Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dietitian Orla Walsh: Foods that will help you sleep without the snoring


Dietitian Orla Walsh
Dietitian Orla Walsh

Dietitian Orla Walsh gives her advice on what foods to add to your diet - from walnuts to beetroot juice - to get a good night's sleep without the snoring.

Can diet improve snoring?

A systematic review from 2012 concluded that snoring increases with age, and men are more likely to snore than women. It also appears that family history plays a role, so you may be able to blame your parents for this one. Fortunately there are many modifiable factors in your life that once tackled, may significantly improve your snoring such as stopping smoking, reducing your neck circumference, weight and getting regular exercise.

Why is your neck circumference important?

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat narrow too much during sleep reducing the ease at which you breathe. The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea include snoring, noisy breathing and repeated bouts of interrupted breathing - which sounds like gasping or snorting.

The narrowing of the airway can be caused by being overweight. In fact 60pc to 90pc of those with obstructive sleep apnoea are obese. With two out of three Irish adult being overweight, snoring for many may be a result of their growing waistline. The reason why being overweight is an issue is that holding too much body fat on your body increases the bulk of soft tissue in the neck. This places a strain on the throat, weighing down on your windpipe. This is why having a large neck e.g. collar size greater than 17 inches increases your risk.

It's important to be diagnosed by a doctor and treated as obstructive sleep apnoea may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack and developing an irregular heartbeat such as atrial fibrillation. A meta-analysis of 12 studies on weight loss surgery showed huge benefits of weight loss, so do try and bring your BMI to a healthy level of 20-25.

Is there a role for beetroot juice?

Nitric oxide is important for our blood vessels as it helps them to widen when needed. The endothelium is the inner surface layer of the blood vessel. Low levels of nitric oxide is associated with impaired endothelial function. Oxidative stress and a naturally occurring product of the metabolism called ADMA have been shown to be elevated in people with obstructive sleep apnoea. Both of which cause damage to the blood vessels. Additionally elevated levels of ADMA inhibit the production of nitric oxide while oxidative stress decreases its availability to the body. This reduces the ability of this inner surface layer of the blood vessels to work as it should, possibly causing heart disease.

Taking in extra nitrates from beetroot juice has been shown to lower blood pressure. In sport it has been shown to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and improve exercise tolerance. Given the proposed effects, it is possible that it would be beneficial in those experiencing obstructive sleep apnoea. More studies are required, but the future of beetroot juice looks bright.

A low Histamine diet?

Medication can be used to help treat some of the underlying causes of snoring. For example, allergic rhinitis is a condition in which an allergen makes the inside of the nose swell or become inflamed. This can cause cold-like symptoms, and for some result in snoring. It's quite common in Ireland with more than 30pc of people said to experience it at some point in their life. Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis. Some experience it for a short period, while others can suffer for a few months at a time. If you're concerned about specific allergies, be sure to visit ifan.ie for advice on allergies and intolerances. It may be necessary to get an IgE blood test or skin prick test done to rule out allergies. Be wary of IgG test which have been shown to be much less specific and sensitive.

If allergic rhinitis is causing snoring, an antihistamine may be advised. However instead of taking anti-histamines, some people are choosing to follow a low histamine diet. Generally speaking, this diet focuses on fresh foods and avoids the likes of pickled foods, mature cheese and alcohol as well as certain other foods like tomatoes and bell peppers. The diet is challenging to follow so it's necessary to seek help from your local dietitian.

Anti-inflammation diet?

Inflammation is a protective process that the body uses to heal itself in response to an injury or exposure to a harmful substance. Nonetheless inflammation is not always beneficial. For example chronic or ongoing inflammation can occur in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease or skin conditions like psoriasis. As allergic and non-allergic rhinitis cause inflammation in the nose and result in snoring, research is looking more and more at anti-inflammation diets to see if they're beneficial. The science in this area is relatively new but it is evolving fast.

We do know of certain foods that can help suppress inflammation. For example oily fish like salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines due to their omega 3 content as well as herbs, spices, berries and tart cherry juice for a rich antioxidant supply. Other important foods include nuts, especially walnuts and pecans, as they provide healthy fats and lots of antioxidants.

A good approach is to focus on a very varied diet that includes white fish, shellfish and oily fish, to help support the body's immune system. By basing your diet on plants, you'll provide antioxidants to reduce inflammatory stress as well as a host of other important vitamins and minerals to enhance overall wellness.

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