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The Body Clock

Cutlery clock

All living things respond to the cycles of the sun and the moon, from the humble algae and bacteria, through parasites and all animals. In fact, biological timekeeping is a core property of life on a revolving planet such as earth and can affect all aspects of life including growth, reproduction, molecular biology and behaviour. The field of study of these biological rhythms is known as chronobiology. 

Probably the most important rhythm is the approximately 24 hour body cycle of night and day known as the circadian rhythm (circa meaning about and dies meaning day). Most animals have an intrinsic sleep/wake cycle of approximately a day and many parasites, for example, are known to be most active at night - often keeping their host awake. 

Then there are the infradian rhythms which are cycles longer than a day, such as the human menstrual cycle or the annual migration or hibernation of some animals. Some maintain that the human immune system has a 3 week cycle and a 7 day cycle known as a circaseptan rhythm is recognised as a cycle in many biological systems during which most issues resolve.

Biorhythms are the different physical, emotional and intellectual cycles which are believed to be set in motion at birth, with the physical cycle being 23 days, the emotional cycle being 28 days and the intellectual cycle being 33 days.

Whereas ultradian rhythms are cycles which are less than 24 hours including the 90 minute sleep cycle, the 4 hour nasal cycle (where one nostril is favoured and then the other) and the 3 hour cycle of growth hormone production. Even some genes are expressed more during certain hours of the day than during other hours.

The peaks of these cycles are referred to as the acrophase and the troughs, the bathyphase.

As you are probably aware, some people are morning people and others function better late at night. There may have been some evolutionary advantage to this arrangement as someone was always available to guard the camp and watch the fire while you slept. These different types are known as chronotypes and there are various ways of assessing which type you are according to various biological markers. 

During full moon and the period leading up to the full moon the gravitational pull of the moon has the power to draw not only the oceans of the world several metres towards itself, but also to cause the tectonic plates to rise by over a metre. Needless to say, given that the human body is mostly water, we too are affected by lunar cycles. 

Most women either menstruate or ovulate at or around full moon, there are more accidents, more violence and famously the mentally ill become unstable leading to the very word lunatic. 

There are also less obvious cycles relating to solar and cosmic radiation. Van Allen, whose name was given to the asteroid belt suggested that a difference in day and night-time solar radiation could be accounted for because the solar winds compress the side of the earth facing the sun whereas the opposite side is drawn into a long tail on the night side. 

He further suggested that the earth’s magnetic field causes a positive electrical charge on the side facing the sun and a negative charge on the nightside facing away. 


Traditional Chinese Medicine meridian cycles 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body cycles through twelve 2 hours cycles every day and night during which each meridian organ system becomes most active. So that for that particular organ system it is high tide.

The cycle can be regarded as running from 3 am when Liver time concludes and the body's energies turn outward in readying the body for the day by cleansing the lungs and the large intestine. Then, from 3 pm onward the energies flow back in to restore and maintain the body during rest and sleep. 

The meridians and their peak functioning times are itemised in the table below. This understanding has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to schedule therapies such as acupuncture at the most appropriate times. 



Meridian Function

1:00 - 3:00 am


The liver gets down to the work of apportioning the day's nutrients and detoxifying the day's toxin load. Deep resting and dreaming also occurs during this time and it is the worst time to eat as the Small Intestine meridian is at its lowest ebb. Anger, frustration and rage reach a peak.

3:00 - 5:00 am 


The respiratory tract, lungs and sinuses are cleansed and maintained. Gentle breathing occurs and sleep becomes shallower in preparation for waking. Grief and sadness may be experienced at this time.

5:00 - 7:00 am

Large Intestine

The large intestine packs the stool for excretion ideally at 7 am so it is important to allow time for elimination in the early morming. Drinking water and avoiding caffeine during this time helps promote defecation. Guilt and defensiveness may occur at this time. 

7:00 - 9:00 am


The peak time of the day for digestion. For this reason TCM advocates suggest having the main meal including protein at breakfast. The emotions of disgust and despair may be experienced at this time.

9:00 - 11:00 am


Said to be the most important digestive organ in TCM, the Spleen meridian directs the processes of digestion, transforming foods into Chi and blood. The Spleen also governs the immune system and allergies may be most pronounced at this time. This time window is good for thinking and working, although jealousy, worry and low self-esteem may also be experienced. 

11:00 am - 1:00 pm


Palpitations may be noticed during this time and the majority of heart attacks are said to occur during the late morning. This is not a time to place the heart under additional stress by exercising or being exposed to excessive heat. A good time for meeting, talking and eating, although joy and sadness may also occur. 

1:00 - 3:00 pm

Small Intestine

The small intestine is busy digesting lunch and this may be the time when symptoms such as indigestion, abdominal pain and bloating most occur. This time window is good for sorting and organising, although insecurity, vulnerability and abandonment may also be experienced.

