Monthly Archives: November 2016

What to Eat to Feel Better

Upset stomach? Whether it’s nausea, vomiting, or just a general icky feeling due to a stomach bug or something you ate, you want to feel better—now.

Sadly, your doctor may say that the best treatment is to just wait until the germ or symptoms run their course. However, choosing the right food may make that waiting period a bit easier.

Here’s a guide to what the experts generally recommend to soothe tummy trouble.

Bananas are the first item in the “brat” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which has been used by generations to soothe bellies.

Bananas contain potassium, which you may need if you’re dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

They also contain sugar so you get calories at a time when you’re probably not eating much. But they’re not so sweet it will make you nauseous, she adds.

Rice, along with other starchy foods such as potatoes and oats, helps coat the lining of the stomach, easing digestion and having an overall soothing effect, says Dr. Chutkan.

Starchy foods also don’t sit in the stomach for long periods of time, nor do they stimulate acid reflux, which would make you feel even worse, says Amit Bhan, MD, service chief of gastroenterology at Henry Ford Health System, in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Good bacteria in your gut

I bet you’ve heard a lot about the benefits of probiotics—but what about prebiotics? These nondigestible carbohydrates feed the good bacteria in your gut, which have been linked to digestive health, improved immunity, anti-inflammatory effects, and more.

Because prebiotics help probiotics flourish, eating more of them is a smart wellness strategy. Indeed, a 2012 study found a link between a diet high in prebiotics and a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. Other research has suggested that prebiotics increase calcium absorption and may improve bone density. And one small study tied prebiotics to increased satiety after meals.

You’re probably already eating some prebiotic foods simply because you like them. But I advise my clients to be strategic about getting prebiotics on a regular basis. And there may be a few prebiotic foods you haven’t tried yet. Here, six of the top prebiotic sources, plus easy, tasty ways to add them to your diet.

 

 

Asparagus

Raw asparagus, specifically. (When it comes to prebiotic produce, raw is usually the way to go because cooking can break down some of the beneficial matter in certain foods.) If you don’t find raw asparagus palatable, try lightly steaming the veggie, so it’s softer but still firm. Serve the asparagus warm, drizzled with tahini or sundried tomato pesto; or chill it and serve cool. Steamed, cooled asparagus is a great alternative to celery for scooping up healthy dips (like hummus, olive tapenade, and guacamole).

 

Bananas

For an extra prebiotic boost, look for bananas that are not quite fully ripe. Slice and drizzle the fruit with almond butter. Or chop and add some banana to Greek yogurt, along with fresh grated ginger and a dash of ground cinnamon. If you have a powerful blender, you can also whip an underripe banana into a smoothie, along with a sweeter fruit like berries or mango for more flavor.

 

 

Dandelion greens

Add raw dandelion greens to a salad, or use a small handful as the base of a side dish or a bed for lean protein, like fish or lentils. To offset the bitterness of the greens, toss them in a dressing made with of EVOO, lemon, and garlic, and top with sliced almonds. If you find the flavor too intense, balance it with sweeter foods like cooked yams, sautéed yellow onions, or in-season fruit.

Choose birth control tips

Hormone-based birth control often comes with side effects that can range from slightly annoying to bad enough to make you switch.

You may not know what you can tolerate until you’ve given a couple of them a try.

But here are some solutions for the most common problems.

“These side effects seem to go away after you’ve been taking the Pill for a while,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an ob-gyn professor at Columbia University, in New York.

If they don’t, switching brands may help.

This reaction will probably go away in a couple of months.

If it doesn’t and you’re using oral contraceptives, try taking them with food.

If you’re using the ring or the patch, you might need to switch methods.

“I think this is the side effect that drives women crazier than any other side effect,” says Dr. Hutcherson, because it’s so unpredictable. Taking the Pill at precisely the same time every day may help. The bleeding occurs specially with shots, the mini-Pill, and the implant—the progestin-only methods—as the lining of the uterus is so thin that it sometimes sloughs off a little bit. (On the upside, this also makes your periods lighter and sometimes causes them to disappear entirely.)

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about spotting. “You can sometimes add an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or occasionally you can add a little estrogen,” says Anne Foster-Rosales, MD, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

Memory Problems Solved

So you keep misplacing your keys and walking into the living room without remembering why. That doesn’t mean you’ve got early Alzheimer’s: “Normal memory problems—like being a little forgetful—start as early as age 27,” says Majid Fotuhi, MD, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore and author of The Memory Cure.

Luckily, your memory is like a muscle, Dr. Fotuhi says—you can exercise it and improve it at any age. Here are some smart moves to help you do just that.

Problem #1: Stress
The lowdown: “In our fast-paced, wired world, many of us live our lives in chronic stress,” says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. That means we’re perpetually bathing our brains in stress hormones like cortisol. The result? Studies done in mice show that chronically elevated stress hormone levels shrink the hippocampus, so you’re less likely to form new memories.

You get a similar result if you’re struggling with depression. “Some studies suggest that depressed individuals have fewer hippocampal neurons,” says Gary Kennedy, MD, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Other research has found that depressed people have lower levels of brain-derived neutrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the health of brain neurons, and thus boosts memory function.

The Rx: Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of stress entirely. But you can at least try to keep your anxiety levels at a minimum. Dr. Small’s number-one tactic? Meditation. One recent Harvard study found that participants who meditated for about 30 minutes a day over eight weeks increased their hippocampus size. “Meditation also fires up the frontal areas of the brain that are associated with attention,” Dr. Small says. That means you’ll be less likely to focus on feeling stressed or down, and more able to concentrate on the tasks at hand, so you can actually remember what’s going on.

Here’s a super easy way to start: Get comfortable and begin breathing slowly and deeply. Expand your rib cage as you inhale; feel your abdomen rise with each intake of breath. Stay relaxed and focus on each breath in and out. Start with three minutes and work up to 30.

If you suspect you’re depressed—say, you’re having persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings that last more than a couple of weeks, and other symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and loss of interest in hobbies—get a referral for a good psychologist or psychiatrist, who can provide counseling and possibly medication.

How to settle your stomach

If you’re in pain or have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms, you’d do anything to feel better.

Luckily most stomach bugs are short-lived. However, choosing the wrong kind of food when your appetite starts to perk up again may prolong the misery.

Here are 9 foods you should avoid while recovering from an upset stomach.

Supersweet foods, such as those containing refined sugar can lead to spikes in insulin levels which, in turn, can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar.

Although this might not directly affect your stomach, it could make you feel clammy and shaky, which isn’t going to improve your overall state, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Dairy products such as milk and cheese top the list of “don’t” foods when it comes to upset stomachs. For one thing, more than half the world’s population is already lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the necessary enzyme to digest dairy products.

But even if you’re not lactose intolerant, a viral or bacterial infection can affect lactase (the lactose-digesting enzyme) and could cause you to temporarily or even permanently lose your ability to digest lactose, says Dr. Chutkan.

Although many people attribute soda’s aggravating qualities to the carbonation, you can really blame citric acid and the preservative sodium benzoate, says Dr. Chutkan.

“The chemicals can be hard on the stomach,” she says. But the carbonation can also bother some people.

“It can give you a full feeling and if you have an upset stomach and you’re burping a lot and feeling full, that can be a problem,” she explains.