Do you often have late dinners or work long hours that necessitate late dinners?
Which is the biggest meal of your day – breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Do you tend to stay up past 10 or 11 every night?
These lifestyle habits may seem harmless but they do have a tremendous long-term effect on your health. Find out how you can improve your health by making some changes to your routine.
Late Dinners Can Be A Recipe For Acid Reflux
Many people have a really hectic schedule, as a result, they push back dinner because they try to fit in shopping, exercise, and other chores prior to dinner. For many people, dinner tends to be the biggest meal of the day and because they eat late, they either have to go to bed shortly afterwards or they end up staying up till very late.
For young, healthy people, the stomach usually takes several hours to empty after a meal. As you get older, the process becomes longer. When you lay down to go to sleep, it is much easier for acid to spill out if your stomach is still full. Do you suffer from unexplained post-natal drip, cough, hoarseness, or difficulty swallowing? If you do, these could be signs of acid reflux even if you do not have the classic symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. Therefore, eating late at night and going to bed soon afterwards is simply a recipe for acid reflux.
Acid reflux can lead to esophageal cancer, which has risen five-fold since the 1970s. The most commonly prescribed drugs for acid reflux is proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, which work to block acid production in your stomach. Although PPIs may effectively eliminate your acid reflux symptoms, long-term use comes with a number of serious problems.
- PPIs disarm body’s primary defense mechanism. One of the main functions of your stomach acid is to defend your body against food-borne infections and food poisoning. With less stomach acid, you increase your risk of getting some potentially serious gastrointestinal infections, such as Helicobacter pylori or Clostridium difficile.
- PPIs may lead to malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Long-term use has been associated with vitamin B12 deficiency, iron-deficiency anemia, and malabsorption of calcium and magnesium (thereby decreasing bone density and increasing risk of hip fracture).
- PPIs may result in severe acid reflux rebound after discontinuation. Therefore, it is advisable to wean off the medication gradually instead of stopping cold turkey.
Acid reflux is usually not a problem of having too much stomach acid; instead, it is typically a sign of having too little. When there is not enough acid, the undigested food tends to remain in the stomach longer. The longer it stays, the greater the chance of the lower esophageal sphincter relaxing, allowing acid and stomach contents to flow back up the esophagus, leading to acid reflux. Therefore, when you eat too large a meal or if the meal is too close to bedtime, the chance of developing acid reflux becomes higher.
When you have low stomach acid, you are also more prone to gastrointestinal infections. Therefore, if you are suffering from acid reflux, you want to find out whether you currently harbor any bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. If you do, you need to get rid of them. Depending on your healthcare practitioner, either medications or herbs can be used to remove the infections. After that, you want to supplement with Betaine HCL (stomach acid) and digestive enzymes with every meal to optimize digestion and absorption of your nutrients.
Lifestyle Tip #1:
Have earlier dinners, ideally at around 6-7 pm and wait 3 hours before going to bed.
Staying Up Late Compromises Your Health
Are you a night owl who like to stay up till the wee hours? Do you know that the ideal bedtime is actually around 10-11 pm?
What time you go to bed determines the quality of your sleep. Sleep is a cycle of phases, a shift back and forth between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.
- During REM sleep, memories and thoughts from the day are processed. It is the stage of sleep in which vivid dreams occur.
- During non-REM sleep, many restorative functions occur. In the deepest phase of non-REM sleep (also know as slow-wave sleep), the brain recovers from its daily activities and hormones are released, which help the body rebuild itself from the damaging effects of free radicals produced by stress and toxins during the day.
After you fall asleep, you go through 90-minute cycles of non-REM sleep followed by REM sleep. However, due to your natural circadian rhythms, the ratio of non-REM to REM sleep changes across the night.
- Between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am, the majority of those cycles are composed of deep non-REM sleep and very little REM sleep.
- Between the hours of 3 am and 7 am, the balance changes. The 90-minute cycles are comprised of more REM sleep and a lighter form of non-REM sleep.
In other words, you get more of the deeper non-REM sleep during the early part of the night. Therefore, someone who sleeps from 9 pm to 5 am (8 hours total) will have a totally different overall composition of sleep with more non-REM than someone who sleeps from 3 am to 11 am (also 8 hours total). In short, going to bed too late will deprive you of the restorative functions that non-REM sleep provides, as a result, you are likely to feel less rested even if you have the same amount of sleep.
For most people, unfortunately, late bedtimes also means less sleep unless you can sleep-in every day and not have to go to work or school.
- Mounting evidence shows that sleep deprivation leads to higher food consumption and weight gain. When you do not have enough sleep, your body’s regulation of appetite-controlling hormones is altered – you secrete less leptin (the satiety hormone) and more ghrelin (the hunger hormone). As a consequence, you are more likely to overeat. Overtime, your sleep deficit may result in many pounds gained on your waist and hips.
- Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on the immune system. Research shows that people with insufficient sleep also have higher markers of systemic inflammation.
- In a number of studies, reduced sleep is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack.
- Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in women. Research suggests that melatonin, the hormone secreted mainly by the pineal gland that induces sleep, is the key factor. Apart from being the sleep hormone, melatonin is also a potent antioxidant that helps protect the body from the damage of free radicals.
Lifestyle Tip #2:
- If you are currently going to bed well past 10-11 pm, make it a goal to go to sleep and wake up earlier by 15-30 minutes every week until you hit the 10-11 pm goal.
- Stop drinking caffeine after lunch as it causes a chemical shift towards a state of excitation.
- Do not watch TV, work on the computer or tablet, or play computer games after 9pm as the strong light that the devices emit will impair the secretion of melatonin in the body.
Which Should Be Your Biggest Meal Of The Day?
You have probably heard the advice to make your breakfast or lunch the biggest meal of the day and have a lighter meal at dinner. If this has worked well for you and you feel good, there is no need to change your routine.
However, some experts have a totally opposing view. They believe that the human body is actually programmed for nocturnal feeding. During the day, you are usually active and alert in the course of the working hours. The body tends to be in a fight-or-flight mode driven by the sympathetic nervous system. This is the time when you should exercise, spend energy, and burn fat. Therefore, you should only eat lightly because if you eat too much, you will become sleepy and fatigued.
At night time, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and puts your body in a relaxed and sleepy mode for energy replenishment. Hence, this is the best time to have your main meal of the day as your body is in a better capacity to digest, absorb, and replenish nutrients throughout the night.
Most Americans and many other cultures have dinner as the biggest meal of the day. There is, so far, no convincing long-term evidence which way of eating is healthier and better for everyone. Indeed, what truly works for your body is what gives you the optimal energy and makes you feel the best.
Lifestyle Tip #3:
If dinner is your biggest meal of the day, make sure you don’t overeat and don’t eat too late. Always give yourself at least a 3-hour window before going to bed and the ideal bedtime is around 10-11 pm.