Metabolism is all about how your body makes use of food and water, nutrients and air. It’s also about how you deal with toxins from the environment and get rid of waste products.
But while most conversations on the subject are usually limited to things like energy and macronutrients, it turns out that metabolism directly influences the immune system. The process of metabolism is actually one of the major ways our immune cells are educated by the environment, and it plays a significant role in your immune health.
Your Schedule Affects Your Immunity
Like most things in the body, metabolic function works in cycles. Our immune system parallels these cycles, taking advantage of energy when available, and setting up a rest-and-repair schedule for rejuvenating damaged cells during metabolic off-hours. This helps ensure optimal immune function.
The way you arrange your days and nights really affects your metabolism, influencing how your body handles carbs, fats, calories, and all that. Yet your scheduling also impacts how much time is left for optimal immune function, effective healing, running the deep cleaning programs in your cells, and correcting the overactive aging processes most of us experience.
Here is a master key to remember — it’s really hard to heal or rejuvenate when you’re busy digesting sweet, fatty, junky, or highly-processed foods. These kinds of fuel are really distracting for your body, and you can’t have your best immunity or metabolism if you’re eating them very often.
Your body is actually pretty flexible in the scheduling of its peak healing and peak immunity times. But this can only go so far. With every day’s decisions about how you eat and live, you are either helping to promote healthier metabolism and immune function or hurting it, if your choices are not in line with your body’s protective strategy.
How to Harmonize with Your Body’s Clock
Humans have a body clock that is generally set for night-time rejuvenation and day-time duties of protection, activity, and digestion. Keeping this in mind, here are a few ways to harmonize with your highly evolved body clock:
Stick to certain meal times as much as possible, avoid snacks, and try to set a limited “eating window” of no more than about 10 hours from your first calorie of the day to your last calorie. (Important note — if you have issues regulating blood sugar, you should speak to your healthcare provider before making these types of changes.)
Maintain the same sleeping schedule at least 6 days per week, and ease into restful sleep by turning off devices at least 1 hour before bedtime. Keep your sleeping area cool, quiet, and dark.
Emphasize simple, unprocessed foods. One suggestion is to have at least one meal focused on fresh produce (like a meal salad or veggie bowl) and have generous servings of fresh foods.
Having a regular mind-body practice — like martial arts, yoga, or meditation — can help you resolve stress better, which can in turn help reduce midnight fridge raids and cravings for metabolically unsound and immune-damaging foods.
Enjoy prebiotic and high-fiber foods every day, because they help smooth out energy and mood bumps, and help satisfy the appetite long after you eat them. And they also feed the “friendly flora” in your gut that are so central to good immunity. Examples here include beans, berries, buckwheat, root vegetables, whole grains, and fibrous fruits like apples and pears.
For a Deeper Dive
Here’s a neat Scientific American article that describes how body clocks are set for specific functions at certain times, and how going against your clock with improper eating habits can disturb health. It helps explain why, for better immunity and a healthier response to stress, it may make sense to restrict fatty foods to the earlier part of your day.