How to recognize a food sensitivity to nightshade vegetables

Q: Why do I feel better after cutting nightshades from my diet? Should everyone avoid eating them?

A: If you develop inexplicable gastrointestinal symptoms after eating nightshades, which include tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants and peppers, you may have a food intolerance, or “sensitivity,” to them.

The most reliable way to know if you have an intolerance to nightshades or any other food is to eliminate the food from your diet and see if your symptoms improve. Symptoms of nightshade intolerance include gas, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, achy joints and severe fatigue. Some people report less abdominal pain and acid reflux and improved bowel habits and even general well-being after removing nightshades from their diet.

That doesn’t mean we should all stop eating them. Nightshades have gotten a bad rap lately on TikTok and celebrity-endorsed detox diets, but cutting them from your diet is unnecessary unless you have an allergy or intolerance. In fact, nightshades form part of one of the world’s healthiest diets: the Mediterranean diet.

So why do some foods, including nightshades, make some people feel ill?

Enter the confusing — some might say exciting — world of food sensitivities.

Identifying food sensitivities

It’s quite common for people to swear certain foods give them unpleasant symptoms. But it can feel frustrating when standard tests come back negative. There might not be a disease to diagnose or large research studies to officially prove why it’s happening, either.

If that sounds familiar, you may have a food intolerance. Examples include diarrhea after eating gluten but not having celiac disease or vomiting every time you have tofu despite a negative allergy test.

Could it be that doctors aren’t looking in the right place at the right time? A study published in Nature in 2021 explored that question. Researchers injected solutions of foods that commonly cause sensitivities, such as wheat or soy, into the colons of healthy people and patients with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome after eating certain foods.

In healthy people, for the most part, nothing happened.

However, the scientists watched through a colonoscope as the guts of patients with irritable bowel syndrome became inflamed minutes after the injection. Microscopically, these patients also had more mast cells — the immune cells responsible for allergic reactions — near the nerve fibers of their guts. Yet each of these patients had tested negative for food allergies through the usual skin and blood tests.

In how many other people is this visceral reaction occurring? Perhaps the pain many experience after eating certain foods is due to unseen inflammation in the gut.

In other food sensitivities, like to fermentable carbohydrates, or FODMAPs, the foods themselves might cause symptoms because of their effect on intestinal gas.

The truth about nightshades

Now let’s clear the air about nightshades.

Nightshades are members of a plant family that contain glycoalkaloids — potentially toxic compounds that defend plants from pests and herbivores. There are several inedible nightshades such as tobacco plants, mandrakes and, of course, the deadly nightshade (also known as belladonna). These can cause poisoning with symptoms of blurry vision, hallucinations and potentially death and should not be consumed.

On social media, some people claim all nightshades are toxic. But if that were true, most of us would have been in big trouble a long time ago.

The nightshades found in grocery stores do have trace amounts of glycoalkaloids, but not in quantities that could poison us (thank goodness — you’ll never take my ketchup from me alive). Two exceptions are green or sprouting potatoes; these contain a higher concentration of the alkaloid solanine and can be potentially toxic to humans when eaten. If your potatoes have any light green spots or sprouts, cut those parts out before cooking and eating. It’s best to throw out potatoes with large green areas.

And while some studies in mice suggest nightshades may aggravate inflammatory bowel disease, rest assured: Researchers have not concluded that nightshades are implicated in human diseases, including arthritis or osteoporosis, as some have dubiously claimed.

A potentially “anti-inflammatory” diet, which excludes nightshades, has made the rounds online for those suffering from the autoimmune condition rheumatoid arthritis. There have been no studies to date that actually demonstrate such a diet can lower inflammation in these patients.

But can nightshades be the cause of a food intolerance? New research has found that solanine and other proteins in nightshades can activate mast cells, which may be the cause of bothersome symptoms in “sensitive” people.

