25 December 2016

Able to sleep only for four hours at night? What you eat might be the problem.

This is a very important word of caution to everyone who feels their stomach is made of steel and they can handle any amount of restaurant food and street food.

There are four types of food you should avoid:
1. Food that is not fully cooked (you'll know when you start chewing it. Unripe fruits also fall in this category)
2. Food that has burnt particles in it or is partially burnt (careful of Acrylamide).
3. Food that's made of poor quality ingredients and adulterated foods (you'll know by the taste, texture and smell)
4. Food served at places that do not maintain hygiene (more about this below)

Points 1, 2 and 3:
The primary reason people appear to have to eat poorly cooked food is because the cooks are not professionals and because people don't dare to object to bad food. The inexperienced 'cooks' don't know how to check if the food is fully cooked. They don't know how to adjust the flame so that the food doesn't burn.
As consumers, people don't seem to be aware of recognizing bad food and avoiding it. Most people have no other option if their home, canteen, bakery, restaurant or road-side stall serves bad food.
We have been taught to respect food and gobble it up without question. Most people think it's normal for roti's, naan's and paratha's to have black burnt spots. It isn't normal. It's harmful. Learn to refuse bad food. There is no point being polite if your family's health is being permanently damaged.

Unknown to you, your stomach and intestines struggle to digest food that's improperly cooked, burnt or of poor quality, even a few hours after you have eaten it. When you are young and healthy, you won't notice it. The body can handle such occasional problems. But when you eat such food for a few years, your digestive system starts weakening and you'll start experiencing not just a variety of stomach problems, but since your capacity to absorb nutrition is hurt, it affects the rest of your body too.
The person in the video here encourages people to not punch walls because it will lead to early arthritis. Same way, eating foods listed in 1, 2 and 3 can make your stomach weak while you are still young. I remember a doctor telling me that the reason tissues become cancerous is because they have been repeatedly irritated for a long time.

Point 4:
There's a bacteria called H Pylori which tries escaping your stomach acids by destroying your stomach cells and hiding in that space. When these bacteria multiply, they destroy huge patches of your stomach and everytime you eat something, the stomach acids flow on those exposed patches and you feel a sharp pain. Medicines to close the ulcerated regions won't work because the bacteria is still there creating new patches on your stomach real estate. An endoscopy will show you the red patches in your stomach. Only an antibiotic will rid you of the bacteria.

How to avoid H Pylori?
One way H Pylori reaches your stomach is through the fingers of people who have H Pylori in their digestive system. When they don't wash their hands properly after using the loo, and they touch the food they are about to serve you, the bacteria gets onto the food and into your stomach. I believe most employees do wash, but there are some who don't. Try avoiding restaurants where you can see they do not take care to maintain the quality of the looks, cleanliness and food. It's very likely that such a restaurant would have an unhygienic work culture.

How this is related to sleep:
I've faced this problem of falling asleep, waking up after 4 hours and then being unable to go back to sleep. There is even research done on it. Somehow, if the stomach is suffering from food that's tough to digest, you won't get sleep (lack of sleep leads to hair loss and a list of other massive health problems). Your only way out is to strictly avoid foods listed in 1, 2 and 3. There's probably some correlation between stomach problems and skin peeling off the sides of the nose or eyebrows and skin near the nails peeling off (though the doctor didn't confirm it). Excess flatulence could be another indication.

Skin peeling near nails

Something that helps lessen the effects of stomach related sleep loss is the drinking of half a cup of yogurt (Indians call it curd / dahi) after dinner. Also make sure you don't drink adulterated milk or curd.

Eating almonds gave me deep, satisfying sleep. I've got repeatable results. This won't work if you've eaten bad food (points 1,2,3 & 4 above).

Take care of your stomach and your stomach will take care of you. Nobody is invulnerable.
There's more awareness and training required if the situation has to improve: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-health-and-family-welfare-no-more-stomach-problems-and-health-issues-from-eating-restaurant-food

UPDATE 2019: Point number 1 above mentions "improperly cooked food". Just to be specific, this also includes rice. Many people undercook rice for the sake of keeping the grains separate. This undercooked rice caused me stomach problems and sleep loss. There are various points about the molecular structure of rice that needs to be understood before cooking. Same way, even chapati's, paratha's, naan's etc. get either undercooked or burnt. These are bad for the stomach and will cause sleep problems. Even overeating or having food that's too spicy can disrupt sleep.

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