Numerous studies have indicated that sleep is essential for normal immune system functioning and to maintain the body’s ability to fight off disease and sickness. Most shift workers exist in sleep deprived states as a result of only getting 5-6 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. So, as a result, it’s likely that shift workers’ immune systems are compromised, contributing to more cases of the common cold and flu, but also to chronic health issues many shift workers face, for example, diabetes and heart disease.
At Working Nights, we’re always looking for new solutions to improve shift worker health and wellbeing. Here’s a new idea…
According to a new study by scientists at the University of Illinois, soluble fiber, found in oats, nuts, and apples, strengthens the immune system and reduces the inflammation related to obesity-related diseases (e.g. diabetes and heart disease). These results will appear in the May 2010 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
In the study, laboratory mice consumed low-fat diets that were identical, except that they contained either soluble or insoluble fiber. After six weeks on the diet, the scientists injected the mice with a substance, lipopolysaccharide to induce illness. This substance causes symptoms similar to those occurring from a bacterial infection. Just two hours after the injection, the mice that had been fed soluble fiber were only half as sick as the other group and, they recovered 50 percent sooner. Within six weeks, the mice eating soluble fiber had significant improvements in their immune systems, according to the scientists.
To enhance their immune systems, shift workers should consider the amount of soluble fiber they eat. Of all grains, oats have the highest proportion of soluble fiber.. Other foods high in soluble fiber include beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp. But, many products made with oats or bran contain very little fiber, and may be high in sodium, total fat, and saturated fat. So when looking for fiber, be choosy and read the label. Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day.
One idea for shift workers is to stock up on high fiber nutrition bars. These are easy to pack for consumption while working at night. Remember that our body’s digestive system slow down at night, even if we’re awake working. So, employees working the night shift should eat light meals. To read more about the importance of eating the right foods when working shift work, click here.
When selecting a snack bar, think high fiber nutrition bar, not a snack bar. There is a plethora of these bars around today and many are very high in sugar and fat content. CalorieLab claims that they maintain the world’s largest and most up-to-date calorie and nutrition facts database. They do a good analysis of some of the bars available in the market today. For example, they recommend avoiding the 90 calorie bars; they’re too small and don’t satisfy hunger.
Two of CalorieLab’s suggestions…..
(1) Odwalla Snack Bars, which include only wholesome ingredients, like organic rolled oats, grape juice concentrate, date puree, organic dried carrots, and brown rice syrup. CalorieLab recommends carrot raisin, berries go-mega, and peanut crunch varieties. These bars can be found at most larger grocery store chains and health food stores (see the store locator at www.odwalla.com).
(2) Gnu High Fiber Bars, which are whole grain, made of whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, psyllium, flax, millet, and fruit juice sweeteners. Gnu is available in strawberry, blueberry, honey nut, chocolatey drizzle, vanilla crisp, and peaches & berries, according to CalorieLab. These are available at Whole Foods Stores and other health food stores (see the store locator at www.gnufoods.com).
CalorieLab also has a good article on why energy drinks are not worth the money. It takes about 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine (about one to two cups of regular coffee) to increase energy and alertness. While many energy drinks provide caffeine in this range, extra large portion sizes and additional stimulant ingredients may take the caffeine level as high as 500 milligrams per can or bottle. Consuming more than 250 milligrams a day may cause headaches, sleep difficulties, or increased anxiety. At caffeine consumption greater than 1000 milligrams a day, a person may have heart palpitations.
©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. – ˜Working Nights”