Nurses working shifts, especially those working rotating shifts, have more abdominal pain and develop irritable bowel syndrome more often than those working a standard daytime schedule, according to a study appearing in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Nurses included in the study were divided into three groups 214 working permanent day shifts, 110 working permanent night shifts, and 75 working rotating shifts between day and night. More than 85% were women.
IBS symptoms include recurrent episodes of abdominal pain or cramping in connection with altered bowel habits. IBS is the most common functional bowel disorder and is difficult to identify because it is diagnosed by clinical symptoms rather than tests. This association was made independent of sleep quality.
We know the colon has its own biological clock and thats what increases the likelihood of having a bowel movement in the first six hours of the day, investigator Sandra Hoogerwerf, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release. Shift work can cause chronic disruption of that biological rhythm, resulting in that clock to constantly be thrown off and needing to adjust, creating symptoms of diarrhea, boating, constipation, and abdominal pain and discomfort. … The question now for further research is if IBS and abdominal pain is an underlying manifestation of a circadian rhythm disorder.