Updated: Jun 22, 2022
The Circadian Thyroid Thyroid activity is fundamentally related to our biological need to 'act'. Transversely, it is also implicated when our body does not act, as this too will affect the thyroid function.
In Western Medical terms, the thyroid
Regulates our metabolic functions
Provides our cells with Energy
Even when our body is at rest we know that it requires energy to keep our essential functions running smoothly. Our heart beat, our lungs, our CNS, our brain, our digestive system, our rest and repair mechanisms are all being fueled and continue to do essential activities whilst we either rest or sleep.
The World has a natural balance - day follows night, as night follows day. Each is important and has a function, profoundly influencing and affecting how all life develops upon the Planet.
Similarly, our biology has a natural balance. Our cells and our biological systems did not evolve in isolation, but in symbiotic harmony with the cycles of the Earth itself.
There is a time for all things, and that timing is reflected in the development and regulation of our body, as we move through different times of the day, the month, the quarterly seasons of the year and the life cycle of years themselves.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine Body Clock
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the body clock is classified as being relative to 12 divisions. These 12 divisions are all connected to the 'Meridians' of the body (a circuitry of energetic pathways which carry life-giving 'qi' to every part of the body).
These meridians are classified by the main organs as they traverse on their pathway through the body, although in reality the meridians are not 12 separate pathways, but one energetic pathway that is completely joined together. (We divide and separate the energy pathways into 12 divisions, which relate to our Circadian Rhythms which dictate the body’s energy requirements throughout the 24 hour cycle). Dividing the meridian energy pathway in this way assists our theoretical understanding and the practical applications of each meridian and its associated organs and functions.
As each Meridian channel moves through a main organ of the body (such as the liver, the large intestine or the heart), the organs themselves are regulated by the amount of 'energy' required for each organ and its system function (what its main function is within the overall body). Therefore the meridian clock indicates to us which of the channels and/or organs are at their 'zenith' point, and are receiving the greater concentration of 'qi' as it moves through the body throughout the daily (or seasonal cycle).
This makes complete sense, when we consider that within the natural cycles of the Earth. the body has need of different functions at different times of day or night. Therefore we see the overall regulation of energy requirement across the whole body system is guided by this natural cycle.
We can see how uncomplicated biological requirements are fulfilled by the rise and fall of the meridian energy flow throughout the 24 hour hour cycle in this illustration:
The Pineal Gland & Light The Pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the brain that modulates sleep patterns and therefore has an affect upon our circadian rhythms and how our body adapts to the cycles of the seasons, particularly through the influence of 'light'.
The relationship between the pineal gland and thyroid hormones was explored, and this test showed that thyroid hormone levels vary throughout the daytime, depending upon the levels of light. Although it sits almost in the very centre of the brain, in its deepest, most protected part, it is in fact a 'photoreceptor'. A sensor of the light.
Within esoteric wisdom, this tiny gland, hidden deep in our brains is associated with our ability to 'see the light', to become 'awakened', or indeed to become 'super-conscious'. It is akin to a tiny lighthouse in our mind, that not only has a very biological function in regulating our body patterns in response to the affects of light and dark, but also in regulating our deepest conscious responses to becoming personally 'enlightened'.
I think it is interesting to reflect on the pineal gland and its influence over the thyroid in relation to this aspect of its functionality.
We might individually spend some time reflecting on where in our life we "need to see the light", or indeed if there is a deeper reason to our situation, one which may be providing us with an opportunity to 'awaken' to a different level of awareness, of our own conscious evolution or 'enlightenment'...?
Thyroid Hormones & Circadian Rhythms
The Thyroid Circadian Rhythm precedes the circadian body temperature rhythm by 2 hours.
In the journal of Pineal Research, Jerry Friend published the results of a study (1984) that explored the influence of the pineal gland on thyroid hormones. Thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) were measured by radioimmunoassay at 4-hr intervals throughout the daily light-dark cycle (14L/10D). Both T4 and T3 concentrations increased significantly during the 'light' (L) period of the daily cycle and decreased during the 'dark' (D) period of the cycle; A.M. versus P.M. differences in free thyroxin indices (FTI) were also studied and was significantly greater in serum samples at 7 P.M. than at 7 A.M. (with lights on at 6:30 A.M.). Serum taken at 7 P.M. had less unsaturated binding sites than serum taken at 7 A.M.
The influence of light on these rhythms is clear. The same experiment also used blind subjects. There were no significant changes in levels between L & D cycles for the blind subjects, although their T4 and FTI's were significantly lower in general. This blind group was used as a comparison, with the differentiation being 'sight' and the 'eyes' being defined as the main source of light into the brain (and therefore the pineal gland itself.
In a separate research article published by Elsevier, E. Decuypere and E. R. Khun showed the effects of fasting and feeding on thyroid hormonal activity. This article concluded "Shifts in time of meal-eating were paralleled by shifts in circadian rhythms of glucose, rectal temperature, and serum T4 and T3 levels...serum rhythms of T3 and T4 are totally or partly due to meal-time-related shifts in 5′-monodeiodinase activity."
