The Underlying Causes Of Disease

We found a 5-part series which discusses the underlying causes of disease, put up by the Centre for Holistic Healthcare & Education Inc.

This series is useful to understanding more about how our body works, and how disease comes about.

  1. Toxicity
  2. Genetics, Epigenetics, & The Biology Of Belief
  3. Diet & Hidden Food Sensitivies
  4. The Microbiome
  5. Stress & The Biology Of Emotions

Source: Articles by Shawn M Persaud (


Does Stress Affect Your Cholesterol?


High cholesterol can increase your chance of heart attack and stroke. Stress can do that as well. Some research shows a possible link between stress and cholesterol. 

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in some foods and also produced by your body. The cholesterol content of food is not as noteworthy as the trans fats and saturated fats in our diets. These fats are what can cause the body to make more cholesterol.

There are so-called “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterols. Your ideal levels are:

  • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: more than 60 mg/dL
  • total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL

When bad cholesterol is too high, it can build up in your arteries. This affects how blood flows to your brain and your heart, which could cause stroke or heart attack.

Risk factors for high cholesterol

Risk factors for high cholesterol include:

  • family history of high cholesterol, heart problems, or strokes
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • smoking tobacco

You might be at risk for high cholesterol because you have a family history of it, or you might have a family history of heart problems or strokes. Lifestyle habits can also have a big impact on your cholesterol levels. Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, puts you at risk for high cholesterol. Diabetes can also damage the inside of your arteries and allow cholesterol to build up. Smoking tobacco can have the same effect.

If you’re 20 years old or older, and have not had a heart problem, the American Heart Association recommends that you have your cholesterol checked every four to six years. If you’ve already had a heart attack, have a family history of heart problems, or have high cholesterol, ask your doctor how often you should have a cholesterol test.

Stress and cholesterol link

There is compelling evidence that your level of stress can cause an increase in bad cholesterol indirectly. For example, one study found that stress is positively linked to having less healthy dietary habits, a higher body weight, and a less healthy diet, all of which are known risk factors for high cholesterol. This was found to be especially true in men.

Another study that focused on over 90,000 people found that those who self-reported being more stressed at work had a greater chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. This may be because the body releases a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress may be the mechanism behind how stress can increase cholesterol. Adrenaline may also be released, and these hormones can trigger a “fight or flight” response to deal with the stress. This response will then trigger triglycerides, which can boost “bad” cholesterol. 

Regardless of the physical reasons why stress can impact cholesterol, multiple studies show a positive correlation between high stress and high cholesterol. While there are other factors that can contribute to high cholesterol, it seems that stress can be one, too. 

Treatment and prevention

Coping with stress

Since there is a correlation between stress and cholesterol, preventing stress may help to prevent high cholesterol caused by it. 

Long-term chronic stress is more damaging to your health and cholesterol than brief, short-term periods of stress. Lowering stress over time can help to prevent cholesterol problems. Even if you can’t cut any stress from your life, there’s options available to help manage it. 

Coping with stress, whether brief or ongoing, can be difficult for many people. Coping with stress can be as simple as cutting out a few responsibilities or exercising more. Therapy with a trained psychologist can also provide new techniques to help patients manage stress. 


One of the best things you can do for both stress and cholesterol is to get regular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends walking for about 30 minutes a day, but they also point out that you can get a similar level of exercise just by cleaning your house!

Of course, going to the gym is also recommended, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get in Olympic shape overnight. Start with simple goals, even short workouts, and increase activity over time.

Know what kind of exercise routine suits your personality. If you’re more motivated to do the same exercise at a regular time, stick with a schedule. If you get bored easily, then challenge yourself with new activities.

Healthy eating

You can also significantly affect your cholesterol levels by eating more healthfully.

Start by reducing the saturated and trans fats in your grocery cart. Instead of red meats and processed lunch meats, choose leaner proteins like skinless poultry and fish. Replace full-fat dairy products with low- or nonfat versions. Eat plenty of whole grains and fresh produce, and avoid simple carbohydrates (sugar and white flour-based foods).

Avoid dieting and focus on simple, incremental changes. One study showed that diets and severely reduced calorie intake were actually associated with increased cortisol production, which raises your cholesterol.

