Shift Work Nutrition:

Are You Running On Empty?

closeup empty Gas Tank Illustration

Thanks to a very disrupted lifestyle which includes eating at erratic times, missing meal breaks or following a diet which is well, perhaps not the healthiest – shift workers often feel as though they’re running on flat batteries.  In fact a Japanese study of second-year medical students who skipped breakfast and ate their meals irregularly, showed a high prevalence of fatigue.

That being said, have you considered how what you are eating, may NOT be providing you with the energy boosting fuel that you require?

By this I’m referring to a diet which is made up of predominantly processed carbohydrates and sugars which are essentially ’empty calories’, and provide you with very little nourishment.

Without sufficient nourishment, we cannot function as well as we should.

It’s kind of like filling up a Ferrari sports car with contaminated fuel.  The engine is going to choke and splutter a lot because it’s not receiving the right fuel in order for it to be able to function.

So I’d like to pose this question to you.

Do you treat your body as if it’s a finely tuned, luxurious Ferrari or a dilapidated piece of junk not worthy of good nutrition?  Because unlike a motor vehicle, you cannot trade it in or upgrade it for something else!

Balanced diets are incredibly important for everyone, but even more so for sleep-deprived, energy depleted shift workers who have to function on little sleep.

This is because studies have shown diets which are high in fat or sugar, can disrupt circadian rhythms.

As if our circadian rhythms are not disrupted enough!

There is also mounting evidence that eating meals during the night-time (when our circadian rhythms are instinctively trying to promote sleep), can lead to a decrease in alertness, enhance weight gain and increase the risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity and/or Type 2 Diabetes.  This is why it’s recommended to avoid eating large meals between midnight and 6am, because the function of our entire digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, slows right down at this time of the night.

Thanks to circadian rhythm dsyregulation, shift workers are also prone to intestinal permeability, which is the fancy term for “leaky gut”, where the lining of the gut becomes a bit like a sieve.  This allows undigested molecules of food to pass into the bloodstream, causing inflammation – one of the biggest causes of disease and illness that we’re seeing in society today.

Leaky gut also means we’re not able to digest and assimilate all of the goodness out of the food that we’re eating, which can lead to malabsorption issues making it even more important to eat well.

In essence, without sufficient levels of nutrition, we are unable to fire on all cylinders.

Well, I’m a realist.  Not many shift workers fire on all cylinders.  Maybe two or three at best – but are you sabotaging your cylinders by filling them up with contaminated fuel – ie; highly refined processed carbohydrates, sugar-laden energy drinks, and foods dripping in trans fats?

At the end of the day, adequate nutrition plays an important role in our occupational health and well-being, and it’s up to us to take care of our health and well-being whilst working 24/7.

This means eating more unprocessed plant foods, organic meats, seafood and bone broths which are less likely to irritate the precious gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT.  This in turn, is going to help fill up your tank with nourishing fuel, just like a Ferrari engine deserves, in order to function as best as you possibly can – despite working 24/7.

Big shift working hugs,

Audra x

 

Reference:

Hamidi, M, Boggild, M & Cheung A 2016, ‘Running on empty: a review of nutrition and physicians’ well-being’, Postgraduate Medical Journal, pp. 1-4.

Tanaka, M, Mizuno, K, Fukuda, S, Shigihara, Y & Watanabe Y 2008, ‘Relationships between dietary habit and the prevalence of fatigue in medical students’, Nutrition, vol. 24, no. 10, pp. 985 – 989.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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