Rebecca Kuang, an internal medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has been analyzing the role of nightshades in gastrointestinal disease. Because of their potential effect on mast cells, it’s possible that nightshades “can trigger GI symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, but also systemic symptoms of tiredness and exhaustion after exposure to these chemicals,” she said in an email interview.

We still need to do much more research in the general population to get clearer answers and one day develop treatments for food intolerance, including for nightshades.

What I want my patients to know

You know your body better than I do. So unless the way you’re eating is harmful, I’ll support you in responding to your symptoms and avoiding foods that provoke them. But I get worried when people start cutting out large groups of foods without consulting with a registered dietitian first. It’s always safest to meet with a specialist who can create a systematic approach to identifying possible sensitivities while ensuring you maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

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Research suggests we should be having more Sumac in our diets

Image © SafakOguz | iStock

Life expectancy is declining in many UK communities – and diet is central to this. Declining nutritional value of our food means we need more high-value substances like sumac in our daily lives

Ask most Britons about Sumac, and they won’t have heard of it. This red wine-coloured spice is a staple condiment across the Middle East, but in the UK, our exposure is limited unless we’re avid followers of Yotam Ottolenghi, says Researcher James Fox, Founder and CEO at Sumacqua Drinks.

The declining nutritional value of fruit and vegetables

That may sound obvious, but this problem is compounded by the fact that many of the healthy eating guidelines in the UK are woefully out of date.

For one, the ‘five a day’ guideline was never enough – most Britons don’t even hit these targets – and amid declining nutrient contents, we need to eat even more – you’d have to eat four carrots today to get the same magnesium content as you did in 1940.

Source: Simplysupplements.co.uk

In this context, I believe it’s right that we renew our focus on nutrition. And one area I’m particularly interested in is spices, and sumac especially. This tangy citrus spice, which is widely used throughout Levantine cooking, is also the most antioxidant-dense of all comestibles.

The most antioxidant-dense of all comestibles

Research surrounding the potential health benefits of sumac is relatively nascent – unlike turmeric – but it’s very positive. So, let’s take a closer look at what the research is telling us.

What the research is telling us about Sumac

Like turmeric, sumac has long been associated with positive health outcomes. But we’re only starting to see the research to back that up today. Sumac is known for its rich antioxidant content, particularly in the form of flavonoids and polyphenols.

Sumac has long been associated with positive health outcomes

Some of the specific antioxidants found in sumac include gallic acid – a phenolic compound which helps neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress – quercetin – a flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can also reduce oxidative stress – and kaempferol – another flavonoid with anti-inflammatory and anticancer health benefits. Other antioxidants include myricetin and rutin.

But what does the research tell us about the spice as a whole? Well, while the research is nascent, studies have been conducted linking sumac with a wide range of health benefits and positive health outcomes.

Sumac and its effects on serious illnesses

Firstly, we can observe several studies linking the spice to positive health outcomes in relation to serious illness.

Studies have suggested that sumac may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This could be beneficial for individuals with diabetes – a growing issue around the world – or those at risk of developing the condition.

Furthermore, preliminary research suggests that sumac may possess anticancer properties. Certain compounds in sumac have shown inhibitory effects on cancer cell growth and have been studied for their potential as natural anticancer agents.

It doesn’t stop there. A 2011 study suggested sumac may help in fighting cholesterol, while a 2015 research project demonstrated that sumac could help reduce bone loss.

These studies complement broader works which highlight the spice’s potential health benefit against a range of conditions caused by inflammation, including migraines which are characterised by increased oxidative stress and neurogenic inflammation in the brain.

In addition, we know that sumac can reduce muscle pain during and after aerobic exercise – perhaps something that could benefit us all manifestly on a daily basis. A 2016 study showed that a group of subjects receiving a sumac juice drink experienced less pain than a placebo group.

Dried Sumac, sumah or sumak on silver plate (arabic cuisine)
Image © alpaksoy | iStock

Sumac is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. It contains vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, among others, which are essential for overall health and well-being.

