HSW 34: Shift Work and Autoimmune Disease with Nutritionist Brad Leech.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:

Today’s podcast is pretty cool because I got to catch up and chat with a fellow student from University, Clinical Nutritionist and Ayurvedic Herbalist Brad Leech, who has an absolute passion when it comes to all things to do with autoimmune disease, a condition which is becoming more and more prevalent in society today.

With currently 80 recognized autoimmune diseases, and over 100 conditions suspected to have an autoimmune link or mechanism, Brad’s clinical focus is on finding and treating the underlying cause of autoimmune disease in each of his patients. His philosophy includes correcting four modifiable risk factors in the development and progression of autoimmune disease which include inflammation, intestinal permeability, dysbiosis and immune dysregulation.

Unfortunately, these risk factors often present in those who work 24/7, however Brad goes into detail in some of the mechanisms behind them, and what we can do as shift workers, to help minimise our risks in order to reduce our likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease. Some of these include increasing our levels of vitamin D to assist in the regulation of our immune system; implementing anti-inflammatory dietary changes such as eliminating gluten consumption; along with ways to stimulate the vagus nerve which is part of the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ arm of the nervous system, and helps to reduce inflammatory markers.

So if you have an autoimmune disease or you know someone who does, or you just want to learn how to avoid getting one, then you’re going to find this episode incredibly beneficial.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

Brad’s website

Brad’s shift working diagram

Vitamin D App

HSW 28: Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Pain with Naturopath and Nutritionist Ananda Mahony.


Healthy Shift Worker Episode 28:

OK, so I had lots of fun this week as I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my former lecturer’s, Ananda Mahony, who is the Senior Lecture of Nutritional Medicine at Endeavour College of Health here in Brisbane. In addition to her role as senior lecturer, Ananda works in clinical practice as a Naturopath and Nutritionist who is passionate about helping people who experience chronic pain. This ultimately led her to undertake a Masters Degree in Pain Management, to add to her repertoire of knowledge and skills in this area.

In this episode, Ananda describes how chronic pain is essentially an oversensitive or maladaptive nervous system response, and illustrates the mechanisms behind it’s development using her Christmas tree analogy. She also goes into detail explaining how sleep and pain is bio-directional, meaning pain can disturb our sleep and vice versa, along with the correlation between lower back and lower extremity pain, with low vitamin D, a symptom experienced by many who work 24/7.

So if you experience chronic pain and you’ve been unable to find a solution, then you’re not going to want to miss this episode!

Vitamin D, Sleep and Shift Work:

Why We Need To Be Spending More Time Outside in the Fresh Air!

Closeup doctor hands holding white card sign with vitamin D text message isolated on hospital cliic office background. Retro instagram style filter image

Thanks to our erratic shift schedules and overwhelming levels of fatigue, shift workers inadvertently spend less time in the outdoors.

However it’s not just those of us working 24/7 who are locking ourselves inside or soaking ourselves in sunscreens each time we venture outside in the sun, because there’s actually a world wide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.

And whilst we may call it a vitamin per se, it’s actually not a vitamin.  It’s a steroid hormone, meaning it’s a steroid that acts as a hormone.

This one little hormone has loads of responsibilities including helping to coordinate our metabolism, our digestive and cardio-vascular systems, along with our immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

But what about our sleep?

Well considering there are lots of vitamin D receptor sites found in the brain and brainstem (proteins found on the surface of a cell which “listen’ to incoming messages) which are linked to light cues on the retina in the eye helping to trigger the production of melatonin influencingour sleep, one can make the assumption that vitamin D has a very important role in our circadian clock or sleep/wake cycle. (more…)

Why Getting Plenty Of Sunshine Can Literally Save Your Life If You Work Shift Work.

Achieving good health when you work shift work can certainly be a tricky thing to achieve. And considering I’ve spent over 17 years of my life working crazy and irregular hours – I certainly have a good appreciation of just how hard it really is.

So today’s post is a little personal, but I want to share it with you because it might just save your life if you work shift work.

You see a visit to my doctor last week was a real wake up call. A real wake up call on the importance of sunshine – or more importantly getting enough Vitamin D.

Now I want you to know that I don’t just go and see any doctor. I see a doctor who specialises in Nutritional Medicine and one who focuses on finding the cause of your illness first. And considering he has a 12 month waiting list – I certainly give him my undivided attention when he talks to me about my health.

So when my recent blood tests revealed that I was low in Vitamin D – dangerously low, he really did get my attention.

Because shift workers are prone to vitamin D deficiency . We tend to spend more time inside during the day (a lot of that time can be sleeping if you work night shift) – which means less exposure to sunlight. And this is not good because your body needs a certain amount of sunlight to be able to obtain enough vitamin D.

And here are some interesting facts:

* Rates of breast, prostate, ovarian, and colon cancer are lower in people with more sunshine exposure.

* And there are 2,200 sunlight-associated cancer deaths yearly in the U.S versus 138,000 for the above-mentioned cancers.

You see the world has become obsessed with skin cancer (and rightly so), but if you were to rewind the clock back hundreds of years ago – there was no such thing as sunscreen and people didn’t spend most of their lives under a roof and between four walls.

So make the effort to spend more time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine because your health – or more specifically your levels of vitamin D, really does depend on it.

What Has Vitamin D Got To Do With Wearing A Bikini?

Many of you would know that we absorb Vitamin D from the sun. But did you know that studies have shown that the highest absorption of Vitamin D is made in the torso area?
Well when I read that I thought – ‘crap’ – you mean I’m going to have to go out and lie in the sun in my bikini? (Any blokes reading this I guess you’re going to be pretty happy about that).

But there is good news for us girls (thankfully as I haven’t worn a bikini since I was 10 years old), because wearing a bikini won’t be required! Phew!
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So long as you don’t live your life entirely inside, just going about your usual daily activities like dropping the kids off to school, taking the dog for a walk, or just enjoying a BBQ in the backyard will be enough sun exposure to get the necessary amounts of Vitamin D. So fortunately, you won’t have to expose your lumpy bits for all to see.
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Now if you’re living somewhere that doesn’t get much sun – then you’re going to have to find other ways of getting your vitamin D.
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We all should be eating a diet including a variety of foods, but foods that are particularly high in Vitamin D include milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, soymilk, fish – (salmon, sardines, tuna), mushrooms, and eggs.
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So the the best way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is to get some natural sunlight exposure (stay out of the sun between 10am – 3pm to avoid the harmful rays) plus enjoy a healthy diet of Vitamin D foods.
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Aren’t you glad we don’t all have to resort to wearing bikinis?