YOU Docs: Get yourself some good bugs; snore no more
Q: I am pretty irregular — and it doesn't feel good. Will eating yogurt help? — Virginia D. via email
A: You'll be surprised how easy it is to get your poop train running on time if you make friends with billions of gut-friendly bacteria that are packed into probiotics — the regularity regulators touted in yogurt ads.
Right now, 10 trillion members of 500 species of bugs — some good, some bad — are calling your intestines home. The trick is to make sure the good outnumber the bad. Then the beneficial buggers in probiotics may ease gastrointestinal distress (lactose intolerance, constipation, ulcers, IBS), acidify your urine to help fight urinary tract infections, reduce inflammation and allergies, deter weight gain, boost immunity and slow development of some cancers. YOU Docs love 'em!
But not all probiotics in food can swim through stomach acid to the intestines, where they need to take up residence. Yogurt's added blessings aren't all that hearty. So to make sure you get all the benefits, look for the spore form of the little critters; they're so tough that they make Mark Wahlberg look like a pacifist. Opt for ones packaged in a hard shell that gives them the bulletproof vest they need to keep on truckin'.
But that doesn't mean no-sugar-added, low-fat yogurt isn't good for you. It can curb your risk of high blood pressure by up to 31 percent and boost memory. And, as they say in France, where they discovered this next benefit, c'est si bonbon: Yogurt as an afternoon snack is more satisfying to some people than a chocolate bar. We YOU Docs suggest you don't stop there. Amplify plain, low-fat yogurt with the healthy powers of cocoa-based dark-chocolate bits and/or real fruit chunks. Nothing will bug you then!
Q: Lately my wife has been sleeping on the sofa to avoid my snoring. How can I stop my nighttime symphony? — Anonymous
A: Everybody snores now and then, even your wife, but there's a difference between occasional, if noisy, snoring and being possessed by Paul Bunyan with a chainsaw. Like Officer Mike on "Mike & Molly," you may want to take steps to protect your health and increase your nighttime snuggling.
Blocked upper airways cause snoring. The trick is to figure out what's clogging your tubes. Could be from an allergy to dust mites in the bedding, post-nasal drip, a cold, sagging throat tissue, too big a waistline or slamming back a couple of brewskies before bedtime.
Here's how to bring some peace and quiet to your bedroom. You'll both get better-quality rest, and you'll lower your blood pressure.
1. If you are 40 or older, have a neck size over 17 inches, are overweight or don't exercise much, get moving! Exercising (walk at least 10,000 steps a day) and losing weight (it goes faster when you walk that much) might be your quickest and most lasting fix for the snoring blues.
2. Roll over. Sleeping on your back invites soft tissue at the back of your throat to relax and block air passages. Try sleeping on your side.
3. Cut out the nightcap. Alcohol can make tissue at the back of the throat sag, so even non-snorers snore.
4. Get dust-mite-proof bedding.
If those steps don't bring your wife back to bed, you might have sleep apnea — the stop-breathing-gasp-for-air-snort-and-snore racket that causes 75 percent of the cases of chronic snoring.
But sleep apnea isn't just about sleep-disrupting sounds — it doubles your risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, daytime sleepiness and type 2 diabetes. Breathing, not breathing, then breathing again shocks your vascular system. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine can help. It's a pump, tubes and a mask that keep airways open when you sleep, so that you won't stop breathing. And some folks find relief with a bite block that also keeps airways open. The results? A better brain, stronger blood vessels, healthier heart and good hugs — or maybe more — in the morning.