3:00 - 5:00 pm


The Bladder meridian is associated with the skin and skin irritations and eczema may be noticed during this time. Many people may feel tired and want a nap mid-afternoon and a salty snack such as a bowl of miso soup is said to strengthen the Bladder meridian. Good for storing and reserving, although this time may be associated with timidity.

5:00 - 7:00 pm


Tiredness may carry over from Bladder time if the adrenals are depleted (also governed by the Kidney meridian). However, if the adrenals are strong, there may be a second wind of energy. Good for driving and consolidating, although fear and terror may reach a peak. 

7:00 - 9:00 pm


This meridian governs the master glands and reproductive organs. If depleted, low back pain may result arising from the kidneys. Good for socialising, flirting and sex. Negative aspects include being unresponsive and unable to express emotions, feeling hurt, or extremes of joy. 

9:00 - 11:00 pm

Triple Warmer

The Triple Warmer meridian governs the endocrine system and the blood vessels. Headaches or feeling tired and weak during this time may indicate significant arterial repair taking place. Good for relaxing, although may be associated with feelings of hopelessness, confusion, and paranoia. 

11:00 pm - 1:00 am

Gall Bladder

This meridian is associated with regeneration and sleep which is why we are told that the hours before midnight are important! If restless during this time, this indicates that the gallbladder and liver are overwhelmed and the toxins remaining in circulation are acting as an irritant to the brain. Emotions associated with this time window include bitterness and resentment. 



Solar nutrition

Also known as Chronobiotic Nutrition, the concept of solar nutrition began 10,000 years ago in Mongolia when the importance of eating specific foods at certain times of the day was first promoted. The underlying principle is that by eating foods that are energised at that time of day by the sun, that nutrients become aligned with the nutritional needs of the body enabling complete digestion and optimal vitalisation. 

  • Morning In the morning the sun's rays first strike the treetops so that the fruits and nuts that grow on these trees are thus vitalised for nourishment as morning foods. This means that morning foods include most nuts and nut oils, fruits, maple syrup, honey, and cream. Soaked almonds or prunes are considered perfect morning foods that help to promote the elimination of waste and set the body up for the day.  
  • Midday As the sun climbs in the sky, plants growing on the ground receive the sun's rays making low growing vegetables, grains and berries ideal daytime foods. Cows, turkeys and chickens live on the ground and are considered to be appropriate meats for lunch. Ideal lunchtime foods include vegetables and herbs that grow above ground, cereals, and fruits that grow on trees and bushes. Seeds and seed oils, dairy products and ghee are also midday foods. 
  • Evening Foods that have either grown underground or underwater are considered suitable during the hours of darkness when they can aid repair during sleep. This includes seafood, algae, root vegetables, ghee and peanut oil.


Brown rice is thought to be neutral and can be eaten any time of the day and citrus fruits should be eaten on their own. Meat and dairy products should not be eaten together. Some versions also include different recommendations according to blood type. 


The importance of breakfast

Although half the working population skip breakfast altogether, many more grab something to eat on their way to work, often a muffin, bacon sandwich, bar of chocolate, coffee or canned drink. 

Starting the day without refuelling may mean poor concentration, irritability, low blood sugar and cravings for something unhealthy in the middle of the morning. Skipping breakfast means poorer performance by schoolchildren, a greater risk  of accidents when driving, and a lack of efficiency and concentration at work. A recent study showed that people who ate breakfast were definitely happier than those who didn’t. 

Breakfast should literally be about breaking your fast of some 12 or more hours. When you wake your blood sugar will be at its lowest. Ideally you should be getting at least 25 percent of your day’s calories from breakfast, enough to keep you going right through until lunchtime, both physically and mentally. And, according to TCM, this is the optimal time of day for digestion so it is important to eat at this time, particularly if your digestion is weak.  


"Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper"


Further resources

You might also be interested in the following: 

Read button

The Best Breakfast

Planetary Returns

The Vernal Equinox

The Pineal Gland

Insomnia: The Hidden Epidemic

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Book Review: How Cosmic and Atmospheric Energies Influence Your Health

Book Review: Are You Sleeping in a Safe Place?

Book Review: Lights Out

For a comprehensive approach to detoxifying and restoring proper function for fatigue sufferers using natural means, please refer to The Natural Recovery Plan book


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The body clock: Article summary

This article looks at the various ways in which our body is influenced by various intrinsic and extrinsic cycles including the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory of meridian rhythms and the chronobiotic theory of eating which recommends specific foods be eaten at certain times of the day.


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The Natural Recovery Plan Ezine April 2012 Issue 28. Copyright Alison Adams 2012. All rights reserved
Dr Alison Adams Dentist, Naturopath, Author and Online Health Coach

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