We know that sumac has been used traditionally to aid digestion

While we don’t know for sure, it has been suggested that sumac can stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, such as amylase, lipase, and protease. These enzymes play a crucial role in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, respectively, aiding in their digestion and absorption.

It has been suggested that sumac can stimulate the production of digestive enzymes

And finally, it is understood that certain compounds in sumac, such as tannins, may possess antimicrobial properties, helping to combat harmful bacteria and fungi.

Sumac can be used in various culinary applications to enhance the flavour of dishes. But it’s not widely used in the UK, especially not in traditional British food. In Levantine cooking, it is often sprinkled over salads, hummus, or yogurt-based dips like tzatziki for a tangy and citrusy flavour.

But it’s a very versatile spice, and one we can easily introduce into our diets, even if we’re not into our Levantine foods. Sumac works well as a seasoning for grilled meats, such as chicken, beef, or lamb – sprinkle it over marinated meats or use it in spice rubs to add a unique flavour – and can also be used to season roasted vegetables.

But there’s really no limit to its use. Sumac can also provide a delicious counterpunch when added to soups and stews.

Of course, as with everything nowadays, we can also buy it in pill and even drink form, showing just how easily we can bring this powerful disease-fighting spice into our diets on a daily basis.

This piece was written and provided by Researcher James Fox, Founder and CEO at Sumacqua Drinks.

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Here are 7 expert tips to combat stress and anxiety naturally

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

Stress: A phenomenon that everybody knows yet very few people have a solution for. Life has its own challenges, some more intense than others and without the right grounding techniques, stress can become a chronic, seemingly unmanageable condition. In fact, so many people truly believe that a stress-filled life is normal.

Short-term stress is normal and can push you to do what you need to. Long-term stress (above 1-2 months) on the other hand causes depletion of life quality leading to a subtle process of inflammation in the body that can lead to severe diseases. To learn how to tackle stress, Midday.com spoke to Radhika Iyer, the founder of Anahata Organic, and yogini by passion. She shares the following hacks to deal with stress and anxiety naturally:

Pranayama (breath work)
Your breath is connected to every single mood or emotion you feel. Think about it: when you’re excited, scared, angry, anxious or upset your breath speeds up. When you are happy, relaxed or focused your breath slows down. The easiest and most effective way to manage stress is to consciously slow your breath down. This will work to calm down your nervous system and give you a lighter, clearer mind. Pranayama is an ancient yogic practice that is more relevant today than ever. To truly thrive in life, it is a practice that is absolutely necessary.

Physical Movement
Have you noticed that you feel happier after a workout? Moving your body releases endorphins in your system that helps elevate mood. Additionally, the more often you do physical exercise, the more focused and clear your head will remain. Along with this, exercise keeps you physically healthy, which keeps the stress of dealing with sickness at bay. I would strongly recommend yoga, but you can choose any form of physical activity that you resonate with.

Natural Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has been practiced for thousands of years to improve the body and heal the mind. This treatment engages the senses through smell and subtle skin absorption techniques to promote overall well-being. Engaging with a variety of botanicals through the use of essential oils helps deal with stress. Several essential oils like chamomile, sandalwood and lavender help release happy chemicals in the body that calm down the nervous system and allow you to reset. You can also set up these essential oils in a diffuser and use it to prep your space for pranayama and meditation for a more elevated experience.

Service/ Connecting with Community
Most people isolate themselves when they get stressed out. While alone time is also necessary, too much time alone can mean you end up living in your own bubble of worry, losing touch with the outside world. Finding a cause you are passionate about and contributing to it has proven to be extremely helpful in feeling more grateful in life and reducing stress. Service and being part of a supportive community help you truly connect with people and feel less alone in your worries.

Minimising Screen Time
Spending a lot of time in front of a screen is damaging to brain health and reduces quality of life. Scrolling endlessly on screens after already working on them all day, take you away from living in the present moment. As a consequence, you find yourself constantly thinking about others’ achievements, feeling FOMO or falling into a rut. Try to limit your screen time when it is not necessary and start trying out activities that you enjoy. The transition may not be smooth and may take time, but is absolutely worth it.

