The Diet Detective: Your Nutrition Questions Answered

Why are we hungry again an hour after eating Chinese food?

"Of course, this doesn't always happen. But when it does, it is generally because of several factors: a high proportion of low-calorie, high-water-content vegetables that result in short-term fullness due to their volume, but not lasting fullness. A high sodium content and a variety of different flavors/sauces may also stimulate the appetite center in the hypothalamus and result in early renewal of hunger after the stretch receptors in the stomach shut down as the stomach empties. This is less likely to occur when dishes include good protein sources; when sauces, sodium and oil are kept light; and when dishes are accompanied by brown rather than white rice," says David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital in Connecticut.

Does alcohol warm you up?

"The opposite. It can cause some dilation of superficial blood vessels, creating an impression of warmth. But dilation of surface vessels diverts blood from the core, and can actually reduce core temperature. Drinking to warm up when very cold can accelerate the onset of hypothermia," says Katz.

Does a teaspoon of sugar cure the hiccups, and if so, how?

"No. The sugar has nothing to do with it. Hiccups are muscle spasms likely caused by the vagus nerve. This is a major nerve that runs from the brain to the diaphragm and stomach. Swallowing anything can help relax the diaphragm back to its normal state to stop hiccups," says Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

How and why do honey and lemon help a sore throat?

According to Katz, "Honey has antimicrobial properties that can actually fight bacterial overgrowth and perhaps suppress viral replication as well. It also coats the throat and provides some surface stimulation that offsets the underlying irritation. Lemon is a sialogogue; it stimulates saliva production, and that in turn also serves to coat the throat and relieve that dry, scratchy feeling." 

Why shouldn't you swim after you eat? Is it dangerous?

"No, it is not dangerous. You could get an uncomfortable stomach cramp, but that goes for any activity after eating. When we eat, blood rushes to the stomach and intestines to get the digestive muscles moving. If we begin exercising during this process, the blood is diverted back to the working muscles in the legs or other body parts needed during exercise. This leaves the digestive tract in a bit of a lurch, slowing down digestion and increasing the potential for cramping. This also leaves a mass of food in your digestive tract that can make you feel uncomfortable and bloated, "says Sandon. She recommends waiting 30 minutes before attempting vigorous activity.

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