HSW 91 – Chrononutrition with Dr Jonathan Johnston

In today’s podcast episode, we’re talking all things chrononutrition with Dr Jonathan Johnston from the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom.  Dr Johnston is a world expert and researcher in the field of chrononutrition, and has led many studies looking at the links between circadian, metabolic and nutritional physiology including the analysis of timed meal effects on the human circadian system.

This topic of chrononutrition is particularly relevant for shift workers given when we work irregular hours or 24/7, we tend to eat 24/7 however the way in which your body digests and processes food, depends on what time of day that you eat it.

HSW 81: Is There A Perfect Shift Work Diet?

OK.  So this has to be the million dollar question.  Is there a perfect shift work diet?

After recording a free training recently on this exact topic in my Healthy Shift Workers Facebook Group that generated an enormous amount of interest, I decided to record a condensed version of this discussion on today’s podcast.

What you’re going to learn:

  • Why we need to take a look at some of the chronic health conditions faced by many shift workers today
  • Weaving our way through the minefield of dietary and nutrition advice out there
  • What the Apollo 11 space launch has to do with this conversation
  • Why I’m not recommending that you sign up for another diet (yay!), but to consider a way of eating, that is extremely beneficial for shift workers

To watch the full version of this training (45 minutes) on YouTube – Click Here

To join our Healthy Shift Workers Facebook Group – Click Here

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

 

Reference:

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.