Medications and alternative supplements 

If reducing stress hasn’t sufficiently reduced high cholesterol, there are medications and alternative remedies that you can try.

These medications and remedies include:

  • statins
  • niacin
  • fibrates
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Whether using prescription medications or alternative supplements, always consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan. Even if they’re natural, small changes in a treatment plan can interfere with medications or supplements you’re already taking.


There’s a correlation between high stress and high cholesterol, so whether your cholesterol levels are great or need lowering, maintaining a low stress level can be helpful. 

If stress is affecting your overall health, consult your doctor. They can advise you on an exercise program, a healthy diet, and medications if necessary. They may also refer you to a therapist to learn stress management techniques, which can be extremely beneficial.



How To Manage Your Stress By Changing Your Diet

Stress is normal. If your body can cope, your mind is better equipped.

Stress is unavoidable. Every day we face the stress of going out, getting from A to B, confronting others, doing difficult or tedious jobs, shopping, making our way home, settling domestic disputes, cooking, and then attempting to get some sleep.

It’s a tough old world, and that’s exactly how it’s going to stay for the foreseeable.

It may be unwelcome, but stress is the norm, and feeds human creativity. Who would really want to live a life devoid of challenges? The problem is that many people are just not coping with life’s slings and arrows.

You may not think that diet is involved in the body’s coping mechanisms, but think again. Your body is hard-wired to deal with stressful situations, given the right nutritional terrain. Find out below how stress can affect your body, as well as your mind, and then learn how to build your resistance.

Modern stress, ancient bodies

This may be the twenty-first century, but we still inhabit Stone Age bodies, with the same physiological make-up as our Paleolithic forebears. Our nervous and hormonal systems do not distinguish between stress of the ferocious-beast-intent-on-devouring-us type, or the vile-boss-making-unreasonable-demands type. The physical response is always the same.

Prolonged stress eventually take its toll on mind and body, to varying degrees. The reason why some people are able to deal with punishing stress levels for so long, whilst others succumb early to the detrimental effects of endless pressure, may lie in how well their adrenals are functioning.


The body’s response to stress is activated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The hypothalamus is a gland in the brain which stimulates and controls the pituitary gland in response to the changes it detects, and in turn the pituitary stimulates production of hormones by the adrenal glands. You are equipped with two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney, and these produce hormones in response to stressful situations or thoughts.

Anatomy of stress

It was the world authority on the subject, and author of ‘The Stress of Life’ (1956), Hans Selye, who first identified a common response to stress which he called the “General Adaptation Syndrome”. According to Selye, humans respond in three stages when under extreme pressure. These are:

Stage one — the alarm reaction, when your body goes on full alert. Stress is detected and the body reacts by producing adrenaline (aka epinephrine) and noradrenaline (aka norepinephrine). This is a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a given situation. It prepares you for “fight-or-flight”, and is short-term only.

Blood sugar rises, to give you more energy to fight or flee, and the heart pumps faster to get more oxygen and nutrients to muscles. Energy is routed away from non-essential functions, such as digestion. Breathing increases, and the respiratory passageways widen to accommodate more air, and therefore more oxygen. Blood clotting agents are mobilised, in case of wounding.

The alarm reaction is nothing less than a spectacular feat of biochemical engineering, and it is a pity that you are unable to appreciate its elegant sublimity when it’s going full throttle.

Stage two — adaptation, or resistance. You adapt to, and learn to cope with, the stressor, which is now a full-time feature in your life. During this stage, the hormone cortisol is produced in excess. Normally, cortisol is produced cyclically in what is termed the circadian rhythm: levels start to rise between 3am and 6am and gradually decrease throughout the day so that by night-time they are at their lowest.

You need this hormone because it:

  • Repairs cells
  • Increases blood sugar levels when needed
  • Increases mental and physical energy
  • Has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect
  • Improves mood
  • Stimulates fat burning
  • Controls the immune system — cortisol prevents over-reaction of white blood cells, which could lead to auto-immune disease (where the body fails to recognise self as self and attacks its own cells and organs)
  • Maintains blood pressure by preventing sodium loss

Like most essential things, cortisol is required in just the right amounts: too little, or too much, can disturb the homoeostasis of the body. With constantly high cortisol levels, you are vulnerable to infection and disease, because virtually all components of the immune response are suppressed by cortisol.

