Ask any international traveler and they will tell you all about jet lag and how it is a real drag. You cannot sleep right, you are exhausted, irritable, maybe dehydrated, have a headache, feel nauseous, are unable to concentrate properly, and are just generally out of sorts. All of these symptoms are attributed to jet lag, which occurs when traveling by air and crossing multiple time zones. The reason these jet lag symptoms set in is because since the time zone jump happened at a rapid rate of speed, the body’s internal clock fell out of sync and is attempting to right itself.
Now, most people are aware of the various symptoms of jet lag and take preparations whenever possible to lessen the severity of jet lag symptoms as well as the recovery time needed to get back on the right track when it comes to night and day. However, there is one possibility of a bad side effect of jet lack that has recently been linked to jet lag. Some studies suggest that obesity could be caused by jet lag. Although this might sound far-reaching, the researchers who have made this claim have been studying circadian rhythms closely for years.
Circadian rhythms are the technical term for your body’s internal clock, which work to regulate your body according to light and darkness, either waking your body up or causing it to settle down so you are able to sleep. However, circadian rhythms are not just limited to these functions. In fact, one rhythm runs in stomach organisms. These microbes in the stomach have the rhythms that the host has, and once this gets out of sync, so do the organisms.
Previous studies have noticed a connection with frequent fliers as well as shift workers in regard to abnormal sleep cycles or jet lag. It has been noted that these types of people have a tendency to suffer from abnormal metabolism and obesity, but up until now what caused such a connection was a mystery.
It is well-documented that people need a good night’s sleep every night as part of maintaining good health. However, these sleep cycles become disrupted when crossing time zones rapidly, which occurs when flying, or shift work, where a person is working days for a period of time, then switches to nights. These situations cause the body’s internal clock to be out of sync until it can correct itself. Until the adjustment is made, those affected can suffer from insomnia, obesity, and many other symptoms, and this could escalate into serious conditions such as diabetes or even cancer.
In the stomach, a disrupted internal clock can allow bacteria to grow, and these types of bacteria have been linked to obesity. It is hoped that with this discovery of circadian rhythms and stomach microbes that treatments could be developed for people who suffer from jet lag often or those constantly tired shift workers. It appears that another mystery has been solved, and now the problem only awaits the development of a solution.