Greengates Builders Merchants

The bad habits that can be GOOD for you!

From an early age we are taught to curb our bad personal habits — so it might come as a surprise to learn that some of these have health benefits.

BITING YOUR NAILS

 It’s a habit most sufferers try hard to give up, but it may actually be good for you, says Dr Hilary Longhurst, consultant immunologist from the Bart’s NHS Trust.

‘Unless your hands are filthy, the bugs we encounter when biting our nails could boost our immune system.’

This is because our immune system has a memory, making a note of how to fight every bug it has ever encountered.

So, regular nail biting exposes us to small amounts of potentially immune-boosting bugs. (The same principle applies to picking your nose and consuming the result. ‘It won’t harm you, though you’ll be a social outcast,’ she says.)

BURPING

Don’t tell your children, but a loud burp — or belch — though offensive, may in fact protect your body against damage from stomach acid.

Burp gas is formed of a mixture of substances. As well as containing air we swallow when we bolt down food, it also contains carbon dioxide.

Certain fat-rich food, such as chips or creamy sauces, alcohol and smoking can exaggerate this process, called duodeno-gastric reflux.

This natural gas release — the belch — is a normal part of digestion and suppressing it can cause problems.

‘If you don’t belch and the gas stays on the stomach, this can cause the valve that separates the gullet and the stomach to relax, allowing stomach acid to splash up into the gullet, triggering heartburn,’ says Dr Read.

PASSING WIND

As with burping, it’s important that we pass wind.

‘We evacuate wind for a reason — it forms in the bowel and we need to get rid of it,’ say Dr Read.

Most of the gas comes from the fermentation of protein and carbo­hyd­rate.
Gas is usually produced from your bottom around six hours after eating.

‘If you eat at 7pm, by 2am you’ll feel it bubbling away in your lower abdomen and may start to produce gas,’ he says.

‘Your may even feel your intestines, specifically our caecum (the first section of the large intestine), start to expand in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen.’

Releasing the gas eases pain and bloating, especially if you have a sensitive gut that becomes bloated regularly.

Despite what your mother told you, eating in bed may aid digestion.

This is because digestion relies on the paras­ym­pat­hetic nervous system being activated, specifically a long nerve called the vagus nerve.

Stress of any sort will interfere with this mechanism and try to stop digestion.

‘If you’re eating in a rush, are stressed or tense, you’ll get a conflict in the gut and end up with indigestion or other gastric symptoms, such as bloating,’ says Dr Read.

He adds that the best way to eat your meal is in a relaxed environment where you can take time to enjoy your meal. And what better place to do this than in your own bed?

“So some health benefits from our bad habits”! says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire

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