Eating for Everyday Wellness
Can changes in diet stop headaches, fight acne, or help you sleep?
Sure, you know you're supposed to eat well to live a long and
healthy life. But what do we really know about how the foods you eat affect how
you feel right now? Can red wine give you a headache, does candy make you and
the kids spin out of control, and will pizza really make your face break
Yes and no. Experts say that when it comes to eating for
everyday wellness, sometimes the myths about how some foods affect health may
be more powerful than the truth.
In fact, researchers may never be able to definitively separate
the effects of the food from other factors to prove or disprove many of these
Just take sugar, for example.
"A lot of people think sugar causes hyperactivity, but it's
actually the circumstances in which it's given in large doses like at a fun
party, Halloween, or a birthday that causes hyperactivity," says Nelda
Mercer, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The
hyperactivity link simply hasn't been proven."
'Oh My Aching Head'
Many people avoid also certain foods such as chocolate or red
wine because they're afraid it's going to give them a headache.
However, headache expert Seymour Diamond, MD, director of the
Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, says several studies have unequivocally
shown that there is no link between food and headaches. But that doesn't mean
the myth still won't hold true for some people, especially those who suffer
from recurring migraine headaches.
"I've been doing this for almost 40 years, and I believe
people. And people routinely tell us about certain foods triggering
migraines," Diamond tells WebMD. "But only about 30% of migraineurs are
really sensitive to anything."
The National Headache Foundation recommends that people who
experience recurring headaches keep a diary of foods eaten before migraine
attacks to determine any possible food sensitivities. Foods frequently reported
as headache triggers include:
- Aged cheeses
- Foods containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and
- Anything pickled, fermented, or marinated
- Processed meats containing nitrates
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
Diamond says alcohol can also trigger a headache, as anyone who
has suffered a hangover after drinking too much can attest. That's because
alcohol causes blood vessels to widen, causes dehydration, and even can
decrease your blood sugar, all of which can lead to a headache. In addition,
certain drinks that have been aged or processed in a flask or barrel, such as
red wine, may also contain certain byproducts that can cause headaches.
'But It'll Make Me Break Out'
What teenager hasn't been told to stay away from pizza or other
greasy foods because it'll make their face break out with pimples?
But the American Academy of Dermatology says the truth is that
extensive scientific research has yet to find a connection between diet and
acne. In other words, foods don't cause breakouts.