Spending Time in Nature
Connecting with nature
replenishes our souls and infuses fresh thoughts in the mind. It is grounding to walk barefoot on grass or spend time near the ocean, trees and so on. Making a conscious decision to be around nature can do wonders for your mental and physical health and make you a lot happier and more grounded.

Meditation is a powerful, underrated tool. Don’t underestimate the power of self-reflection. When you take time to be with yourself even for just 20 minutes a day, your energy will grow and positivity enters your life quite clearly.

Also Read: From dance to music: Attend these unique events in Mumbai this week

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Japan Diet study finds forced sterilization of children under ex-eugenics law

A study by Japan’s Diet has found that children as young as 9 years old were forcibly sterilized under the Eugenic Protection Law that was scrapped in 1996.

Officials of the Diet’s research authorities handed a 1,400-page report to the heads of the Upper and Lower Houses on Monday.

Government data show that about 25,000 people underwent sterilization procedures due to disabilities and other reasons.

The study was conducted based on the 2019 law aimed at providing relief to the victims.

The law also stipulates that an investigation into how procedures were carried out to prevent similar cases from happening again.

The researchers looked into 6,550 cases whose records had been kept at local governments. They found that the youngest people involved were two 9-year-olds, a boy in the 1960s and a girl in the 1970s, who underwent surgeries that deprived them of reproductive abilities.

Some victims were sterilized at the request of family members or as a condition to enter welfare facilities. In other cases, people were deceived into believing that they would undergo surgeries to remove the appendix or receive treatment for anemia.

Upper House President Otsuji Hidehisa was the leader of a cross-party group that helped draft the 2019 law. He said each lawmaker has to take the report seriously so as not to repeat the tragedy.

The report is available on the websites for both chambers of the Diet.

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Weight loss: Maintain energy levels with these easy tips

Weight-loss journey shouldn’t be about a drop in your energy levels. You need fuel so that your body functions well. So, know what to do to lose weight but not energy.

When we think of weight loss, it shouldn’t only be about the number on the weighing scale. You should think of accomplishing sustainable weight loss. So, say goodbye to crash diets or unhealthy ways to drop pounds. Your weight-loss routine should also not make you feel less energetic. The idea is to lose weight and not to see a drop in energy levels. If you are all for inadequate calorie intake in a bid to lose weight, your energy levels will also take a hit.

Health Shots connected with fitness guru Aminder Singh of Team Aminder fame to find out how to lose weight but not energy.

Don’t let your energy levels drop during weight-loss journey. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Weight loss, he explains, is the process of reducing the overall weight of the body. Some people may lose water weight, which can lead to a temporary decrease in weight as water is depleted from the body. However, relying solely on this method is not recommended, as it can result in dehydration and other health complications. Then there is the loss of muscle mass. Since muscles contribute to overall body weight, losing muscle can lead to a decrease in weight as measured on a scale. Singh says that this method is undesirable because muscles are vital for functionality, and losing them can result in weakness and accelerate the ageing process.

According to him, the most effective way to achieve sustainable weight loss is through fat loss. Fat is the visible component of weight that people often refer to when expressing their desire to lose weight. He feels that in essence, the weight loss industry tends to prioritize the idea of losing weight without emphasizing the importance of targeting fat loss specifically. And sometimes, wrong methods or ways are used for weight loss that can affect the energy levels.

Watch your calorie intake when you try to lose weight. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Weight loss and energy

Women often experience a loss of energy during their weight-loss journey. There are some reasons behind it:

1. Inadequate calorie intake

The expert notes that many women have significantly fewer calories than their body requires in an attempt to achieve weight loss. This restriction of food reduces the nourishment provided to the body, resulting in a decrease in energy levels. When the body doesn’t get sufficient calories and essential nutrients, it lacks the fuel it needs to function properly.

