Condition - Stress - Supporting shift workers
In our experience teaching healthcare professionals, we’re amazed how serendipity comes into our teaching life and shows us new areas of concern. Not least our experience of the health problems of shift workers in the professions we teach.
Prison officers, nurses, doctors and military personnel are all the sorts of people we rely on to continue their work around the clock. We’re horrified that the average life expectancy of a prison officer is 18 months from retirement! Not entirely due to shift work, of course, but it is a big contributor, as it is with other professions.
In research, shift work is clearly implicated in a variety of health disorders, for both sexes, with particular concerns for women, where menstrual problems, miscarriage, hormone imbalances and early menopause are highlighted, along with higher incidence of breast cancer, heart disease and asthma, plus mental health issues, including substance misuse and depression – the list is endless!
The bottom line is that we’re not built to work shifts! We’re governed by our “body clock”. Our bodies are very finely tuned and it’s thought that our body clock does not ever adjust completely. It’s considered it takes at least three weeks to adjust to a current shift so those on three week shift changes are always out of kilter. Shift workers nearly always have nutritional deficiencies because enzymes needed to digest correctly operate at certain times of day. So the optimum times for eating and absorbing food are turned upside down and absorption can be impaired.
Add to that mix the stressful work these workers do. Their bodies are almost permanently in a “fight or flight” phase, causing adrenal overload.
Further problems occur, not helped by irregular social patterns, time with family, etc. Sleep patterns are chaotic, fatigue inevitable, relationships suffer and mental health issues can ensue.
Ideally, I’d like to remove all these dedicated people from their situation!
In the absence of that, we suggest they take extra precautions with their health. All bodily functions will be affected, but the one SMART’s most concerned about is the brain! The powerhouse of all functions.
Optimum brain nutrition is crucial and the benefits of key brain nutrients for stress relate, in part, to the fact that excess glucocorticoids deplete serotonin in susceptible individuals.
We suggest supplementing with nutrients to support the production of serotonin in cases where diet is insufficient, meals are missed and available food is poor quality. 5HTP is an important component for the production of serotonin. The B vitamins are essential for a healthy brain and nervous system, as are essential fatty acids which are especially needed for brain health.
It’s always terribly important to access good quality nutritional supplements,
so SMART likes working with Higher Nature, who can provide these. With better nutrition, workers have a better chance of recovery and other support systems have a greater chance of success.