The never-ending struggle to obtain some kind of semi-optimal health when you work erratic hours is pretty common amongst shift workers around the world. But is it really necessary to have a cupboard full of vitamins to safe guard yourself from nasty bugs and infections?
Well that’s a good question and definitely grounds for a debate.
Let’s face it, there’s so many opinions and ‘scientific research’ out there telling us to do this, or to do that – it can become very confusing. Not to mention what’s on the TV and inside the cover of most magazines you pick up these days.
So what is the right answer? As a shift worker should you or should you not take vitamin pills?
Well of course what I’m about to share with you is purely an opinion. I guess it’s another opinion, but as a budding nutritionist who is fascinated and intrigued by shift work health (or should I say shift work sickness) what I can do is offer you some advice based on my own personal experience (17 odd years of working shift work), along with a bit of academic research thrown in.
As a shift worker of nearly two decades (sigh, starting to feel a little old right now), I can tell you I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on trying to stay healthy. I did apply some healthy options over the years, but for the most it was all bad (poor diet, little exercise) and was in total denial about it as well. What’s also interesting is that I thought by taking lots of magical pills and powders (AKA lots of vitamins) I would be able to keep myself healthy – no matter what I ate.
After all, we live in a society today that thrives on sickness. It’s an industry in it’s own right that has helped build massive corporations – and made a lot of people very rich at the same time.
Don’t get me started on this one.
You see my behaviour was like most shift workers – eat crap food and supplement it with vitamins. If I do this surely I won’t get sick or develop ill health? Wrong! We should be eating a nutrient rich diet every single day and then supplementing it with vitamins, not the other way round.
But I’m a realist. We all know shift workers eat badly, but does that make it right? Just because your colleague or your workmate grabs a coke, burger and fries for lunch doesn’t mean you have to as well.
You can follow the crowd and become sick, or you can step away from the crowd and take responsibility for your health. It’s that simple.
If you eat well 80% of the time, it’s OK to have the odd treat and feel totally guilt free. But the key here is to eat well 80% of the time. Most shift workers won’t and perhaps you are even one of them. That’s OK if you want to gain weight, get sick and live a lethargic life. No amount of vitamins are going to keep you healthy with plenty of energy if your diet is really bad.
Vitamins should complement a healthy diet, not replace it.
So like I said at the begining, this is purely my opinion. You can take it or leave it.
However if you are taking vitamins to mask a highly processed, nutrient deficient diet then you might feel better psychologically for taking them, but that’s the only health benefit you are going to reap.