As shift workers we often push our bodies to the absolute limit, and unfortunately our immune systems get knocked around as a result.
Considering 80% of our immune system is found in the gut, it’s important that we support and nurture our gastrointestinal system because it acts as important barrier against pathogens – those nasty little micro-organisms which can cause disease. In other words, it helps to protect our body from the outside world.
Unfortunately, continual disruption to our sleep-wake cycle as a result of haphazard rosters, actually weakens the lining of the gut, impairing our ability to fight off infections. It also reduces important immunity cells in our body called T-cells, together with increasing inflammatory cells called cytokines.
Probably something your employer forgot to mention at your job interview – lol!
And not only are we running on limited sleep, but its often disjointed as a result of that nasty alarm clock which wakes us up at the most ungodly of hour! This prevents the body from completing the recommended 4-5 full sleep cycles which allow it to rest, restore and rejuvenate.
So how can we strengthen our immune system, despite working 24/7?
There are many ways to do this, but these are my Top 2:
- Focus on Nurturing A Healthy Gut – As Hippocates, the founding father of modern medicine, so famously said: “All health and disease begins in the gut” which is why it’s imperative that we support and nurture our gastrointestinal system. This includes ensuring there is a healthy amount of gut bacteria or gut flora, which can help in the regulation of an immune response. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring your diet contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables containing dietary fibre, also known as prebiotics, which is essentially the food for our gut microbes. In addition to plenty of dietary fibre and for an added boost, you can also alternate taking a broad-spectrum probiotic, which is a high strength multi-strain formula designed to provide beneficial bacteria to the entire digestive tract.
- Provide Support to Your Lymphatic System – the lymphatic system is our waste disposal system and is made up of glands, lymph nodes, the spleen, thymus and tonsils. This system aids the immune system by removing and destroying waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, and other toxic substances by moving it along in the lymph fluid into your glands. This explains why our glands become enlarged when we are sick. Rebounding on a mini-trampoline is a great way to improve the flow of lymph through the lymphatic tissues, together with ensuring you’re drinking enough water because dehydration prevents the flow of lymph fluid.
Of course, it’s important to remember that it’s OK that our bodies have to fight an infection every now and then.
It’s what it’s designed to do, which is why taking antibiotics continually is not a good thing because not only does it wipe out our good gut bacteria (goodbye immune system!), it’s not allowing our body to do what it’s supposed to do.
Whilst we don’t want to get sick, we do want to ensure our body is as resilient as humanly possible, in order for it to be able to fight an infection when it does come up, as opposed to being reliant on drugs and medication, which often come with nasty side-effects.
Scrivens, D 2012, ‘Rebounding: Good for the Lymph System’, Wellbeing Journal, vol. 17, no. 3
Wu, H & Wu, E 2012, ‘The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity’, Gut Microbes, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 4-14.