Your Eating Schedule Can Help You With Jet Lag
Jet lag, we don’t need to tell you, is annoying as hell. When we’re flying to a different part of the world – somewhere far away – we are subject to jet lag, meaning that physiologically we’re still back home, while our actual body is somewhere else. And this upset in our circadian rhythms can trigger an entire series of health-related problems such as an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
It is also important to note that jet lag is also a somewhat recent problem. In the past, people did not have the technological capability of travelling to a different part of the world without their bodies adjusting along the way.
In any case, a new study has revealed that delaying your meals prior to travelling somewhere can also delay your metabolic functions – which are also governed by our biological clock as well. Changing your meal schedule, coupled with light exposure can help you synchronise with the new time zone, avoid jet lag, or at least diminish it, and reduce the health problems that might come with it.
Contrary to popular belief, our bodies aren’t governed by a single body clock, but by a multitude of such circadian rhythms. Various organs have their own clocks, as they say, that are all synchronised together by a master clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) part of the brain.
All of these rhythms working together, help your body function normally. They govern your sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, body temperature, and all sorts of other important parts of our physiological lives. This is also why we are at a higher risk of disease if we disrupt these cycles via jet lag or working the graveyard shift, for that matter.
Researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK have recruited ten healthy volunteers who all were used to a three-meals-a-day schedule. In the survey, they delayed their meals by five hours each for a period of six days, after which they were asked to stay awake for the following 37 hours. They were also given some snacks every hour and were exposed to dim light, in order to measure their circadian rhythms.
“A 5-hour delay in meal times causes a 5-hour delay in our internal blood sugar rhythms,” said Jonathan Johnston, one of the authors of the new study published in Current Biology. “We think this is due to changes in clocks in our metabolic tissues, but not the ‘master’ clock in the brain.”
Previous methods of combating jet lag were base only on light therapy, where people were exposed to flashes of light. This technique works on regulating the master clock located in the brain. But by delaying your meals, the peripheral clocks are also shifted, thus shortening the time your body needs to adjust to the new time zones.
So, one good way of working with this is to know where you’ll be going and how many hours away that place is and then delay your meals accordingly. For instance, if you live in Boston and travel to Berlin, for instance, you can delay your meals by six hours for a few days prior to your departure. Similarly, if you’re travelling to LA, eat your meals three hours earlier than you normaly would.