2. Dehydration

It can happen when water is expelled from the body during weight loss efforts, and it contributes to a decrease in energy levels.

3. Reducing protein intake

If you consume less protein, it can contribute to feelings of weakness and low energy, says Singh. Protein is vital for repairing and rebuilding the body, especially after exercise. When the body is not adequately supplied with protein, the process of recovery and repair gets affected, leading to increased fatigue and weakness. So, keep an eye on your protein intake.

Ways to lose weight but not energy

You are doing it wrong if you feel weak after working out. There are effective ways to lose weight without compromising on your energy levels. Here are some of them:

1. Strength training

Engaging in regular strength training exercises is crucial for preserving muscle mass and boosting metabolism, says the expert. Building lean muscle not only contributes to a toned appearance, but also helps to burn calories more efficiently. That means you will achieve your weight loss goal without depleting energy levels.

2. Consuming adequate calories

Rather than severely restricting calorie intake, it is important to consume an appropriate amount of food based on the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). It represents the number of calories needed to sustain basic bodily functions at rest. By ensuring that calorie intake aligns with BMR, the body gets the necessary fuel for performing daily activities while still creating a calorie deficit for weight loss.

3. Calculate total energy requirement

To lose weight effectively, it is crucial to determine the total energy requirement for the day. Consider factors such as physical activity levels, occupation, and lifestyle. This calculation helps to establish a balanced calorie deficit that supports weight loss without excessive energy depletion.

4. Prioritize adequate protein intake

By measuring the appropriate protein quantity required by the body and including protein-rich foods in the diet, you can preserve muscle and feel fuller for longer. You can also maintain energy levels throughout your weight-loss journey.

Working out and watching your diet will help you a lot, but quality sleep is also important. It plays a vital role in energy restoration, hormone regulation, and overall well-being. You need adequate rest for optimal recovery and energy levels.

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I’m a Navy veteran. Here are my top tips for starting and sticking to a fitness routine

The military is known for its grueling regimes and inflexible schedules.

But now a US Navy veteran wants to teach you how to design a fitness regime and, crucially, stick to it.

Austen Alexander, 30, based in San Diego, California, revealed his four top tips to DailyMail.com, saying that there was ‘no excuse’ not to jump up from the sofa and start to get in shape today.

‘There’s no reason why someone can’t go out and do a set of push-ups to establish their baseline, or just go run a half mile or quarter mile or a mile just to get the ball rolling,’ he said.

‘It’s all about momentum’.

Alexander, who runs a YouTube channel with 1.2 million followers and an Instagram account with 148,000 followers, regularly uploads videos with tips and tricks for fitness fanatics.

Austen Alexander, a Navy veteran and fitness expert, told DailyMail.com that working out is ‘about momentum’. Alexander (pictured) who runs an Instagram channel with 148,000 followers, regularly uploads videos with tips and tricks for fitness fanatics

He spent seven years working as naval security after dropping out of college in Florence, Alabama, in 2013.

Below are his workout tips: 

Start small 

The ex-Navy serviceman said the ‘best tip’ he could give to those just beginning their fitness training was to start with short exercise sessions

Many people who are just getting started on their fitness journey tend to go too hard, too fast, he warned.

This can put them at risk of injury as well as of losing motivation to stick to it over time.

‘They look at themselves and they say, “I want a bigger chest,” “I want bigger shoulders,” “I want bigger legs”,’ he said. ‘And they try to achieve it all.’

‘What that does is it leads them to burn out.’ 

To avoid this, he recommends starting with a smaller exercise plan and then gradually building on it.

For those focusing on fitness and building muscle, he suggested starting with a 10-minute run for two or three days for the first week.

The following week, these runs should then be paired with an extra 20 minutes of other exercise — such as weight lifting.

‘Implementing small variables that you can actually achieve and stick to is the best route,’ Alexander said. 

