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!
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.