The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body's Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health

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9780805056617: The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body's Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health

A medical breakthrough explained by the leading authority on the connection between health and your body clock

Chronotherapy-adjusting the care of the body to coincide with the body's natural clock-is poised to be the next major revolution in medical science. An understanding and awareness of these rhythms will enable us to maximize the effects not only of medications and other treatments, but also of diets, exercise programs, and other daily routines. The Body Clock Guide to Better Health combines a detailed discussion of major issues such as sleep, exercise, and nutrition, with a comprehensive A-to-Z reference to specific disorders. Among the health concerns it addresses are AIDS, arthritis, asthma, ADD, backache, cancer, depression, diabetes, digestive problems, allergies, heart disease, chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, stroke, and complications from pregnancy. General chapters explore the big picture-including monthly cycles and life cycles-and provide invaluable advice on foods and dietary supplements, fitness, better sex, jet lag, and more. The first book to look at body rhythms from a practical perspective, The Body Clock Guide to Better Health offers readers the dual benefits of improving the treatment of specific conditions while boosting their overall health and wellness.

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We've all used the terms night owl and early riser; all felt the intense hunger pangs of midday and the subsequent ebb of energy after lunch; and all know what time of day we prefer to exercise or have sex. As explained in The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, these are normal cycles controlled by a sort of biological timepiece (housed in the brain's hypothalamus) that regulates everything from sleeping and eating patterns to heart rate, body temperature, and hormone production. These rhythms are vital to everyday functioning, yet, the authors claim, they're mostly overlooked when doctors prescribe treatment. This oversight, they suggest, diminishes the effectiveness of medical care; the potential for recovery and better health is enhanced when the timing of medication and other treatment is aligned with certain internal rhythms.

The Body Clock is an exhaustive guide to the merits of chronotherapy, which synchronizes healthcare with the patient's internal clock. This can be as simple as taking pain relievers at the time of day the body will best benefit from the medication, such as several hours before the patient's pain threshold will be at its lowest. (For most people, this is in the early morning; for this reason you're probably better off scheduling dental work in the late afternoon if possible.) Chronotherapy also has been shown to be effective for people managing chronic health problems such as asthma, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.

The authors, Michael Smolensky, who is director of the Memorial-Hermann Chronobiology Center and a professor at the University of Texas-Houston's School of Public Health, and Lynne Lamberg, a health writer, explain how monitoring one's clock by keeping a "chronorecord"--a personal chart that maps variations in mood, alertness, sleep cycle, eating habits, and symptoms of pain--can empower us in achieving long-term vitality. Chapter by chapter, they show how timing is everything, whether applied to weight loss, sleep, sex, exercise, or recovery from illness. In the section "Sickness and Health from A to (Nearly) Z," they address issues ranging from depression and hay fever to heartburn and skin disorders, giving practical advice on how to integrate awareness of the body clock and conventional treatment methods. For example, application of topical treatments such as moisturizers and hydrocortisone creams may be more beneficial in the afternoon than the morning because body temperature is higher and the skin more porous. Chronobiology may also explain the seasonality of illnesses: multiple sclerosis tends to worsen in late spring and summer; testicular cancer is diagnosed more in winter; and postmenopausal women detect their own breast cancers most frequently in the fall, probably due to "annual cycles in ... hormone activity or seasonal changes in melatonin secretion."

Aside from the insight we gain into our body's rhythms, perhaps The Body Clock's most valuable contribution is its advocacy of a more holistic understanding of bodily cycles and our capacity for healing. While not a replacement for conventional medical care, chronotherapy may at least give a helping hand in the process of recovery and health maintenance, adding a more personal dimension to the ordinary routines of conventional medical care. The Body Clock is an engaging resource for those who take, or want to take, an active role in wellness. --Rebecca Wright

From the Author:

From Co-Author Lynne Lamberg (

--I know the "Timewise Tips" in The Body Clock Guide to Better Health work: I use them myself every day.

--I sleep with the window blinds partly open. Morning light awakens me gently and naturally at about the same time each day.

--Though I'm a night owl and enjoy late-night Internet surfing, I make a real effort to get all the sleep I need to feel well-rested.

--I organize my day to tackle my most important work in the morning when I write best.

--I choose foods to maximize daytime alertness. That includes a high-protein breakfast. My usual lunch--yogurt and fruit, about 300 calories--lets me breeze through the afternoon without post-lunch sleepiness.

--Like other women, I tune into my monthly rhythms. Knowing there is a best time of the month and of the year to get a mammogram, and a best time of the month to get a Pap smear, I ask for specific dates when I call my gynecologist's office.

--If I get sick, even with a cold or the flu, I pay attention to the time of day that my symptoms are worst. If my doctor prescribes medicine, I ask if there's a time it works best or causes fewest side effects. I take one of my two daily doses of calcium at bedtime because bone remodeling is highest at night.

--When I travel across time zones, I use the jet lag advice in the book and go outside at the appropriate time to use sunlight to help reset my body clocks.

Michael Smolensky and I worked hard to distill useful advice for you from hundreds of scientific papers. You'll find our "Timewise Tips" in every chapter of our book. We hope these tips help you stay healthier, work more productively, sleep better, and enjoy life more.

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