In the modern era, many people are opening their eyes to the true importance of maintaining the health of their gut. Shift workers in particular struggle with gut health, considering the difficulty of maintaining good habits during a demanding schedule. Many night shift workers often find themselves more vulnerable to health issues and find certain eating habits can have a negative impact on their digestive health.
Here are 7 tips to IMPROVE gut health for night shift workers,
1. Eat your main meal before going to work
It is recommended to eat the main meal before going to work. This helps by allowing the body to process and digest the food before they begin their shift. Eating before a shift will ensure the body remains fuelled for the long hours ahead and will assist with maintaining energy levels.
We all get that lull after eating big meals that make us feel like a sedated sloth or make us want to put on our PJ's for a nanna nap. Eating smaller meals or snacks whilst on shift will prevent that dip in energy.
2. Avoid high-fat, fried or spicy foods
Certain foods are much harder to digest, especially during the night time when the digestive system slows down. High-fat, fried, and spicy foods should be avoided as they could cause heartburn, indigestion, gas and constipation.
We all love a bit of spice in our lives but definitely best to leave the spice for the days off if wanting to avoid an uncomfortable shift at work.
3. Pack healthy meals and snacks
Our taste buds often cause us a bit of a dilemma. Its so frustrating to say this, but often things that taste the best tend to have bad implications on your health. To avoid being tempted by those delicious but not helpful snacks, pack more healthy options such as fruit, hummus and carrot sticks, hard boiled eggs, home made granola or smoothies with added protein.
Smaller snacks and lighter meals are better foods to eat during a shift, as they don't cause as much distress to the gut when eaten, due to food being much easier to digest in small portions.
Soup is a great thing to eat during a night shift as the liquid form of the food means it's already started to be broken down and puts less strain on the digestive system.
4. Substitute caffeine for water
Caffeine is a substance that many shift workers rely on, rather than the generally accepted glucose and good amount of rest. This is a bad habit to get into as caffeine causes distress to the gut, making digestion a needlessly painful experience.
Instead drink water when feeling the need for refreshment. This has notably better benefits in regards to not just general health but the gut too. If a pick-me-up is required, one cup of coffee is actually generally healthy, just best not to drink it in excess.
5. Skip sweet snacks
When the urge to buy and consume a treat comes over a shift worker, it's best for them to avoid the sugar.
Research has shown that the pancreas doesn’t work as well during the night so it’s not able to manage the blood sugar. A healthier and more gut friendly option would be to reach for nuts, seeds and yoghurts.
6. Take ACTIVE breaks
An often forgotten part of gut health is the physical aspect. It's not always about what you eat, but also how well your body is equipped to deal with it. Making the most of the break times and ensuring there is some gentle exercise throughout the shift will keep the body 'well equipped'.
The best advice would be to take walks or go on a brief bicycle ride if possible, during break times - this helps immensely with both digestion and general health.
7. Have a light snack before bed
Another good way to maintain a healthy gut, similar to the first tip, is to eat at a specific time. On this occasion we are referring to before going to bed. Eating a snack before sleep keeps the gut active.
The reason why this is so healthy for the gut is because digestion, as a process, is better maintained with frequent action, rather than large periods of inaction.