk study indicate that a disruption in this body system may be enough to stress body to signal an inflammatory immune response – initiating a cascade of deteriorating health. The scientists found that mice who were missing this “clock” component had higher levels of inflammatory molecules in the hypothalamus than mice who had the component. This is relevant, since the hypothalamus is a structure within the brain that controls the body’s sleep-wake cycles and regulation.

Now that this pathway has been established, researchers say that focus should be placed on suppressing the specific inflammatory pathway temporarily. The reason this pathway should only be inhibited temporarily is because the immune system’s inflammatory reaction is generally regarded as a beneficial reaction, until dysfunction causes chronic inflammation. Suppressing this pathway long-term could be detrimental, leading to increased risk for infection.

To avoid disruptions in the circadian rhythm, healthcare professionals suggest sticking to a regular sleep pattern, avoiding alcohol consumption, and eating a well-balanced diet. All of these factors can influence the circadian rhythm, which we now know affects other body systems, as well. Alternative therapies should also be considered. Systemic enzymes may be a helpful way in avoiding both the onset of inflammation, and progression of chronic inflammation. Enzymes are not capable of causing a long-term disruption in the specific pathway associated with disrupted circadian rhythm – so there is no risk of increased infection with the use of systemic enzymes. Furthermore, this type of therapy can be taken for prolonged period of time, in fact, this type of use is encouraged – as systemic enzymes may take several weeks to take effect.


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