If you are at stage two, your symptoms are likely to include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia (because cortisol is high at night, when it should be low)
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Weight gain, especially around the abdominal area
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Signs of premature aging

Yes, it’s true – too much cortisol makes you fat, sick and old before your time. It can stress you out just thinking about it. The aging effect is due to the fact that too much cortisol also suppresses another important adrenal steroid hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA. DHEA is the hormone that keeps you young and slim, and is produced abundantly until around the age of 20, when levels start to decline.

Stage three — exhaustion. You are no longer able to deal with the stress and your resistance is gone.

Although the resistance stage can last for several years, the body’s capacity for adaptation has its limits, and if there is no let-up in the burden of mental trauma, the exhaustion stage is inevitable. It is at this point that disproportionate cortisol output, which the adrenals can no longer sustain, starts to decline, falling to below normal levels.

Mental and physical exhaustion ensue. You are running on empty, and every day have a new mountain to climb. It can feel overwhelming, as well as exhausting.

HPA axis is gone

Chronic fatigue syndrome is associated with an under-functioning HPA axis. So too is fibromyalgia, a condition characterised by musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, and which is associated with stress. People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have been found to under-secrete cortisol, as have otherwise healthy individuals living under conditions of chronic stress.

“A number of studies have now provided convincing evidence that the adrenal gland is hypoactive in some stress-related states. The phenomenon of hypocortisolism has mainly been described for patients, who experienced a traumatic event and subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Bellato et al (2012)

If you are at stage three, your symptoms are likely to include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Painful muscles
  • Apathy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Dizziness (especially on rising suddenly, because of low blood pressure)

Caroline came for a nutrition consultation for help with very low energy levels. She described herself as “very highly stressed.” She was fine in the morning, but only until 9am — and then her energy crashed for the rest of the day. That suggested to me that her cortisol levels also crashed, around about the same time.

A Stage 3 classic.

As well as very low energy, Caroline had regular headaches and a history of depression. She had taken Prozac in the past, but had come off all medication. She also suffered irritability, insomnia, frequent colds, and premenstrual syndrome.

She also loved sweet foods, especially chocolate, her comfort snack. This was particularly telling, and I was confident that a change of diet was just what she needed.

Diet — the three-step programme

The dietary regime designed to help stabilise the adrenals is essentially the same, whatever stage of adrenal stress you have arrived at.

There are three dietary steps you need to consider: stabilising blood sugar, eating the right fat, and making sure you have a high intake of the individual nutrients that the adrenals depend on.

1. Stabilise blood sugar

Achieving this takes the pressure off the adrenals and helps them normalise hormonal output. High cortisol elevates blood sugar, but if you are not producing enough cortisol you are more likely to experience low blood sugar. People with blood sugar disorders — such as type 2 diabetes — tend to have experience HPA axis overactivity.

In order to stabilise blood sugar, the most important dietary essential is the removal of all sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet. This means no sugar, and no starchy carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index.

The glycaemic index (GI) is a system that measures the rate at which the carbohydrate component of a food item enters the bloodstream and raises blood sugar, on a scale of 0 to 100. Carbohydrates are categorised as having a low, medium or high GI. A low GI is a score of 55 or less, a medium GI is 56–69 and a high GI score is 70 or more.

As you can see, almost all starchy carbs are off the menu. But if you like your carbohydrates and would find them hard to give them up, choose beans and lentils. They have a low glycemic index and reasonable amounts of protein.

Protein is a key component of blood sugar balance. Each meal should have a portion of a complete protein: meat, fish, eggs or cheese.

2. Eat the right kind of fat.

Another essential dietary component in your quest to normalise adrenal output are the essential fatty acids commonly known as omega-3 fatty acids, of the type found in oily fish. These fats help stabilise adrenal hormone output, especially over-activation triggered by mental stress. The best omega-3 fish sources are sardines, salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, anchovies and tuna (fresh, not tinned).

