Irregular sleep/wake patterns, strange eating and not enough exposure to light/dark are all impacts of shift work, and all of these things can affect your body’s ‘master clock’ or circadian rhythm, which can play havoc on your overall health when out of whack.
How do you know you’re out of rhythm?
Effects of off beat circadian rhythm are varied and can be similar to symptoms of general poor-health. But if you’re feeling some of these and you are a shift-worker, chances are it’s due to your shady gut-health.
• Digestive issues – bloating, gas or diarrhoea.
• Sugar cravings.
• Bad breath.
• Food allergies or sensitivities.
• Moodiness, Anxiety and Depression.
• Skin problems – eczema.
Poor gut health can also be responsible for longer-term issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or peptic ulcer disease. Other long-term delights include diabetes, tumour and growths in the liver or gastrointestinal tract; obesity and accelerated aging. A few sombre reasons not to ignore your gut feelings on this.
Dance to the rhythm…
If your gut feeling is pointing to some of these symptoms it might be a good idea to tackle that loop and get your circadian back on track. We suggest, given the fact that sleep is the less manageable of the two when you’re in the throes of a night shift circuit, let’s look at jumping in at the gut and building good health from there.
Some tips for promoting better gut health:
Be pro(biotic) active:
Probably the most direct tack to take on this is by investing in a probiotic supplement and hitting it every day the same as you would your morning latte. In fact, perhaps sub the one for the other.
But you don’t need to spend up big, you can simply add more fermented foods to your diet like sauerkraut, kombucha, coconut water kefir, non-dairy yogurts, and kimchi – these will all have the same positive effects on your gut as a probiotic, and more fun to take too.
Staying hydrated is number one for digestion and overall health. When you don’t drink enough water your digestive system slows down significantly, and woh is that circadian.
Pump it up. Don’t enjoy drinking water? Add slices of fruit or cucumber, or a sprig of mint or drink herbal teas, or simply, just grin and bear it because it’s necessary and good for you. Get at least one litre through you daily.
Eat your gut healthy:
Regulating your diet and feeding your gut with ‘prebiotic’ foods is as important and effective as probiotics for shifting that rhythm. Jerusalem artichokes, cooked and cooled sweet potatoes, green bananas, onions, garlic asparagus and leafy greens are all great gut fertilizers.
When you eat is also important. Don’t confuse your body by trying to eat like you’re on a regular clock. Have your larger meal at the beginning of your shift, even if you don’t feel hungry –long shifts require nourishment, and better your metabolism kicking early rather than eating at 3am when your body wants to start slowing down.
As tempting as it is to have a little tipple to get to sleep, it will be better in the long run for you to go without. Alcohol will simply the fire in your belly and while you’re on the off beat can have severe effects on your liver. According to Dr Ali Keshavarzian who conducted a study on alcohol and gut-related inflammation, circadian disruption can hasten alcoholic liver disease, and even by itself can harm the gut lining as severely as alcohol abuse.