shift work and the gut

Shift Work and the Gut

Are you a night shift worker or live with someone who is?


Shift workers are a huge part of our society, whether it be our health care professionals, emergency workers, airline workers, or 24-hour fuel attendants. We all know the night shift has a massive effect on our sleeping patterns, but have you considered the night-shift health risks to your greater health? 

For example, insulin resistance and pre-diabetes are very common in night shift workers due to how our bodies metabolise glucose during the day being very different from how our bodies deal with it at night. Even just one night of sleep deprivation reduces our body’s ability to handle glucose (sugar). 

And let’s be honest, at 3 a.m., most people are not reaching for a carrot, that’s when you are hitting up the pizza joint down the road. This is because we crave sugar and simple carbs in the middle of the night. After all, our appetite-regulating hormones are all out of whack.


Insulin resistance is not the only thing, studies have shown that shift workers have a higher prevalence of suffering from:
  • Poor immunity
  • Insulin resistant
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Weight gain
  • Poor mental health
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular issues
  • Poor decision making
  • Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • Relational issues such as less sleep = less empathy 
  • Dysbiosis


“The more aligned we are with our circadian rhythm*, the better our overall health is.”

Circadian rhythm is a normal, physiological mechanism that controls the cycle of sleep and waking and occurs about once every 24 hours.

Another study showed that disorganised sleep and higher sugar diets caused changes in gut microbiomes. 


For many, avoiding the night shift is not possible. So how do we look after our health while doing this?


Night Shift Health Tips:


1. When we are eating, it is just as important as what you are eating
  • Don’t flip meals to suit shifts. Try to align with the circadian rhythm. For example, eat a large, nutrient-dense dinner before the night shift so it sustains you for longer into the night
  • After a shift, eat a snack/small meal before bed. If you go to bed on an empty stomach after work, your blood sugars will drop, which fires off your stress response and wakes you up. So having a small bowl of porridge with some fats and protein is great (Add yoghurt, peanut butter, chia seeds, seeds, etc)


2. Sleep deprivation causes poor decision-making
  • Be prepared, and have a plan. Take healthy snacks that are not sugary
  • Have a glass of water when hungry. Are you hungry, or are you just bored or thirsty?
  • Don’t keep lollies/chocolate in sight. When you are tired, it’s so much harder to say no. When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind


3. Support digestion
  • As we have already discussed, due to our circadian rhythm, our body doesn’t work the same in the middle of the night as it does at lunch. Therefore, choose easy-to-digest foods during the night. Soups are amazing for the middle-of-the-night top-up. Try our Pumpkin Soup recipe
  • As our bodies are not in a state of digesting properly, taking digestive enzymes with meals will support digestion, which will, in turn, reduce gut symptoms such as abdominal bloating and cramping


4. Watch what you do at knockoff.
  • Avoid bright fluorescent lights once knocked off, so if you finish at 3 am, it’s best to keep light to a minimum, no late-night servo or gym stops and once you are home, just use lamps
  • Once you have knocked it off, start your wind-down routine. Especially, turning your phone onto night mode and avoiding social media/news


Thanks to all those who are slogging it out in the middle of the night for us!




Love Alissa & Kristyn ❤



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