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Eating for Everyday Wellness

Can changes in diet stop headaches, fight acne, or help you sleep?

'But It'll Make Me Break Out' continued...


Dermatologist Doris Day, MD, says some studies are being done that are starting to show that there might be something to the food-acne link, but the problem is that it's a difficult link to prove.


"The question is, do you eat certain foods because you're stressed, and that stress is the same thing that causes acne?" says Day, assistant professor of medicine at New York University. "Or around your period when you want to eat chocolate. ... Is it the hormones that are creating those cravings that are also creating the acne, or is it the food itself?"


Day says that until researchers can prove otherwise, it's best to follow your gut.


"You know your own body, and you know what happens to you when you eat certain things," says Day. "So that's true for you, and you need to avoid those triggers."


Day says that some people may also confuse food-related flare-ups of a skin condition called rosacea with acne. Rosacea is a skin disease that can cause redness and swelling, usually on the face. Spicy foods, hot drinks, and alcoholic beverages are known to cause flare-ups of this condition.

'It'll Help You Sleep'

A warm glass of milk before bed may soothe your nerves, but it won't necessarily send you off to dreamland.


Sleep researcher Thomas Roth, PhD, says that despite the many myths, no study has ever shown a cause-and-effect relationship between food and sleep.


"There is no scientific data that suggests that bananas, turkey, or any of those high tryptophan foods makes you sleepy," says Roth, director of research at Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit. Tryptophan is a chemical found in milk and other foods that some believe has sleep-inducing effects.


But Roth says foods and drinks containing alcohol or caffeine are known to affect the quality of sleep a person gets. Many people may not realize how much caffeine they get during the course of a day because they only consider coffee or tea as sources, but soft drinks and chocolate also contain significant amounts of caffeine.


Alcohol is often thought of as a sedative, but although it may help people fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep suffers as the number of sleep disturbances increases with alcohol use.


Researchers say food and sleep are also linked in another way -- eating too much of any food or eating too late can make it harder to fall or stay asleep.


"I know from personal experience that if I eat too late, I can't sleep," says dietitian Mercer. "Many people who aren't used to eating after eight o'clock may find it difficult because they're too full to sleep."


Going to bed on a full stomach can also cause gastrointestinal discomfort, and propping yourself on several pillows may be necessary to let gravity help food make its way down to where it needs to go.


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