Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at how our phones may be threatening our health, how eating fish can help you sleep better, and why the idea that you shouldn’t drink water while eating is bogus.
Step away from the smartphone
There are plenty of good reasons to curb your addiction to your phone, from better sleep to better relationships, self-esteem, attention span—the list goes on and on.
But one thing you might not have considered is the effect that all this checking and scrolling has on your hormones by raising your levels of the stress hormone cortisol repeatedly throughout the day.
According to this article in The New York Times, our phones may actually be threatening our health and shortening our lives by manipulating our dopamine systems, which helps us form habits and addictions.
By triggering the release of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol when you get an angry letter from your boss or get annoyed by your friend’s social media post, for example, several physiological changes happen, including spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar.
These effects can be a lifesaver in dangerous physical situations, but with Americans spending an average of four hours a day on their phone, these surges can become chronic, leading to an increased risk of serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke.
But, doctors say, you can break this anxious cycle, reduce cortisol levels and retrain your brain by turning off all notifications except the ones you actually want to receive. Pay attention to how individual apps make you feel when you use them and hide any that give you stress in a folder. Take regular breaks from your phone such as when you go get lunch, and consider taking a 24-hour “digital Sabbath.”
Fish for the snooze
While most people think of chamomile tea or warm milk as the dietary keys to better sleep, University of Pennsylvania researchers have discovered that eating fish is a contributor to high-quality sleep, according to Time.
Their paper, published in Scientific Reports, found that Chinese schoolchildren who regularly consumed fish slept better and scored higher on IQ tests as a result, possibly because of the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish.
Indeed, while fish consumption has been linked to higher cognitive functioning, the paper’s authors say it might just be a result of those eating omega-3-rich fish getting more and better sleep. While the study focused on kids, it’s reasonable, researchers say, that the findings also can apply to adults.
Eating fish just a few times a month, or even better, once a week, they say, could help improve brain function.
Busting the myth of no water during meals
Many people mistakenly believe that drinking water when you sit down for lunch or dinner is a no-no because it interferes with your digestion.
The idea behind this belief was that it dilutes your digestive juices, interfering with the breakdown of food, and slows the emptying of the stomach.
That’s just not the case, says registered dietitian Ellie Krieger in this Washington Post article.
Water is absorbed quickly in the stomach—within 20 minutes—and doesn’t hamper enzyme activity in the stomach. Nor does it affect the stomach’s acidity because the body produces as much as it needs to digest a meal even if food or drink temporarily dilute it. Moreover, several studies show that drinking water with a meal does not affect stomach emptying.
However, a couple of cups of water before a meal can make you feel fuller. That bloated feeling is probably a result of gulping or slurping water, which makes you swallow air.
So, by all means, have that glass of water with dinner. Just sip it, don’t chug it.
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