As a shift worker, have you ever wondered why you’re constantly getting sick? Perhaps you are so used to feeling under the weather all of the time, that it’s become the new “normal” for you.
Well that’s because your body is functioning at a reduced capacity due to a lack of restorative sleep, similar to that feeling of being jet lagged after a nice vacation away, except that you haven’t flown anywhere!
Every day we push our bodies to work against our body’s natural sleep cycle, which is regulated by two body systems:
- Sleep/wake homeostasis and
- The circadian biological clock
Working at erratic hours means our sleep is constantly thrown out of sync.
So how does this affect our immune system?
This constant disruption to our sleep-wake cycles actually weakens the lining of our gut, making us prone to gastrointestinal complaints. An all too familiar experience for any one who has ever worked 24/7.
As the integrity of our gut is compromised, this has a flow on effect on our immune system because 80% of our immunity is found in the gut, thereby impairing our ability to fight off infections.
The gut itself is made up of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which helps to defend our body against harmful pathogens. This helps to explain why supporting the gut is KEY to maintaining a more robust immune system – particularly for anyone working 24/7.
How can I support my gut? By reducing consumption of the following inflammatory foods:
- Sugar as it feeds yeast and bad bacteria which can damage the intestinal lining of the gut, which makes it more porous, leading to the condition known as ‘leaky gut’.
- Trans fats which are found in packaged and highly processed foods, along with omega-6 fats which are found in sunflower, soybean and safflower oil are linked to inflammation and also contribute to visceral adiposity – the fancy word for excess belly fat.
- Dairy – especially milk and cheese which contains Lactose, a type of sugar found in milk, which is normally broken down in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase, however as we age, we produce less lactase which can lead to aggravation of the gut.
- Gluten – a sticky protein found in grains, including wheat, which is difficult to digest and can trigger inflammation in the gut.
By also introducing gut healing supplementation (under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner), it will also help to support your gut:
- Probiotics – to help re-colonize the gut with good bacteria.
- Digestive Enzymes – to help improve nutrient absorption and break down food particles.
- Aloe Vera Juice – to help heal the digestive system.
- L-glutamine powder – to help repair the digestive tract
So there you have it. If you want to help to improve your immunity whilst working 24/7, make sure you place all of your energy in healing the gut. Since 80% of our immune system is found in the gut (and shift workers are prone to digestive complaints), there has never been a better way to help boost your immunity – particularly when working those strange and irregular hours!