“But it’s just an hour,” you think as you contemplate how the initiation of Daylight Savings time this past weekend could possibly wreak havoc on your digestive system. Local diet and nutrition experts, however, say science shows that the simple change to our sleep cycle can, in fact, have a negative impact on gut health.
“Research shows that, if you look at circadian rhythms, our body is influenced by that hour greatly,” says Emily Camiener, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Diet Detroit based in Bloomfield Township. “Not only that, but the change in light also greatly affects how well our bodies will adjust during this time,” she says. Camiener explains that the body’s response to sleep disruptions and longer hours of daylight can lead to hormonal changes that impact our appetite. “When we’re sleep-deprived, our body gives off hunger signals because of low levels of ghrelins and increased leptins.” Because of this hormonal imbalance, Camiener says it’s common for people to feel hungrier and to have a difficult time satisfying that hunger.
“When you don’t get enough sleep, your body might feel like it’s hungry because it needs more energy, but in reality, it just needs sleep — not more food.” Camiener, who says it can take up to a week to get adjusted to the new sleep-wake system, recommends eating foods that will give your body energy over the next few days. “You might want to go for the sweets or the high-fat foods but those don’t necessarily help with sleep. We combat that by making sure to have a variety of what we call macronutrients. Try to get a combination of lean animal proteins or plant-based proteins, and complex carbohydrates at each meal.”
She also suggests vitamin C-rich fruits, strawberries, Greek yogurt, and nuts for the healthy fats and sugars your body may be craving, as well as nuts, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables at each meal to help give your immune system the nutrients it needs for a boost amid increasing coronavirus concerns. “I’m also very concerned about immune system health during this week, so I want people to eat nourishing foods that are full of nutrients and vitamins and minerals. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and get a serving of nuts and seeds every day for that mineral content. We want people in Michigan to get enough zinc, enough vitamin C, enough fiber, which all tend to be low in us Michiganders’ diet. We want them to stay healthy this week as they’re transitioning through this exhaustion period.”
“Sleep and digestion are a pair because they are both a part of the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Mary Vandewiele, vice president of administration at Better Health Store, whose Bloomfield Hills location recently re-opened with an expansion of its café, offering organic health foods, juices, and kombucha. “The parasympathetic nervous system is called the ‘rest and digest system.’ If you’re already prone to digestive challenges, you’re likely to have more trouble sleeping and if you have trouble sleeping, then your digestion will likely worsen. It’s definitely a chain reaction. They kind of go hand in hand.”
For anyone struggling with sleep or digestive issues in light of setting your clocks back this week, Vandewiele recommends a calming bedtime regimen, including drinking chamomile tea or taking melatonin before bed. “There’s also a product called [Natural Vitality] Calm. It’s magnesium and you can actually put it in warm or hot water and drink it like tea,” she says. “Magnesium is very good for relaxing and many of us are magnesium-depleted anyway, so it can be a nice nutrient that affects our parasympathetic nervous system, too.” Of course, consult your physician before ingesting any health supplements or embarking on a new Daylight Savings diet.