Does night and rotating shift work alter your gut microbiota? For that matter, do probiotics benefit shift workers?
To answer that, let me lay down some background first.
An article published in the journal Chronobiology International states that circadian disruption of night work alters gut microbiota consistent with elevated risk for future metabolic and gastrointestinal pathology. "The relative abundances of Bacteroidetes were reduced and those of Actinobacteria and Firmicutes increased when working the night compared to day shift."
The Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes (F/B) ratio is widely accepted to have an important influence in maintaining normal intestinal homeostasis. Increased or decreased F/B ratio is viewed as dysbiosis (reduction in microbial diversity), whereby the former is usually observed with obesity, and the latter with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
There is evidence that different probiotics exert different effects on the F/B ratio, as well as support the immune system when under stress (sleep disruption of night shift workers has been shown to elicit a physiological stress response). Both physiological and psychological stress disrupt proper functioning of the gut microbiota and the immune system, and have a harmful effect on health.
A study by Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland has found that probiotics may reduce the impact of anticipation stress in the lead up to nightshift and improve quality of sleep.
Their findings provide initial evidence for the use of two probiotic formulations (Lactobacillus acidophilus, DDS-1® and Bifidobacterium, UABla-12™) to moderate the effects of night shift stress. Many participants on the probiotics also reported better quality sleep.
“Probiotic supplements have a strong record for use in respiratory and gastrointestinal illness and this study provides a new opening for potentially easing night shift stress,” research leader Dr Nic West said.