Morning Light and Fatigue

The number 1 most commonly used drug in the world today is coffee, and this is because the vast proportion of the population is not exposed to the morning light.

We’ve moved from spending so much of our lives outdoors, to a completely indoor one and shift workers are especially vulnerable due to having to work shifts that go against the body’s innate timing system or circadian rhythm.

Morning light exposure stimulates the eye to instigate subconscious functions within the body. It activates the autonomic nervous system, part of the body that controls heartbeat, waste excretion, hunger, thirst etc.


HSW 47 – Gut Health, Probiotics and Sleep with Dr Jason Hawrelak.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast:

This week I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing one of the leading experts on gut health, Dr Jason Hawrelak who is a researcher, lecturer, naturopath, and nutritionist based in Hobart with over 17 years of clinical experience.

Whilst there’s an enormous amount of research on some of the damaging effects a poor diet has on our gut health (high saturated fats, low fibre, and high sugar), another less known factor is how sleep disruption can have negative implications on the state of our gut health too.

Given shift workers are prone to circadian rhythm disruption or a disruption to our sleep/wake cycle, what most people are unaware of is how this sleep disruption can actually disrupt the composition of our gut microbiota which can subsequently impair the lining of the digestive tract, leading to an increase in the permeability of the gut, otherwise known as “leaky gut”.

Dr Hawrelak goes into detail on some of the mechanisms behind this increase in intestinal permeability, along with discussing the difference between pre and probiotics; capsules versus powder; and when is the best time to take your probiotics in order to maximize their effectiveness.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

Probiotic Advisor

Goulds Natural Medicine Clinic

HSW 45 – Shift Work Cognition with Emily Breese.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:

Do you struggle with poor memory?  Perhaps you leave sticky notes everywhere as a reminder so that you don’t forget things?  Well if you work shift work, chances are you answered “yes” to that question and have experienced bouts of ‘forgetfulness’ thanks to your sleep deprived lifestyle.

In this episode I chat with Emily Breese, who is a PhD student from UK’s Open University, and is based in Milton Keynes, a town just outside of London, in the United Kingdom.  Emily is currently conducting a research study on some of the affects of shift work (including the disruption to our circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle), and how this affects our cognitive function.

Emily is looking for shift workers to be a part this study, so if you’re interested in participating or wanting to learn more, contact Emily via the links below:

Email –

Twitter – @emily_louise548

Gut Healing Stewed Apple Puddings with Kefir:

The Perfect Treat for Night Shift!

Gastrointestinal complaints are certainly a common ailment amongst those who work 24/7, in particular those who work the dreaded “night shift”.  This is because a lot of gastrointestinal functions decrease at night, and when we work (and eat) out of sync to our natural circadian rhythms or biological clock, it can cause havoc on our digestive system.

It’s important to remember that as human beings we are diurnal creatures, meaning we’re meant to be awake during the day, and asleep during the night – which also applies to our food intake.

However this is not always the case if you’re a shift worker.

As you know, we are awake and asleep at all different times of the day and/or night, but we need to keep in mind that nocturnal digestion is less efficient because our body is not designed for night-time calorie intake.

Some of these decreased functions of the gastrointestinal tract include:

  • A decrease in gastric acid secretion, which is needed to break down proteins.
  • A decline in digestive enzyme production including protease, lipase and amylase which are all needed to break down foods into smaller particles.
  • The pancreas secretes less insulin, which is needed to assist with the uptake of glucose into the cells.
  • Gastric motility slows right down – in other words, we’re less likely to poop during the night!

Essentially foods aren’t broken down and digested as well as if it was the daytime, which can lead to tummy upsets.  Things like abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea are just a few of these symptoms – some of which you’ve probably experienced at some point in time throughout your shift working career.

So given our digestive systems are essentially “sleeping” whilst we’re on night shift, foods which require minimal digestion, along with those which are going to help nourish our sensitive tummies make the perfect choice for night shift nutrition.

One of these types of foods include stewed apples, which are super healing on the digestive tract.

Pectin, which is found in apples, is a type of soluble fibre which has a mild laxative effect, so can help to relieve constipation, along with reducing that uncomfortable feeling of bloating.  It can also help to firm stools and reduce inflammation associated with diarrhoea, along with helping to maintain the delicate balance of beneficial micro-organisms in the gut.

In other words, they’re a pretty good gut-healing food for shift workers given we’re prone to various types of gastrointestinal complaints.

