Disrupted Circadian Rhythm and Methylation Increases Cancer Risk

October 5, 2020 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Disrupted Circadian Rhythm and Methylation Increases Cancer Risk
The human body is a beautiful web of interaction. Its internal workings function in masterful beauty and synchronicity like a hand-crafted grandfather clock and an exquisite Swiss watch. Every cell and organ within our human frame depend on profound fundamental actions of the natural circadian rhythms. Entwined in this primal rhythm is the process of methylation.

A recent study “Methylation deficiency disrupts biological rhythms” describes findings pertaining to this connection. Biological rhythms pertain to the master clock in your brain and the clocks in your organs and cells. This research demonstrated that if the process of methylation is compromised, your circadian clocks become dysfunctional, which leads to significant health challenges

In Sync Circadian Rhythms


Modern living challenges our natural circadian rhythm like no other time in history. Shift work, artificial lights at night, blue light from tech devices, and human choice to stay up late at night or work/play around the clock substantially affect circadian rhythms. It desynchronizes your body to the natural day/night cycle.

When your circadian rhythms are in sync, it is like running downhill or you have green lights at all the stop lights when you are on the road. The work is easier to do. However, when your body clocks are out of sync, metabolism is sluggish or stressed. You feel like you cannot get into gear and everything is harder mentally, physically, and emotionally. An example is someone who normally awakes at 7:00 AM, now wakes up at 4:00 AM for a special event, a sick child, or has insomnia. For the rest of that day, you feel out of sync.

In Sync Methylation


Methylation is the process of moving methyl groups back and forth inside every cell. This process happens thousands of times each second and is vital to the normal running of every cell. In a similar fashion to the day/night circadian rhythms, when the methylation process is working well, it affects your overall health throughout your body.

Methylation impacts heart and blood vessels, brain, nerves and myelin, liver and detoxification, and reproductive systems. It affects your DNA production, estrogen metabolism and detoxification of numerous toxins, along with histamine metabolism. It impacts your fat metabolism, cell energy and mitochondria, eye health, and neurotransmitter production, thyroid function, and reproduction. Methylation depends on several nutrients to function. If methylation breaks down, then any one or all these things are impacted.

This recent study shows that when methylation is inadequate, it disrupts your internal body clocks. The altered metabolic effects of these two entwined fundamental processes contribute to adverse health changes, including increased cancer risk.

Disrupted Circadian Rhythms and Cancer Risk


As scientists have been unraveling the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm, several things have emerged within cancer research that recognizes circadian dysregulation as a cancer risk factor. The American Association for Cancer Research and the journal Cancer Discovery September 2020 publication stated that disrupted circadian rhythms have been designated as a probable carcinogen. Other current research suggests that breakdown in the natural 24/7 day/night circadian rhythms increases likelihood of cancer development and poor prognosis.

Disruption to the natural day/night rhythm changes cellular clocks, which cause a repetitive strain to normal metabolism. Instead of cell metabolism happening “like clockwork” it becomes chaotic and stressful. Circadian clock genes that direct apoptosis, or programmed cell death, fail to do their job in sync when circadian rhythms are disrupted. This increases the risk for unwanted cell proliferation and may trigger cancer cells to be more aggressive.

Here are some recent findings on cancer risks. Endometrial cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, colon and kidney cancer have been identified with circadian rhythm disruption. There are likely other cancer types influenced. Night shift workers especially with rotating shifts appear to be at greatest risk.

Methylation Disruption and Cancer Risk


It has been understood for decades that methylation disruption greatly impacts cancer development. Poor or insufficient methylation increases cancer gene expression and adversely affects gene stability. Inadequate methylation has been detected in tumors and metastatic tissues.

Cancer: 50-50 Chance in Your Lifetime


A 2015 report in the British Journal of Cancer projects that if you were born after 1960, you have more than a 50-50 chance you will get cancer in your lifetime. Indeed, cancer rates have increased in the United States at an alarming rate over the last few decades just like in the United Kingdom.

Modern living impacts our adherence to the natural day/night circadian rhythm and the nutrients necessary for methylation. Many other things like endocrine disrupting compounds with plastics, herbicides/pesticides, excess sugar, smoking, alcohol, cell phone radiation and excess sitting affect cancer risks. Several things also challenge methylation function in your body. Considering this information, you must ask yourself how well you are managing your total body burden and challenges, because the risks are real.

Natural Support for Methylation and Circadian Rhythms


Methylation function must be balanced with a healthy diet. Methylation superfoods include green leafy vegetables, beets, spinach, mushrooms, eggs, organ meats, peas, beans, legumes, shellfish, asparagus, Brussels’ sprouts, and avocado.

The two most essential nutrients for methylation function are vitamin B12 and folate. Several other nutrients directly impact methylation status. These include trimethylglycine (TMG) or betaine, methionine, cysteine, taurine, vitamin B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), choline, sulfur, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Several plant-based antioxidants help balance methylation. These include quercetin, curcumin, green tea polyphenols (EGCG), resveratrol, sulforaphane (broccoli sprouts extract), lycopene, luteolin, and lutein.

Essential nutrients that support the circadian rhythm include melatonin, magnesium, acetylcholine, folate, nobiletin, resveratrol, and phosphatidylserine. Make sure to follow the Five Rules of The Leptin Diet for healthy meal timing as this plays a vital role in circadian rhythm integrity.

Synchronization of your circadian rhythms and optimized methylation function is at the root of cell action and regulation. Today’s world and the many challenges, including poor nutrient status interfere with these processes. The past century has dramatically changed the way we interact with the world. It is now important to think about such concerns and how they impact health. Are your body clocks in sync and provided their essential nourishment?

Further information on the topics of circadian rhythms and methylation may be found in these resources:

MTHFR Gene Defects, Methylation, and Natural Support

Thyroid Health Depends on Balanced Methylation

Gluten Intolerance Affects Mood, Balance, Methylation and Brain Inflammation 

Hair Loss Disorder Alopecia Areata Linked to Thyroid, Celiac, Methylation

Asthma, Methylation, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Roundup

Are You Taking Folate or Folic Acid? Read This First

Disrupted Gut Clocks Linked with IBS, GERD, Obesity, and Other GI Concerns

Body Clocks and Weight Management – It’s All About Timing

Improve Your Sleep-Wake Rhythms for Immune Health

Get Back In Sync and Sleep Better In 7 Days

Cell Phone Radiation: Clear Evidence of Cancer 

New Research Links Cancer to Sugar Intake

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