Weight Loss In Shift Work:

Why Is It So Hard To Achieve?

Lose weight concept with person on a scale measuring kilograms

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, weight loss would have to top the charts hands down – every single year, every single time.

But when you’re a shift worker – achieving this goal can become even harder to reach.

In fact you probably go to bed at night (or the day, depending on your shift), wondering if you’re ever going to get back to that svelt figure that you once had when you were 16 years of age.

OK, if that’s what you’re aiming for then we may need to readjust your goals a little!

However if you’re trying to lose weight around working crazy and irregular hours, it can often feel as though it’s one step forward, two steps back.

Sounding familiar?

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard?

Well there are a number of reasons why but in a nutshell, whenever we’re sleep deprived our body essentially becomes biologically stressed (*).

Yep that’s right.

Our body is stressed even before we’ve walked through the front door and started our shift! (more…)

Our Gut Clock:

Why Circadian Misalignment Is A Shift Worker's Nemesis!

gutclock2As someone who works rotating shifts 24/7, have you ever noticed or wondered why you’re particularly susceptible to digestive issues and gastrointestinal complaints?

Well just to put your mind at rest – you’re not imagining things!

It’s called circadian rhythm misalignment, and it’s a nemesis for many shift workers around the world.

Circadian misalignment is when our endogenous or internal body clock is not consistent with our current environment or behaviour.  For example, a shift worker is often up when the sun is down, or eating during the night when everyone else is tucked into bed and sound asleep.

In other words – we’re doing everything backwards.

Our circadian rhythms operate in 24 hour cycles under the masterful instruction of our core master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus which is located in the brain, just below the hypothalamus*.

Besides being very hard to pronounce, this nucleus is responsible for coordinating all of our internal rhythms or clocks in a synchronized way, and talks to other tissues within the body which have their own internal clock oscillators such as the gastrointestinal tract or GIT.

And here lies the problem for shift workers. (more…)

How Healthy Is Your Shift Work Heart?

cardiac diseaseSo I’ve been doing a bit of research on heart health this week thanks to a subject I’m studying at University at the moment called Clinical Examination.  My poor hubby has had to be a bit of a guinea pig for me as I hone my blood pressure taking skills in order to complete this subject (amongst other things), so lucky for me he has a big heart and loves me to bits!

However did you know studies have shown shift work is associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction (a fancy word for a heart attack), ischaemic stroke (a stroke caused from a blood clot), and other coronary or cardiac events (British Medical Journal 2012).

Not great news if you work 24/7.

In fact according to a particular systemic review* (a document which answers a question by reviewing research) and meta-analysis (a document which combines these findings into a statistical format) – all shift schedules with the exception of evening shifts were associated with a statistically higher risk of heart-related events.

So whilst shift work is known for disrupting our circadian rhythm or natural sleep cycle, taking care of your heart has never been more important when working irregular hours.

In fact according to Lo (et al. 2010~), even a single night shift is enough to increase blood pressure and impair the variation in time between heart beats, whilst insomnia has shown to be an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction (Laugsand et al. 2011+).

I don’t suppose your employer pointed out any of these conditions when you signed up to work 24/7.

But that’s OK – because that’s where I come in.

My passion for education and training (in conjunction with shift work health) is what steered me down a path to begin studying a science degree, majoring in Nutritional Medicine.

You see despite what many “experts” tell you – I really do believe that food is medicine, particularly when it comes to the health of our heart.

5 Foods To Support A Healthy Shift Worker Heart:

  1. FISH – such as salmon, mackerel or tuna which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and known to have an anti-clotting effect to help maintain blood flow, together with reducing triglycerides – a type of fat that can lead to heart disease.
  2. OATMEAL – a cup of oatmeal for breakfast will do wonders for your heart health because it contains beta-glucan, a fibre known to help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood (the nasty type of cholesterol).
  3. RED GRAPES – a handful of these will help to keep platelets in your blood from sticking together thanks to a type of antioxidant called resveratrol.
  4. RASPBERRIES – contain soluble fibre and vitamin C which are known to lower risk of stroke, as well as a type of antioxidant called polyphenol which helps to remove free radicals which cause oxidative damage to your body.
  5. WALNUTS – contain a certain amount of healthy monounsaturated fats which can help to reduce your nasty LDL cholesterol whilst also raising your “good” HDL cholesterol.

So make sure you take extra good care of your heart whilst working 24/7 and always seek medical advice from a qualified health provider with any specific questions you may have regarding any medical condition.  At the end of the day, prevention will always be better than cure – particularly when it comes to the manifestation of diseases such as cardiac or coronary heart disease.

* Manav V et al. 2012, ‘Shift work and vascular events: systemic review and meta-anaylsis’, British Medical Journal.

~ Lo et al. 2010, ‘Working the night shift causes increased vascular stress and delayed recovery in young women’, Chronobiology International.

+ Laugsand et al. 2011, ‘Insomnia and the risk of acute myocardial infarction’, Circulation.

15 Heart Healthy Foods To Work Into Your Diet