Oily fish is ideal because you combine omega-3 fat with high quality protein. A side or two of the nutrients below completes your meal.

3. Get the nutrients your adrenals need.

There are certain nutrients which are highly concentrated in the adrenals, and which are essential for healthy adrenal function. In particular, the adrenals need vitamin C, the B complex (especially B5) and the mineral magnesium.

Vitamin C — All fruits and vegetables, especially kiwi, strawberries, blueberries (and other berries), dark leafy greens such as spinach and watercress.

You need this vitamin to make cortisol and all adrenal steroid hormones. The more stressed you are, the more rapidly you use up circulating vitamin C which is normally found in highly concentrated levels in the adrenals. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) therapy has been shown to stabilise adrenal hormone output.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) — Mushrooms, meat (especially pork, duck and offal), eggs, cheese.

This is another vitamin also highly concentrated in the adrenal glands. It is needed to convert glucose into energy and make adrenal hormones.

Magnesium — Nuts (especially almonds, Brazils, cashews), meat, fish (white & oily), shellfish, beans, kale, spinach.

This is probably the most important mineral for adrenal health.

“Mg deficiency results in a stress effect and increased susceptibility to physiological damage produced by stress.”

In short, a diet devoid of sugar and refined carbohydrates but with plenty of beans, dark leafy greens, fruits, meat, fish (especially oily fish) and nuts is the one that will provide the nutrients that your adrenals need to function at optimal level.

Caroline’s diet was not helping her adrenal function.

Breakfast consisted of cereal with rice ‘milk’. Rice milk has an astronomical glycemic index — pushing 90 — so wasn’t helping. Lunch was usually a sandwich, and in the evening a vegetable curry with white rice was typical. Generally, she ate “loads” of bread and potatoes.

Caroline made the appropriate dietary changes, and came back to see me six weeks later. All credit to Caroline: she threw herself into the task of changing her diet, and didn’t cut corners. I think she saw this as her only chance — she simply didn’t know what else to do.

It paid off. Her health had been transformed during the previous six weeks: she was sleeping well, her energy and mood were “much better” and she had had no headaches. Cravings for sweet foods were gone.

Sometimes when I mentioned giving up sweet foods, I would see a shadow of horror pass across my client’s face. I had a way of dealing with this which always worked: I’d tell them that if they could just go five days sugar-free, within a week they would be free of cravings. I wasn’t making it up, and sure enough they would return sugar-sober, and quite evangelical about how well they felt because of it.

In short, Caroline’s body was coping better with the stress in her life, which was still there.

There was little I could do about her wayward children and indifferent husband, but that’s another story.

Do you have adrenal dysfunction?

The person best qualified to identify stress as a powerful determinant of your health and wellbeing is yourself. That is why, when I was a nutrition consultant regularly seeing stressed-out clients, I always asked the question: “Have you been stressed for a long time, and do you believe it is affecting your health?”

It was not uncommon, at this point, for my client to embark on a narrative of events, often starting in childhood. These stories were variously fascinating, heart-breaking, and shocking, but they were always unique and served as a reminder to me of the human ability to withstand enormous challenges and stresses.

At any stage of adrenal dysfunction (not to be confused with the medical condition adrenal insufficiency) you are likely to be using stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol to prop yourself up. You are also likely to have abnormal blood sugar levels and find yourself lurching from one cold or infection to another. You may find it difficult to get up in the morning and struggle with memory and concentration. Stressful situations become more difficult to handle and you find yourself becoming increasingly irascible.

Despite this, you might be driving yourself forward, eating poorly and never taking the time to relax.

If, by now, you suspect that sub-optimal adrenal function may be behind your symptoms you will hopefully be inspired by the knowledge that you can do something about it.

Got it

Not just diet…

Before embarking on a new dietary regime, you need to think seriously about the stress in your life and how to manage it. There is no one unique solution; the best approach combines stress management, relaxation techniques and of course dietary manipulation. Stress is one area where a truly holistic approach is crucial if you are to get effective results.

