Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which an individual finds it difficult to breathe in the middle of the sleep. Sleep apnea can cause serious health conditions including high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, and depression.
One of the risk factors of sleep apnea is being overweight or obese. Unfortunately, 60 to 70 percent of those who have apnea are obese and increases their risk of developing other medical conditions.
Therefore, one of the most important ways to treat sleep apnea is by controlling weight and exercising regularly to maintain it. Certain foods you eat can be good for improving sleep apnea symptoms while there are others that can worsen the situation. Let’s examine these foods you should and should not include if you have sleep apnea.
Food Groups That Can Help Sleep Apnea
Certain foods that you include in your diet can help treat sleep apnea. These foods also help manage your weight.
1. Low-Calorie Fruits And Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories but rich in nutrients that are required by the body. Including different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber will aid in managing your weight because fiber-rich foods make you feel full easily and for a longer duration.
Some of the fruits and vegetables you can add to your diet include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus. celery, citrus fruits like oranges, raspberries, pears, and apples.
You can include fruits in your breakfast cereals, use more vegetables in your whole-wheat pasta dishes for lunch, and add more vegetables for your dinner.
2. Low-Fat Dairy Products
Low-fat dairy products like low-fat yogurt and skim milk may be low in fat but are good sources of calcium, proteins, and vitamin D. These can maintain your blood sugar levels and can also make you feel full in between meals.
You can have low-fat yogurt topped with fresh fruits like raspberries for dessert instead of ice creams. You can also use low-fat milk instead of whole milk for preparing your oatmeal for breakfast.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains are good sources of a variety of nutrients that are important for the maintenance of the body. They are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and minerals like iron and magnesium. They help with proper bowel function, weight management, and may also reduce the risk of developing heart diseases and diabetes. Whole grains may also help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
You can use whole-grain bread for your sandwiches instead of white bread. If your staple for lunch is white rice, replace it with brown rice. Similarly, if you enjoy regular crackers and flour tortillas for snacks, replace them with popcorn and corn tortillas, respectively.
4. Plant-Based Oils
If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, it is always good to use plant-based oils instead of sources rich in saturated fats like butter and margarine. Plant-based oils are rich in unsaturated fats which are good for the body. When you consume oils rich in saturated fats in excess, it may lead to health issues like inflammation, heart diseases, and obesity.
Try to include plant oils like olive oil, canola, oil, or even coconut oil in the dishes that you cook daily.
Food Groups That May Worsen Sleep Apnea
There are foods that you should avoid completely because they may worsen sleep apnea. Some of these foods are listed below.
1. Histamine Containing Or Producing Foods
Histamine is naturally present in the body. However, if there is an imbalance in the histamine levels because of something you ate, you may begin to allergic reactions. Allergic reactions may aggravate sleep apnea. These allergic reactions may cause your body to produce more mucus which may hinder normal breathing.
Tomatoes, eggplants, avocados, dry fruits all contain histamine. It is better to exclude them from your diet. Some types of fish like anchovies, smoked fish, sardines, and mackerel also contain histamine. So, it is better not to include them in your dishes as well. Some foods like bananas, strawberries, shellfish, papayas, pineapple, and eggs may not contain histamine; however, they may cause the body to produce them.
2. High-Fat Dairy Products
If you are overweight and have sleep apnea symptoms, high-fat dairy products will only increase their symptoms. Avoid whole milk, heavy cream, fatty cheese in your diet. These can also increase your mucus production that may aggravate breathing difficulties.
Avoiding these foods can aid in weight loss and can also lower your risk of developing heart diseases. If you are into fast food, try to limit or avoid it completely. These include cheeseburgers, pizzas, pastas, and ice cream.
3. Fatty Meat
Meat may be rich in proteins but they are also rich in saturated fats. This can increase your risk of developing heart diseases and aggravate inflammation in the body. All of these will aggravate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Therefore, try to avoid fatty meat like porterhouse and top sirloin steak, bacon, pork chops, lamb, sausage, etc. Replace these with fish like salmon and skinless chicken breasts.
4. Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates can disrupt your blood sugar levels and can also cause unnecessary weight gain. These can increase the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Processed foods like cookies, pastries, cakes, and others are foods you need to avoid. You should be careful with sweetened cereals that you may have for breakfast.
While the inclusion and exclusion of certain foods in your diet can improve sleep apnea symptoms, there are mild herbs that may benefit your condition as well. Let’s examine these herbs that may help improve the quality of sleep at night. Although alternative practices take time, they may be effective and should be discussed with your doctor before using any of the herbs to treat the condition.
Herbs That May Help Treat Sleep Apnea Symptoms
If your symptoms of sleep apnea are not serious and if your doctor approves of alternative practices to treat the condition, you can try the following herbs.
- Valerian Root: Valerian root has been used to induce sleep since ancient times. Interrupted sleep is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea and using the valerian root may help improve the quality of sleep.
- Kampo Extract: The Kampo extract is a Japanese herbal formulation. Studies have shown that it may help improve sleep-related breathing disorders with this extract. It is also known as Hange-koboku-to extract.1
- San’o-shashin-to: This is a Chinese herb which may be effective in treating mild cases of sleep apnea.2
- Homeopathic Sambucus: Sambucus, a variety of elderberry, may effectively ease sleep apnea symptoms by reducing nasal congestion.
Apart from your diet, exercise also plays a part in the treatment of sleep apnea. A few easy breathing exercises can be done at home to help ease the symptoms.
Exercises That May Ease Sleep Apnea Symptoms
You can practice certain exercises at home to help improve your sleep apnea symptoms. Some of the exercises may help strengthen the muscles in your airways and improve breathing. These include the following:
- Balloon Breathing: Place your lips around the opening of the balloon. Breathe in through the nose, and blow into the balloon. Exhale as much as possible into the balloon. Breathe in and release the air. Try to repeat this five times without removing the balloon from your mouth. If you feel lightheaded, stop the exercise immediately.3
- Tongue Hold: Pressing your tongue against the roof of the mouth, breathe in and out of the nose in a slow, steady manner. This may help with your breathing at night.
- Morning Breathing: You can perform this exercise as soon as you wake up in the morning. Bend your upper body forward at the waist, letting your arms loose. You may bend your knee to maintain balance. Slowly inhale, bringing your body slowly back up as you breathe in. Hold your breath for 3 to 5 seconds and exhale bringing your body down to the initial position.
Apart from these exercises, you can also practice yoga. Yoga exercises can help with your breathing and calm your body and mind. These exercises are only for mild sleep apnea symptoms. If you suffer from any serious effects, it should be communicated with your doctor immediately.
|↑1||HISANAGA, Akito, Takashi ITOH, Atsushi NIIZAWA, Koichi YOKOYAMA, Toshiaki KITA, and Katsutoshi TERASAWA. “A case of sleep apnea syndrome improved after administration of Hange-koboku-to.” Kampo Medicine 52, no. 4-5 (2002): 501-505.|
|↑2||Hisanaga, Akito, Osamu Saitoh, Hidemichi Fukuda, Kenzo Kurokawa, Akihito Okabe, Hiroyuki Tachibana, Hirofumi Hagino et al. “Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome with a Kampo‐formula, San’o‐shashin‐to: A case report.” Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences 53, no. 2 (1999): 303-305.|
|↑3||Boyle, Kyndall L., Josh Olinick, and Cynthia Lewis. “The value of blowing up a balloon.” North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT 5, no. 3 (2010): 179.|