This also goes for people who are returning to fitness or adjusting their routines with age. 

‘Don’t think that just because you squatted 480 pounds when you were 22 that you can still do it,’ Alexander said. ‘Ease back into it for sure.’ 

Women, don’t worry about lifting weights!

Many women steer clear of lifting weights when they first start out at the gym, worrying it will give them bulging biceps.

But Alexander urged them to drop the idea and instead, opt for incorporating weight lifting into their workout routines.

‘I see a lot of women who say “I don’t want to lift weights because I think I’ll get bulky,’ he said. 

‘[But] just because somebody is going into the gym and lifting weights doesn’t mean they’re going to get more bulky. Lifting weights can be a form of weight loss as well.’ 

Weight training, also known as resistance training, does build muscle.

But because women have lower levels of anabolic, or muscle-building, hormones, it’s harder for them to put on muscle mass, research shows. 

There is also evidence that weightlifting can improve weight loss. A 2020 meta-analysis in the Journal of Sports Sciences, for example, found that resistance training increased metabolic rate more than aerobic exercise. This means the body is still burning calories after the workout is completed. 

Don’t stretch before your workout

Stretching before a workout may feel like a no-brainer. 

But Alexander warned people off the move, saying it does not help to get the muscles ready to perform.

Static stretching involves lengthening a muscle and holding it in one position for a short period of time. This tells the muscles to relax and leaves them less ready for intense activity.

‘Instead of stretching before a workout, warm up dynamically,’ Alexander said. This could include activities like running or going on an elliptical machine.

Dynamic warm-ups get the body moving with a set of controlled, upbeat moves. These prepare the body to perform similar, more intense movements throughout the workout.

Alexander recommended saving static stretching for the end of a workout.  

Hydration is key

Drinking water is vital to health, no matter how physically active you are. However, if you are working out on a regular basis, you likely need to hydrate even more. 

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the most important nutritional enhancement for athletes is water. Without it, you’re less likely to have the energy to work out consistently.  

Alexander recommends drinking one ounce of water per pound of body weight. 

And don’t start chugging huge amounts at once. Taking small sips throughout the day can help you achieve that goal gradually. 

Other than athletic performance, it has a host of benefits.  

‘It’s not only important for sweat. It’s important for healthy brain function, healthy skin, healthy eyesight and healthy digestion. It’s important for everything,’ he said.  

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Andy Galpin Explains How to Optimize Your Sleep to Maximize Performance

For years, renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Andy Galpin has spent years working with professional athletes and Olympians to help them be at their best when it matters most. While most of those athletes had dietitians, skill coaches, and other health and wellness experts in tow, Galpin noticed none of them had anyone that was dialed in on their sleep performance. Considering how foundational sleep is to recovery and performance, he wondered why there wasn’t anything being done to achieve high-performance sleep. That is why Galpin started Absolute Rest, which provides a comprehensive sleep assessment, analysis, and coaching to optimize sleep.

Sleep is a subject that Galpin has immersed himself in and sees far too many general recommendations thrown around for how many are affected by not getting enough rest. According to estimates, 50 million to 70 million people in the U.S. alone have ongoing sleep disorders. Getting to the root cause of the issue varies from person to person. But Galpin believes there are some physiological hacks you can begin implementing to make sure your next night of sleep is a good night of sleep.

Thamrongpat Theerathammakorn / EyeEm / Getty

According to Dr. Andy Galpin, Create a Pattern

I’m a physiologist so I’m biased. I do not believe in bad sleepers. There is always a physiological reason, and the problem is people’s assessment or interpretation of why they’re sleeping poorly is too rudimentary, and this causes problems. You haven’t looked at the thing causing your sleep to be disrupted. You’ve just only looked at things that aren’t relevant for you in your environment. When we dive into some of these solutions that are still ubiquitous across the population, you have to expand your scope of things.

I’ll give you some things you’ve probably heard.