Exercise your mind

There are techniques you can adopt yourself and techniques which require the help of others. Exercise is a good starting point because this is something you can initiate on your own. Exercise is important because it helps normalise levels of stress hormones in the blood, and improves circulation. It also stimulates the release of endorphins — ‘happy hormones’ — that can elicit a sense of wellbeing and positivity. Aerobic exercise stimulates the production of cortisol, so ideally should be carried out in the morning only. Cortisol naturally falls towards evening, in preparation for sleep.

In addition to exercise, there are other effective tools you can utilise to manage stress levels. Your method of choice is a matter of what you feel drawn towards. Possibilities include meditation, positive imagery and deep breathing techniques. If you feel you need a talking therapy, you might want to consider some professional help from a stress clinic counsellor.

If ever there was an example of the mind-body connection, it is adrenal function. The mind affects the body, and although it can’t remove the stress, the body can help support and protect the mind, given the right ingredients.

Source: Article by Maria Cross MSc (


How Burnout At Work May Be Causing You To Gain Weight

A demanding workload at your job or school can increase your stress level — and your waistline. Here’s what you can do about it.

Feelings of burnout from work or school can lead to unhealthy behaviors that can cause some people to gain weight. Getty Images

Exhaustion and work fatigue might be bad for more than just your morale. They might be terrible for your waistline, too.

A new study from researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens found that adults who feel overworked or burned out often adopt an array of unhealthy behaviors that can lead to weight gain.

The researchers recruited almost 1,000 men and women who were working full-time jobs. They asked them to answer questions about their workloads as well as their feelings of exhaustion or burnout. They also asked the study participants to report their eating and exercise habits.

The results showed that employees with heavier or more demanding workloads are more likely to engage in emotional eating and eat without stopping. They also tend to pick foods that have more fat. 

Participants who were burned out showed the same unhealthy behaviors. They also exercised less, which further compounds weight gain potential.

“It makes perfect sense that chronic stress from work manifests in negative health behaviors and habits,” said clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. “The human psyche and physical body have a finite amount of energy. When the energy is depleted or nearing depletion, the systems won’t function at optimal capacity.”

She added, “When it comes to diet and exercise habits, the overstressed employee may simply be so depleted by work that the mind unconsciously or consciously says, ‘Hey, I’m exhausted. I know I should exercise and eat right, but I just don’t have the time nor energy.’ When this cycle is repeated, strong neural pathways are formed, and the habitual unhealthy behaviors become the norm.”

Burnout is a recognized health issue

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) added burnout to their list of diagnosable syndromes in 1992. 

In the 11th revision of ICD, which will be released in 2022, they expand the definition of the syndrome, making it clear burnout is the result of occupational stress and related exhaustion.

Some corporations and companies recognize the long-term impact this stress, poor self-care practices, and a lack of exercise can have in their workforce. 

Indeed, companies have been implementing workplace wellness programs for the last decade or so. Many of them focus on weight management and overall wellness, aspects of health that increase healthcare costs for the company and could lead to reduced productivity in the future.

But one element that seems to be missing in many of these wellness programs is a focus on handling the demands of a job. As this research shows, these demands can play a significant role in an employee’s health.

“Employers can do a great deal to create collaborative work environments that reduce stress and fuel noncompetitive, positive energy,” Manly said. “Clear employee goals, flexible work hours, and reasonable expectations also foster stress-free, positive work environments.”

Manly also says employers could consider staffing a receptive, supportive HR staff because they’re “vital for reducing overall stress, offering stress-reduction learning opportunities, and facilitating ongoing support for stressed employees.”

Help yourself avoid burnout

“There is a construct in psychological research called ‘self-control’ that is well understood and very much part of our daily lives,” said Chandler Chang, PhD, a psychologist and founder of Therapy Lab. “Self-control is what drives us to do things we may not initially want to do but that contribute to our well-being in the long run.” 

This includes things like exercise, good nutrition, and self-care, all of which can help people live healthier lives.

“The fascinating thing about self-control is that it works like a gas tank,” she said. “At the beginning of the day, our self-control ‘tanks’ are full, but by the end of the day, especially a long, grueling workday, our tanks are running on empty.”

In short, when you’re out of energy, you have to fight a lot of instincts to overrule yourself.