So here’s my Gut Healing Stewed Apple Pudding which can be taken into night shift for those times when you’re feeling like something sweet to eat, but is actually good for you too!

• 6 organic apples
• 1/2 cup filtered water
• 1/2 cup sultanas (for added sweetness and fibre)
• 2 tsp. cinnamon (helps with blood sugar regulation)

Peel and core the apples and chop them into small evenly sized pieces.  Put all the ingredients in a covered pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.  Cook until the pieces are soft and the colour turns light brown from the cinnamon.

Pop small batches of the pudding into small containers (the equivalent of about 1 apple each), which can be transported into work, and then left in the fridge until ready to eat.

Hope these make your night shifts a little more appealing!

Audra x

P.S:  for an added gut-healing effect, drizzle with goat’s milk kefir which is considered a more powerful version of yoghurt (with a thinner consistency), and is made from cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which are high in nutrients and probiotics.



Jiang, T, Gao, X, Wu, C, Tian, F, Lei, Q, Bi, J, Xie, B, Wang, H, Chen, S & Wang X 2016, ‘Apple-derived pectin modulates gut microbiota, improves gut barrier function, and attenuates metabolic endotoxemia in rats with diet-induced obesity’, Nutrients, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 1-20.

Koutsos, A, Tuohy, K & Lovegrove, J 2015, ‘Apples and cardiovascular health – Is the gut microbiota a core consideration?’ Nutrients, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 3959-3998.

Shift Work Nutrition:

Why Timing Is Everything!

Beautiful young woman holding a plate with food, diet and time concept close up

As a fully fledged Clinical Nutritionist (wow, I can finally say that now after completing a Bachelor of Science degree last week), I have to say there’s certainly a lot of emphasis in our training on WHAT our clients are eating, which undeniably plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being.

In fact, it sounds ridiculously simply given food is designed to nourish us, and provide us with the right balance of macro and micronutrients to fuel us each day.

However, after spending 6 years submerged under textbooks and inhaling the contents of journal articles (yes, it took me a bit longer to complete a 3 year degree whilst working full-time) I was a little intrigued as to why the topic of food TIMING was never discussed throughout my degree.

But perhaps that’s because I was the only one in my class interested in the timing of food – which for a shift worker is extremely relevant.

More and more research is beginning to surface on the importance of WHEN we’re eating (otherwise known as chrononutrition), and how it’s just as important as WHAT we’re eating – if not more.

This is because the body’s physiological response to food can be completely different depending on the circadian phase or timing of the body.

By this I mean, the body responds to food intake differently – depending on the time of day.

Given we’re quite literally walking clocks governed by a master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN located in the brain, food timing can can be an incredibly important aspect to our health as this ‘master clock’ sends messages to other circadian clocks located in various cells throughout the body including those in the pancreas, liver and gastrointestinal tract.

And here lies the problem for shift workers.

Human beings are diurnal creatures – that is, we’re meant to be awake during the day, and asleep during the night.

But shift workers don’t operate this way.

In fact there are times when we do the complete opposite, that is sleep during the day and remain awake during the night – which also includes EATING in the same way.

And when we eat out of sync to our body’s natural circadian clock, it can disrupt our metabolism making us more susceptible to gut disturbances such as intestinal permeability and dysbiosis, along with enhancing our risk to developing a host of other chronic diseases.

According to Professor Fred Turek, a professor at Northwestern University, humans are the only species on earth that disobey their biological clocks.

A pretty compelling statement don’t you think?

Thanks to Thomas Edison and his trusty little invention – the humble light bulb, we have quite literally become ‘creatures of the night’, pushing our bodies to work against their natural biochemistry which unfortunately, is having detrimental effects on our health.

So whilst I may have digressed a little, the point to my blog post is this.

Working 24/7 often means eating 24/7 – which is not ideal.

Eating as close to a “normal” eating pattern as possible is something that shift workers need to try and aspire to, and whilst I completely understand this can be quite challenging at times, eating a calorie dense, nutritionally void hamburger at 3am is not going to win you any favours in the digestive stakes.

But if you can eat “dinner” as close to dinner time as possible, and avoid eating heavy meals during the night when your digestive system is quite literally sleeping, then you’re going to feel a whole lot better then if you “fuel up” on a hamburger, donut and a soft-drink at 3am.

Big shift working hugs,

Audra x



Cagampang, F & Bruce, K 2012, ‘The role of the circadian clock system in nutrition and metabolism’, British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 108, pp. 381-382.