Therefore we can see that both eating times and daylight influences have an effect upon circadian rhythms, which in turn have an effect upon thyroid hormone activity.
To conclude these include:
5' - monodeiodinase activity (controlled by mealtime shifts)
T3 & T4 Levels being variable in light or dark time periods
Hormone binding ability (AM/PM variations)
Lowered T3 levels in periods of fasting
Higher T4 levels in periods of fasting
Importance of Regular Eating Patterns in Thyroid Hormone Activity
It has been shown that feeding, and the time of feeding itself is important in thyroid hormonal activity, as shifts in eating patterns will also shift the bodies internal references for thyroid conversion.
Interestingly, this importance of regular eating times mirrors the importance of the ancient traditional knowledge and wisdoms expressed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which advocates regular eating patterns as a lifestyle intervention indicated in any 'Spleen Qi Deficiency' pattern (which is the TCM pattern that is most often associated with people suffering with any thyroid dysfunction).
It is therefore important for anyone with thyroid issues to consider their lifestyle behaviours in relation to when and how they eat, along with their current patterns of sleep and waking.
Indications for Interrupted Sleep Patterns
As we have already mentioned, T3 peaks 2 hours before thyroxine levels increase. This is an important precursor to thyroxine rhythms, which have been confirmed to precede the body circadian rhythms (affecting 'wakeful functions') by 2 hours.
Sleep patterns are often a symptom of hypothyroidism!
Certainly for myself, one of the most debilitating symptoms was the continual tiredness I experienced. My difficulty in 'waking up' in the mornings and the inability to stay awake in the early afternoon. This, by looking at the TCM Meridian clock, was a good indicator that my T3 conversion was being severely compromised! (I will look at compromised T3 conversion in a separate article.)
Generally, any difficulty in waking up in the morning is a sure sign that there are low levels of T3 in the body and that the 'surge' of hormonal activity, which should precede the thyroxine and body rhythms, is significantly absent. However, it is also important here I feel, to remember the natural cycle of thyroid hormones and their natural cycle for binding, which should be lower in the evening, and increased in the morning.
One of the strange things that I experienced during my worst experiences with disrupted sleep patterns was, that I was often 'more awake' at significantly unlikely times of the evening. Often remaining awake very late into the evening, sometimes into early hours of the morning. Ironically, the difficulty of staying wake through the afternoon, and extreme tiredness even during my waking hours of the day would diminish late in the evening. Often, this 'energy boost' that occurred at this time made me want to stay awake later than I should have done! Mainly due to the feeling that I had been 'losing time' in the daytime light hours, (due to extreme tiredness, lack of focus and sometimes, simply being unable to stay awake) I would try to 'regain' lost time at night, and might stay up later than I should.
I am not sure how many thyroid sufferers experience this same pattern, but when I reflect upon it, I realise that it is likely to put additional strain on T3 use. Combined with limited T3 conversion rates in the daytime (as seen through the afternoon 'lul'), the overtaxing of this hormone would likely have been leaving my body in an extremely depleted state for the following morning. Hence the cycle of 'not waking' in the morning, falling further 'out of time' with the circadian rhythms and therefore further taxation on conversion etc.
We can see from this example that the cycle is either self-perpetuating in a positive and complementary way, but that any deviation out of or away from that cycle can have ongoing repercussions throughout the following cyclic functions.
Getting 'In Time'
One of the important things that has made a big difference on my own energy levels has been the recognition of the importance of the natural rhythmic cycles and how my body wants to move 'in time' with those! It sounds so simple, yet it is profoundly powerful medicine to get back into synch with the Earths revolutions. Think about ways that you might be able to harmonise better with the Earth and her rhythms.
Getting Up in the mornings
For example, try to get up (even if you are struggling)first thing in the morning, and find a way to connect to the Earth as soon as you possibly can - you can do this by
Taking a walk in nature
Grounding - take your shoes off and spend time with bare feet on the ground
Breathing Exercises & Meditation
Qi Gong Exercises
Going to Bed in the Evenings
In the evenings, if you suddenly get a surge of energy and 'wakefulness', break the habit of trying to 'make the most of it' at that time. Remind yourself that it is the wrong time of day to engage in this energy - and remember that this same level of energy is available to you at a different time of the day - if you can readjust your own inner clock. Do this by going to bed. Save that T3 usage and let it be available for the following morning (you will need it to create the surge of T3 activity 2 hours before your natural circadian body clock will switch. You don't need to do anything for this natural cycle to happen - simply go to bed earlier and let your body store and then utilise the growing stores of T3 at the correct time of day.
It may take some time for this pattern to readjust - but remind yourself at night that 'not utilising' that 'out of time' T3 surge late into the evening will help restore 'normal' circadian rhythms.
If you are suffering with afternoon 'dips' - your T3 conversion is lightly compromised.
Watch out for the next blog where I will talk about this and how to approach changing that.