Administering Medicines at spaced intervals as opposed to when most effective:
Although Western medicine discovered circadian rhythms about 300 years ago, chronobiology, the science of synchronizing medication and medical procedures to body rhythms, is still very much in its infancy.
Unfortunately in Western medicine, we don’t consider the circadian rhythms or, in fact, any of our body’s rhythms at all. If we did, we’d prescribe different doses of medications at different times of the day to align with the ebb and flow of our changing physiological functions–because the way our bodies absorb, metabolize and excrete drugs varies depending on the time of day. It makes sense that we should be administering drugs, (and supplements for that matter), at the times when they are the most effective. But instead, we prescribe medicines at spaced intervals, arbitrarily choosing times that make it easier for people to remember to take their meds, rather than giving them at the times when they’d work best.
Reducing side effects taking circadian rhythms into account:
I believe we could reduce drugs’ side effects if we took our circadian rhythms into account. For example, taking aspirin at night instead of in the morning will reduce your chances of developing stomach irritation, a fairly common problem for the millions of people who take a daily aspirin to help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Chemotherapy is another example where taking our body’s rhythms into account can make a difference. This is because its side effects are mostly caused when healthy cells are killed along with the rapidly-dividing cancer cells. We know that the circadian rhythm of the healthy cells differs from that of the cancer cells. Most normal cells have a 24-hour life cycle, but cancer cells divide more rapidly. Generally, the more aggressive the cancer, the more rapidly the cells divide. Since cells are most vulnerable to damage when they divide, targeting them when the normal cells are resting and the cancer cells are dividing would be ideal. Doing so could lessen toxicity and even enable the use of higher chemo doses to more effectively kill cancer cells while protecting healthy ones. For instance, 5-Fluorouracil, a commonly-used chemotherapy drug, causes fewer side effects when given overnight by infusion while the patient sleeps. However, two other commonly used chemotherapy agents, Doxorubicin and Adriamycin, are better tolerated when they’re given in the morning.
It also makes intuitive sense that when a pre-menopausal woman receives chemo or undergoes surgery for hormone-related cancers, such as breast or ovarian cancer, we should coordinate these treatments appropriately with her menstrual cycle. Although there are some studies that show the effectiveness of this strategy, rarely, if ever, is such common-sense wisdom taken into account.
Scheduling certain diagnostic tests:
Circadian rhythms should also be considered when it comes to scheduling certain diagnostic tests. For instance, Pap smears, which rule out cervical cancer, tend to be most accurate when they’re taken near the time of ovulation.
We know that timing is essential when we play golf or hit a tennis ball, why can’t we be more aware of it when it comes to our health.