‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Few Things You Didn't Know About Sleep

Although you might not think so, sleep is integral to overall health. Drowsily yawning, dozing, snoozing and nanna-napping are indications that you might be a bit sleep deprived. When my niece and nephew are visiting and get put to bed at 8pm, all they want to do is stay up... My response? Ok, you guys stay up and I'll go to bed. Gone are the days of wanting to fight sleep. Well, for some of us anyway.

Adults are recommended to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Children require even more, you know, because they're growing and stuff. Poor sleep is associated with several health complications including high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, poor immune function and... wait for it: Obesity. This is a nutrition blog after all. So to all those pulling all-nighters and slinging the expression "I'll sleep when I'm dead", you might be there sooner than you think.

Sleep is important for so many aspects of our ability to function in life: Storing memories, clearing toxins from our brains, hormone and appetite regulation, cognition, decision making, reflexes and more. You might think sleep is for the weak, but in the end, those who sleep aren't weak of mind.

Research shows sleep deprived people consume more calories, exercise less and, as a result, are more likely to be overweight or obese. On the flip-side, there's research showing that losing weight helps you sleep better. A new study found that participants who lost 5% of their body weight had better sleep quality and increased their sleep time by almost 22 minutes. Maybe we should update the phrase "work hard and play hard" to "work hard, play hard and sleep harder".

So what do you do to prevent... or rather, induce world war zzzzz?
  • Avoid large meals close to bed time
  • Avoid late night alcohol and caffeine (yep, Captain Obvious at your service)
  • Unplug from your phone (computer, tv and other devices)
    • Yes, research shows these interfere with circadian rhythms
  • Foods like grains, bananas and chickpeas contain potassium and vitamin B6, which are needed to make melatonin, a hormone related to sleep
  • Relax with caffeine-free tea, a bath or some yoga
  • Don't go to bed hungry
Avoid being the unlikable Hulk, get your beauty sleep and sleep like you're dead to avoid becoming dead.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stress: Not So Tasty

Here's a topic that, rather than being wholly about nutrition, is more a big picture problem: Stress. It seems rather fitting we discuss this for two reasons: First reason, because there's some cool new research, and second is because stress is something almost everyone struggles with at some point. We've all heard or read about stress being bad for our health, which is pretty true. But let's get stuck into it before you start feeling like a cow in a steakhouse.

Stress can manifest itself in many ways, from stomach upset to diarrhea to headaches to sleep problems to irritability... and sadly, the list continues. 

New research shows that stress hormones can impact out taste perception. In case you're feeling a bit like a snowman in a sauna, let me elaborate... Researchers identified a class of stress hormones, called glucocorticoids that have receptors (GC receptors) in oral taste cells. More specifically, these GC receptors are found in cells that perceive sweet, umami and bitter tastes. 

These glucocorticoid hormones may effect how such cells respond to sugars and other taste stimuli under conditions when someone is stressed. Stressed mice, compared to non-stressed mice, had a 77% increase of GC receptors in taste cells. You may be feeling a little like a turkey on Thanksgiving, but wait... There's more. Stress won't just do you in the oral cavity...

These taste cells are interspersed throughout the body, for example in the GI tract and pancreas. More research is needed to determine if glucocorticoids have widespread effects like changes in metabolism or altered appetite. But again, before you start feeling like a black gentleman who accidentally wandered into a KKK convention, there are ways to manage your nutrition in times of stress.

Management tools:
  • Carve out 20 minutes to eat lunch away from your desk: Go outside, eat with a colleague, whatever. Just take a short time to really concentrate on, taste and enjoy your food
  • Make your lunch and snacks the night before, this is one less thing to stress about and will save you money and calories -> it'll also help if you're prone to sudden bowel evacuations due to stress. Here are some healthy lunch and snack ideas
  • Add your favourite herbs and spices to meals for extra stimulation of your oral cavity
  • Don't deprive yourself of a 'comfort food' 
    • For example, mine is chocolate. Buy a high quality dark chocolate that is preferably individually portioned already -> this will prevent you devouring a whole block (and no, a whole block is not a portion)
  • Remember the whole thing about intuitive eating? Yeah, that...

So there's your support the next time you feel like Oprah's bra staps... A little under pressure.