Make sure it’s quiet and dark. That’s been in thousands of articles. What you want to look for are things like, is there something in your practice that’s causing a pattern? Humans are tremendously good at recognizing patterns and creating anticipatory responses. Correcting that pattern is very difficult to do with one new process. If you want to change a pattern that’s been engrained for six years, one night of supplementation or taking your phone out of the room isn’t going to change that physiological pattern.

This is one of the reasons they say only two things should happen in your bed and they both start with “s.” The reason they say that is that once you cross into that bedroom, you kick off a cascade of physiological responses that cue you to something. If they cue you to excitement, arousal, and stimulation then it doesn’t matter what you’re doing with your blue-light glasses because you’ve kicked off an entire physiological cascade that says stay awake. If the opposite happens then the opposite response will happen.

When it comes to your bedroom, if it’s serene and quiet then when you cross the threshold, you’re going to have a response in that style. That can be learned. It won’t happen acutely. If you take a supplement, it will affect your body, but a behavioral change is a long-term action. You want to think about things that are going to give you instant relief but also things that are going to take some time but are more well-rounded and longer lasting. This is why setting up those habits and routine are incredibly important.

Everything you do in your life is a pattern and your physiology is always paying attention and it’s always adjusting. This is why when we’re making nutrition changes, breath work, and technique changes — it’s all pattern recognition. If you create a pattern of serenity and restfulness, your body will start to learn that. People talk a lot about the sleep environment but they don’t give people any resources like that unless it’s cold, quiet, and dark. Setting a pattern is going to be true for anyone. It’s critical for everyone to have some sort of mechanism that their body knows when it’s supposed to shut down.

Man eating late night cold pizza in front of a refrigerator as his aging metabolism slows down
Kopytin Georgy

A Small Meal Before Bed Isn’t Harmful

If you have all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse as I did a few weeks ago and you try and go to bed, what you’re going to see is an incredibly poor night of sleep for most people. If you look at that heart rate, that pattern will be higher because you’re spending a lot of energy trying to digest 600g of protein. Heart rate is going to be highly tied to switching you from sympathetic to parasympathetic. You can’t digest in a sympathetic state. If your heart rate is elevated, you’re more alert and you’re going to have a harder time getting into a truly restful state. You don’t want to put a giant meal in your stomach right before bed because you’re going to have a hard time getting into rest and digest because your heart rate will be so high because it has so much work to do.

You can sometimes get away with small meals and snacks before bed that will help you not wake up and feel so groggy. A very slow-releasing carbohydrate meal will do that. In addition, there is very clear evidence that eating before bed will not enhance fat mass gain. It will probably help you enhance lean muscle and lose fat. What that means is if you need to eat late at night, having a lean protein and carbohydrate meal is not only OK, but as long as it doesn’t influence sleep, it’s probably beneficial to your overall lean mass and adipose tissue. If you can eat three hours before bed, that’s probably the best place to be. If not, try to keep your meals small with lean protein and some carbohydrates and starch. You want to pick easily digestible foods and things that won’t land on your gut like a sledgehammer.

Geber86 / Getty

Create Your Sleep Environment While Traveling

One of the things people don’t realize is oftentimes when people struggle to sleep on the road, you think it’s the bed, and it might be, but it’s probably mostly the environment. Your environment sends you a tremendous amount of cues on what’s happening. If you can control the environment, you’re going to have a much greater chance of success. You can clip the curtains to make sure it’s nice and dark in the room. People don’t realize how important your other senses are. If you can make the environment smell like your bedroom at home, you’re going to have way more success being restful because you’re going to initiate that entire shutdown sequence.

How do you make your hotel smell like your bedroom? Intentionally construct the smell of your bedroom at home in a way that you can replicate on the road. If you have a particular comforting scent that you like, spray just a tiny amount on the corner of the mattress or pillow you don’t use — something where the smell is in the air. You do that a couple of days prior to leaving for your trip, you take that bottle with you and do the exact same thing in your hotel room. Your body will recognize it immediately.

