Are you eating food made out a laboratory … AKA lots of ultra-processed, refined and sugar-laden foods, or more whole, real foods designed by Mother Nature?
Because apart from the fact the body struggles to break down and digest these types of “foods”, according to a French study published in JAMA (2019), for every 10% portion of our diet that’s made up of processed foods, our risk of developing diabetes jumps up another 15% right along with it.
Now this might not sound earth-shattering, but if you are a shift worker, this percentage rises even more as sleep deprivation, alone, disrupts the regulation of blood sugar levels.
This is because if you’re awake when you’re not meant to be (AKA the life of EVERY shift worker on the planet!), it leads to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels.
The body does this because when you’re sleep deprived, it senses that your life is in danger.
I was speaking at a conference on the weekend, and I asked the attendees the following question:
“Do you have a lollie jar stashed in a drawer at work? There were quite a few nods in the room, and one guy even said they have a Lollie Locker!
Whooska. Well, at least he was honest.
The thing is, they’re pretty much in every shift working workplace on the planet.
Incredibly, (but not surprisingly), they line the drawers of most hospital wards … but don’t get me started about the food in the hospitals. I’m going to save that for an entirely different email!!
Anyway, I digress.
Getting back to the lollie jar. Does your workplace also have those “fundraising choccies” that make several appearances throughout the year??
It’s for a good cause, right?
Well … yes, I’m not going to disagree with that, but at what cost to those who are consuming these sugar-laden treats?
You see, when we’re constantly sleep-deprived our bodies are essentially in a state of ‘fight or flight’ which leads us to crave sugar.
The other day I had someone ask me, “Audra, what’s the number one food that you avoid when you want to sleep better?”
I know right. I can almost hear you let out an enormous sigh. Damn it! We all love sugar – especially when we’re sleep deprived!
But the thing is, our bodies need nutrients – not sugar.
Yes, sugar can give us an energy boost, but too much sugar, on the other hand, can cause something called hypoglycemia, where the blood sugar ends up dropping quite severely, leading to an energy slump later on.
Not ideal when you’re trying to pry your eyes open from getting up at “stupid o’clock”, or trying to stay awake during the night shift.
But getting back to nutrients.
Nutrients = information, and sugar, especially the highly refined and processed sugar found in most processed and takeaway foods do not contain nutrients, and this can cause problems. Especially on our sleep.
Let me explain.
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:
Goulds Natural Medicine Clinic
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:
One of the most common struggles I hear from my shift working clients is this ongoing, relentless craving for sugar!
But why is that? Why are shift workers notorious for craving (and eating) all of the sweet stuff – the highly refined carbohydrates that are neither good for our insides or our waistline?!
Well it all comes back to sleep deprivation, so in this episode I will be shedding the light on how lack of sleep effects our brain function, and how one chemical in particular, which causes us to seek out and eat foods which are high in sugar, is much higher in those who are sleep deprived.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download