Improving Immunity While Shift Working


Improving immunity while shift working is important for you, and tricky. Although much of the research into the link between sleep and immunity is inconclusive, you know that when you’re sleep deprived you feel run down, and this is often the time when that cold, flu, digestive disturbance or migraine sets in. In Chinese medicine, we consider it a given that good-quality sleep is a vital buffer against illness.

Ideally, your body needs to rest overnight so it can do what it needs to do in the peace and quiet of the dark. Your body doesn’t respond so well to being in bright lights during the night. When you’re a shift worker you don’t have that choice – we get that, and you need to make the best with what you’ve got. There are certainly ways to improve your immunity when working night shifts so take this advice into consideration and do your best to take care of your health.


4 Ways to Improve Immunity While Shift Working

Here are our tips for creating the best environment for your immune system to thrive while doing shift work:

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables – some cooked and some raw and ideally at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yep, you heard that right, breakfast too. These babies provide the food for your gut flora. Okay so the ancient Chinese didn’t know about gut flora back then but they did know you needed to eat plenty of veg and it turns out that gut health is one of the reasons why. By eating lots of vegetables you are nourishing the plethora of good bacteria that live in your gut and govern your immunity. Of course, vegetables also provide you with vitamins and minerals that are essential for your health as well as fibre to keep your digestive system humming along. If you’re in a rush, grab a carrot and some snow peas on the way out the door to snack on later.

Where possible, drink bone broth soup. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, bone broth helps replenish your Kidney energy which is affected by the night shifts. Your Kidneys are the fire of your body. They’re also related to genetics and for that matter epigenetics and the state of them has some bearing on things like your fertility, how long you might live and in what kind of state. They’re important and so you want to treat them right. Secondly, bone broth is very healing for your gut and so we want that too so that your immunity can be improved.

Eat friendly bacteria-rich foods to improve your levels of them and naturally boost your immunity. Some of these foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir milk, kefir water and sugar-free plain organic yoghurt. It is widely known now that over 70% of your immune system is in your gut. This means that your gut needs to be in tip-top shape for your immune system to function well, so adding as much beneficial bacteria to your diet as possible will give your immunity a major boost. Even though gut health is a “trendy” wellness concept at the moment, in Chinese medicine, gut health has always been central to your health and wellbeing. So you could say the Chinese were onto something when they were preaching about that over 2500 years ago!

Consider taking some herbs if your immune system is low. Some herbs to consider include Astragalus (Huang Qi) and Reishi (Ling Zhi). Astragalus is especially good for lung-related immune issues, whereas the Reishi is more broader acting and will help the lungs but also the liver and is awesome to regenerate when there has been immune destruction through disease or use of drugs such as chemotherapy. As a Chinese herbalist, I would actually suggest not to simply take these herbs but get checked out professionally and have your herbs prescribed as they’re best taken as part of a formula that addresses your overall symptom picture in a holistic fashion. You’ll get better results that way.

Improving immunity while shift working

Of course, there is one additional important thing to think about – the obvious one – sleep. It’s tough to get adequate sleep when your body clock is thrown out by working nights and sleeping in the day, so make an extra effort to get good-quality sleep when you’re doing shift work. This could mean using a sleeping mask and ear plugs, asking your family to be extra mindful of noise at home, and allowing yourself an hour or two longer than usual when you are resting.

Helpful Info for Improving Immunity While Shift Working

My favourite brands for friendly bacteria-rich foods:



GSK – Green Street Kitchen:


Dr Kims:

Our Favourite Formulas and Herbs for Boosting Immunity

When you have a cold take this, it’s awesome: Yin Qiao Wan (brand: Black Pearl)

When you feel a bit run down take: Yu Ping Feng San (brand: Black Pearl)

If your immunity is really super low then I suggest this brand of Reishi: Concord

It’s important for you to know that we don’t receive any commission for telling you about these products. These are simply the products we use and have found benficial. You can buy them independently or of course you’re welcome to buy them through us at the Red Tent Health Centrecontact us to make an inquiry.

Despite the many challenges of caring for your immunity while shift working, if you make your health a conscious priority you will absolutely reap the benefits. Follow the tips above for a good few weeks and judge whether you feel better when working shifts.


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