5 Nighttime Supplements

Be Wary of Sleep Supplements

Obviously, I’m a believer in supplements, but you want to be extremely careful with melatonin. In the last couple of years, several papers have come out where they’ve run analysis on melatonin, and it can be anywhere between 10-1,000 times the concentration—either high or low—in the supplement than what’s being reported.

Melatonin has a half-life, meaning it doesn’t completely leave your system. If you’re taking 100 times more than you think, hours later, there’s still 50 times more in your system. The next morning, you wake up and a huge percentage of that is still in you, depending on which ones you’re taking, and you’re feeling groggy because you’re sedated. You smash a bunch of caffeine to feel normal, but then you get to nighttime and you’re wired. What do you do? Smash the sleep supplements and end up in this horrific cycle where you feel like death. All we do is take those drugs away, give your body a few days to normalize and everything just goes away.

We just have to approach sleep supplements appropriately. Melatonin is one that I would generally say steer clear of unless you have a very specific reason. I’m generally not a fan of not doing any hormone-based supplement or any supplement until we’ve had extensive bloodwork. This is one of the things we’ve done at Absolute Rest and its novel. We use bloodwork heavily in identifying sleep issues and there is a strong link to a number of physiological markers that you can find in the blood that is going to tell you a lot of why you’re struggling to sleep. You can get very precise sleep plans based on your personal physiology from your bloodwork and this allows us rationale to recommend supplementation or say you have a micronutrient deficiency and other issues happening where you’re not creating enough serotonin. We correct that and these problems go away.

Female looking at her smartwatch before going to bed
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Your Wearables Should Educate Not Dictate, Andy Galpin Says

Six years ago, I wrote a book called Unplugged, so I’m very much against technologies if they’re not used judiciously. These technologies are good for rudimentary calibration for basic accountability and awareness. The vast majority of tech that people are using now is simply not accurate at all for things like sleep stages. Orthoinsomnia is a thing that scientists are starting to find where folks create sleep disorders based on too much utilization of their wearables.

Let’s say every morning you wake up and the first thing you do is roll over and check your score. What happens is your body gets used to that little rush of excitement. You start waking up a little earlier because of that and your sleep score starts going down. So, you start developing an anxiety about getting to sleep earlier because you’re waking up earlier and you’re ruining your own sleep because you’re so obsessed with improving your score when the score doesn’t reflect if you slept better or not.

We don’t actually have anyway right now to tell what’s a good or bad night of sleep for you. Right now, you look at the score on a tracker or wearable, no one has any idea of your physiology needs for total sleep for two reasons. We don’t know that data at all globally. Two, those trackers aren’t accurate. I don’t know how many minutes of REM you need — we just have a general number. Now you’re being scored on that number and the technology is inaccurate.

That number is not supposed to be the same every night. You are not supposed to have the same amount of deep and REM sleep every night. Your brain is way smarter than that stupid ass technology. We know that there are person-to-person differences. We also know that depending on the physical activity you did that day, your brain will alter the amount of time and the way it’s getting into different sleep stages.

What we need to have happen is recognition of what’s unique for your physiology and how much you need, and let your brain tell you when it needs more of one stage or the other. It will know that and put you in those stages if you give it the proper space. It’s very critical that if you’re going to use a tracker, you’re using it appropriately and are not consumed by the stages and not going after the wrong targets.

There are a tremendous amount of benefits from wearables but there are also huge consequences if you’re not using them appropriately. The endpoint should be to make you a more resilient sleeper meaning you shouldn’t have to have this special environment, set of nutrition, and an hour-long protocol just to have a decent night of sleep. You should be reacting with a plan. Just like you wouldn’t have the same lifting plan all year round, why would you have the same sleep plan all year round? Use the wearables to calibrate and inform, don’t take action on the recommendations, and have a plan based on what happens in your life.

Follow Dr. Andy Galpin on Instagram @drandygalpin

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