“People often blame themselves when their energy runs out and they make less healthy choices, but really it’s more about keeping that self-control tank full,” Chang said.

Here are some tips that may help:

1. Be aware

The first step to reversing the problem is recognizing it — and then being willing to do something about it. 

“Armed with nonjudgmental self-awareness, the individual can slowly but surely make choices that are healthier in the long term,” Manly said. “For example, healthy lunches and dinners can be prepped on Sundays to allow for easier healthy eating during a busy week.”

2. Ask for breaks and boundaries

Employers can help their employees keep their “gas tanks” full by offering breaks and setting healthy boundaries, like no evening emailing. If your employer doesn’t provide those boundaries or you think they’re still too intrusive, ask for adjustments.

3. Focus on sleep

Good sleep can cover a lot of ills. Poor sleep compounds work-related stress and anxiety. 

“Initially stress can suppress appetite, but when it is prolonged, it can lead to comfort eating or overindulgence in food and alcohol,” said Sabina Brennan, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Trinity College Dublin and author of “100 Days to a Younger Brain.” “When you get insufficient sleep or broken sleep, you will eat more the next day. Getting only four hours’ sleep for six days is sufficient to push your body into a prediabetic state.”

4. Go to HR

If your best efforts to rectify your exhaustion and burnout don’t amount to any changes, you may want to seek support and guidance from your company’s human resources staff, Manly says. 

These individuals are professionals with experience in helping employees sort through work-related issues and find reasonable solutions. Stressing your concerns to them may not only help you; it may help others in the same boat as you in the long run.



Are You a Night Owl? Here’s Why You May Have a Higher Risk for Disease

But making a few simple changes can help keep your late-night lifestyle from sending your health to the birds.

Is being a night owl having a negative impact on your health? Getty Images

It’s gotten so late that it’s early. You’ve been nose-down working and forgot to get groceries before the store closed. 

But that was hours ago and the only current options are those with bright neon sights beaming into the dead of night.

These are common scenarios for so-called night owls, the yin to the yang that are early birds. They’re typically awake when their neighbors are asleep.

But, unfortunately for our nighttime dwellers, those lack of nutritional options can have long-term health effects.

A new study looked at the negative health impacts of being a night owl, particularly by examining what they’re eating while awake during the wee hours of the morning.

The study, recently published in Advances in Nutrition, looked at available research and asked the question: Does when you go to bed affect your health? The short answer, according to the study authors, is yes it does.

The researchers — some of which are employees of food giant Nestle — focused on what’s known as a person’s chronotype. Your chronotype (or individual sleep pattern) is more commonly referred to as your circadian rhythm, or your sleep-wake cycles in relationship to the setting and rising of the sun.

The researchers examined available research on the health habits of daytime and nighttime people. They found, overall, that so-called night owls typically eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume more “energy drinks, alcoholic, sugary, and caffeinated beverages, as well as higher energy intake from fat.” 

A few observational studies (those regarded as having the least amount of accuracy) also show night owls are more likely to change what time they eat and skip meals — most often breakfast.

While the research definitely provides food for thought, it doesn’t suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between staying up late and eating poorly. 

Like many other things in life, there are many more factors at play.

The life and diet of a night owl

Those “night owl” hours are also when grocery stores and healthier restaurants that offer food delivery are typically closed. 

That often leaves only corner stores and fast-food restaurants as the last bastion of sustenance, which will inevitably offer worse food options: those higher in sugar, salt, and fat.

Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, says eating fatty and sugary foods late in the day require long digestion periods, which can cause unwanted weight gains, indigestion, and even increase the chances of having a stroke.

“One of the most devastating consequences being a night owl can have on a person’s health is the effect it has on maintaining healthy eating habits,” she told Healthline. “Eating a large meal in the evening can have a serious impact on your sleeping habits.”

Especially when that large meal is something like a hot dog, a bag of chips, and a fountain soda or a Mega burrito from the corner store. Along with those options are the beer in the back coolers and the tobacco behind the counter.

Those options, when plotted out on a timeline, typically create shorter lives filled with a lot of painful diseases.

