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Honey for Weight Loss and Sleep

Submitted by on Tuesday, 20 July 2010No Comment

Honey has been used as a popular sleep aid for thousands of years. An ancient Chinese saying calls for “eating honey every night,” and European folk healers have recommended drinking a cup of warm milk with honey before bedtime since the Middle Ages.

Another old-fashioned remedy is to take two teaspoons of cider vinegar with two teaspoons of honey in a glass of warm water before bedtime, while traditional Mexican healers have long prescribed a teaspoon of raw honey in a cup of warm chamomile tea. Variations include a teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water, a teaspoon of honey in a cup of passionflower tea, or simply a smear of honey on a peanut-butter sandwich before bedtime.

Honey, Sleep, and the HYMN Cycle
Scottish pharmacist, researcher, and author Mike McInnes believes that honey improves, facilitates, and lengthens restorative sleep by at least three mechanisms. When taken before bedtime, he teaches that honey:
** Ensures adequate liver-glycogen stores for eight hours of sleep. This prevents or limits the early-morning release of two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.
**Stabilizes blood-sugar levels.
**Contributes to the release of melatonin, the hormone required for both the recovery and rebuilding of body tissues during rest.

The mechanism for this process can be explained by what McInnes calls the Honey-Insulin-Melatonin cycle, or “HYMN Cycle.” The cycle is described in detail in his revolutionary book The Hibernation Diet, coauthored with his son Stuart.

How does the HYMN Cycle work? The process begins with the ingestion of one to two tablespoons of honey in the hour before bedtime.

The glucose portion of honey is digested and passes into the general blood circulation, producing a mild glucose spike. This mild elevation in blood sugar causes the pancreas to release a small amount of insulin into the bloodstream. This in turn drives tryptophan (an essential amino acid) into the brain, where it is converted to serotonin, a key hormone that promotes relaxation.

McInnes teaches that in darkness, serotonin is converted to melatonin in the pineal. (The melatonin signal forms part of the system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering the body’s temperature.) McInnes also stresses that melatonin inhibits the release of insulin from the pancreas, thus preventing a rapid drop in blood-sugar levels.

He points out that melatonin also promotes the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland. Growth hormone is the hormone governing all of recovery physiology, which includes fat burning.

Liver glycogen, the molecule that functions as the secondary long-term energy storage in animal cells, also plays a role. The liver takes up fructose from the honey, where some is converted to glucose and then to liver glycogen, thus providing the brain with a sustained supply of glucose for the night fast. McInnes maintains that the production of adequate glycogen by the liver can eliminate the release of stress hormones normally released by the adrenal glands to maintain fuel supply to the brain.

McInnes prescribes taking one to two tablespoons of honey an hour before bedtime in order to activate the HYMN Cycle: “With the consumption of honey before bedtime, sleep quality is improved, recovery (fat burning) physiology is optimized, and the chronic release of adrenal stress hormones is inhibited.”

Note from the book: Depending on the type, honey has a glycemic index of between 35 (Romanian locust honey) and 87 (unspecified Canadian honey). Yet in spite of the somehwhat higher glycemic index than even table sugar, honey has been able to actually contribute to low increases in glucose levels, even among diabetics.

Adapted from The Honey Prescription, by Nathaniel Altman (Healing Arts Press, 2010).

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