Timekeepers of health
February 23, 2024

Timekeepers of health

Align activities with your body's natural rhythms for peak vitality.

How to master your body’s internal rhythms

Did you know that our organs operate on a specific schedule? And these internal rhythms contribute to our overall well-being? That’s right. Scroll to read about the fascinating world of the Chinese body clock—the timeless intersection of ancient wisdom and modern well-being.

Your biological clock, your internal timekeeper

It’s no secret that each of us has a biological clock. It’s our internal timekeeper. And it influences everything from our alertness to our sleepiness to when certain bodily functions are optimized. Known as the circadian rhythm, it’s driven by light and darkness. Ultimately, it helps us anticipate (and respond to!) daily changes in our environment. In turn, essential functions, like sleep, digestion, and hormone release, are well-timed.

What is the traditional Chinese medicine organ clock?

Tying in the circadian rhythm, let’s dive into the body’s organ clock. Yes, organ clock. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the organ clock—also known as the body clock—guides our bodily rhythms. In essence, this concept explains when certain organs are believed to be at their peak energy and function. 

All about Qi

Our organ clock is deeply rooted in ancient Chinese medicine philosphy. And this philosophy views the body as a complex system of flowing energy. This energy is known as Qi. As Qi flows through the body, it’s influenced by yin and yang forces—the dual nature of existance. And this contributes to our health and well-being.

To bring this full circle, each organ has its own Qi. And during a two-hour time period (during the 24-hour day), its Qi is believed to be most active and dominant.

How is the organ clock divided?

When it comes to the organ clock, time isn’t just ticking alongside seconds, minutes, and hours. It’s a vital conductor of well-being. With that in mind, traditional Chinese medicine divides the organ clock into 12 two-hour intervals. Each as its own meridian, which is an energy pathway in the body. Here's a brief overview:

  • 11:00 PM - 1:00 AM: Gallbladder meridian (yang) - This is a time for rest and regeneration, and the gallbladder is associated with decision-making and courage.
  • 1:00 AM - 3:00 AM: Liver meridian (yin) - The liver is associated with detoxification and the processing of emotions, making this a crucial time for rejuvenation.
  • 3:00 AM - 5:00 AM: Lung meridian (yin) - The lungs are linked to breath and energy circulation, and this time is often associated with replenishing Qi.
  • 5:00 AM - 7:00 AM: Large Intestine meridian (yang) - The large intestine is associated with elimination and letting go, aligning with the natural waking and elimination processes of the body.
  • 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM: Stomach meridian (yang) - Breakfast time, when the stomach is most active in digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM: Spleen/Pancreas meridian (yin) - This is a time of energy and nourishment, with the spleen responsible for transforming food into energy.
  • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM: Heart meridian (yin) - Peak of the day for heart function, associated with joy and emotional well-being.
  • 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM: Small intestine meridian (yang) - This is a time for sorting and absorbing nutrients, both physically and metaphorically.
  • 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM: Bladder meridian (yang) - The bladder is associated with the storage and elimination of fluids, and this period often correlates with the body's water metabolism.
  • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM: Kidney meridian (yin) - The kidneys are associated with the body's vital essence and are crucial for reproductive and developmental functions.
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM: Pericardium/circulation-sex meridian (yin) - This time is linked to emotional balance and the protection of the heart.
  • 9:00 PM - 11:00 PM: Triple burner/warmer meridian (yang) - This is a time of balancing and distributing bodily fluids and energy.

Eating in alignment with your organ clock

Wondering how to support your organ clock through nutrition? Here’s a helpful overview: 

  • Breakfast - stomach
    • Start your day with a nourishing breakfast, including fiber-rich carbs (fruit, 100% whole grains, etc.) and protein.
    • Avoid heavy or greasy foods that may burden the stomach's digestive processes.
  • Mid-Morning - spleen/pancreas
    • Snack on fruits, nuts, or seeds to sustain energy.
    • Opt for cooked foods, as they are easier for the spleen to process.
  • Lunch - heart 
    • Enjoy a balanced lunch with lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains.
    • Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids for heart health. We love this salmon salad with crackers or on a bed of greens!
  • Afternoon - small intestine and bladder
    • Have a light and hydrating afternoon snack, such as herbal tea or veggies with hummus.
    • Stay well-hydrated to support the bladder's function.
  • Dinner - kidneys
    • Include kidney-friendly foods like black beans, kidney beans, and foods rich in minerals. This grass-fed chili always hits the spot!
    • Choose warm, cooked meals to support kidney function. For some, opting for a lighter dinner is ideal as it eases the digestive load during the evening hours.
  • Night - triple burner 
    • Consider a small and easily digestible snack if needed.
    • Minimize heavy or stimulating foods close to bedtime to support restful sleep.