But those who are more typically likely to work those hours — particularly freelancers, shift-workers, and those in the so-called “gig economy” — might not have another easy option.

Ben Taylor, founder of the advice portal for home workers and freelancers, said one annoying thing about the chronotype research was that it seemed to suggest that being a night owl is a conscious choice, even describing it as a “preference.”

“As someone who’s been self-employed and working from home for many years, I am fortunate enough to be able to work around my own natural rhythms,” Taylor told Healthline. “While I can force myself onto a nine-to-five pattern, if left to its own devices, my mind and body always defaults back to night owl.”

Taylor says that the times that people wake and sleep have evolved, “and it doesn’t seem right that studies like this are reported on in a way that suggests night owls are making a poor lifestyle choice.”

For some, it’s simply not a choice.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says 9 percent of the U.S. workforce is still on the clock at 9 a.m. and 3 percent are still plugging away at 2 a.m.

Whether it’s working a graveyard shift in the back of an ambulance or living in one time zone and working in another, someone has to be awake when everyone else is getting those precious hours of sleep that line up with the sun’s daily setting and rising.

And some even prefer the night hours because it’s quieter and less crowded. 

But knowing exactly how a night-owl lifestyle can negatively impact your health and increase your chances of certain preventable diseases is the first step in avoiding it.

Dr. Steven Zodkoy, director of Monmouth Advanced Medicine and author of Misdiagnosed: The Adrenal Fatigue Link, says the biggest reason night owls exist is an abnormal cortisol rhythm.

He says most people have higher levels of the hormone cortisol in the morning, but, chronically stressed people get that peak later in the day. 

“Night owls typically will have a shift in the normal pattern,” Zodkoy told Healthline.

Essentially, the later the brain fully wakes up, the later it’s ready to settle down for the night. 

That, Zodky says, can lead to poor sleep, fatigue, burnout, weight gain, anxiety, and other symptoms of “Type-A personality” traits.

To help minimize those effects, Zodky and others recommend exercise, relaxation, and other lifestyle changes. That includes the focus on food from the chronotype study.

Besides long-term preventable health effects, the cliché lifestyles of the night owl could have an immediate effect on your finances because you could end up making some poor mistakes.

Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, says a variety of studies suggest night owls tend to do worse on a variety of measures, including school performance, self-regulation, risk-taking, and risk of mood disturbance.

He said the new research adds “another interesting dimension” to circadian science, some of which can likely be explained by the dietary choices for night owls.

“But the bottom line question is, why do night owls have a poor diet? This is no doubt due to the mismatch in their internal circadian rhythm with the external clock,” Kansagra told Healthline.

One of the most devastating consequences of being a night owl is the effect it has on maintaining healthy eating habits. Getty Images

How night owls can protect themselves

The best thing you can do to avoid making impatient culinary decisions — especially if it’s late and you have a case of the “drunchies” — is to plan ahead. 

That means going out to the grocery store during those daylight hours when everyone else might be there and stocking up on healthy snacks. 

Baby carrots, bagged salads, rotisserie chickens, bananas, low-salt nuts, reduced-fat cheeses, whole grain crackers and bread can satisfy a lot of those late-night good mouthfeel snacks without adding unnecessary calories.

And, if you’re hankering for one more beer before bed, try picking up a 12-pack of canned bubbly water. Your brain gets the same refreshing feeling of cracking one last cold one with none of the alcohol.

But once the shift is over and it’s finally time to go to bed, people who could be considered a night owl — whether by choice, diet, or profession — can also make some simple changes to get better sleep.

Bill Fish, co-founder of, says the human circadian rhythm has evolved over millennium, but it changed when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb back in 1879.

“Until that time, humans woke up with the rise of the sun to either hunt or tend to the fields,” he told Healthline. “We then rested when it became dark.”

So, while you’re fighting eons of evolution and sleeping during the day, Fish recommends creating “a sleep sanctuary” with shades that blackout windows and a white noise machine to ensure you are allowing your body to naturally rest properly.

Other than that, it’s important to be mindful of what your body is trying to tell you.

“Monitor your diet to ensure you are consuming three quality meals per day,” Fish said, “and continue to do everything possible to monitor your health.”