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From chewing gum to eating too much veg – 9 ‘healthy’ habits that could do MORE harm than good

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THOUGHT you lived a relatively healthy life?

It turns out there are several habits many of us think are doing us the world of good, when in fact they could actually be getting in the way of you staying healthy.

Thought you were making a healthy choice?  It can be tough discerning what is and isn't healthy


Thought you were making a healthy choice? It can be tough discerning what is and isn’t healthycredit: Getty

These experts share the common mistakes that many of us may be making…

1. Eating too many high-histamine foods

You may only know of the word ‘histamine’ from packets of antihistamines, often taken during allergy season.

Hannah Braye, Nutritionist at Bio-Kult, says histamine, a chemical made in the body, plays an ‘important role in modulating the immune system and regulating allergic and inflammatory reactions’.

She says: “Production, storage, release and breakdown of histamine are tightly controlled by the body.

“However, if the body’s control mechanisms become disrupted, this can lead to histamine intolerance (HIT) in some individuals.”

Here, histamine levels exceed the body’s ability to break it down.

This can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, painful periods, hay fever, difficulty breathing, hives, flushing, itching, blood pressure issues and headaches, to name just a selection.

Although histamine can be created by internal processes, external foods and drinks as well as medications can also contribute to histamine production.

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This can in turn lead to more histamine entering our circulation.

Hannah says foods high in histamine include fish, if not freshly caught or frozen, sausages, dry-cured meats, processed cheese, any fermented food such as sauerkraut, tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, avocado, vinegar, yeast extract, soy sauce and alcoholic drinks.

For most people who do not suffer from histamine intolerance, there is no reason to exclude these foods from your diet.

However, for those with histamine intolerance, consuming high amounts of healthy, high histamine foods can contribute to symptoms.

Think histamine may be a problem for you?

Hannah recommends implementing a low histamine diet for a short period of time, before reintroducing foods to test tolerance.

2. Taking too many supplements

Supplements can be great alongside a healthy diet, however, David Wiener, Training and Nutrition Specialist at Freeletics, says there is a fine line between taking enough supplements, and taking too many supplements.

“For example, if you are taking too much vitamin C, this could result in you feeling sick, stomach cramps, or digestive problems.

“Our bodies can only use as much as they need and when you are taking more than this, they are then stored and may cause adverse effects.”

Stick to the recommended amounts labeled on supplements, packets and jars, and if you notice odd symptoms, book an appointment with your GP.

3. Eating TOO many vegetables

According to the NHS, an estimated 13 million Brits suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Although a diet rich in fiber-filled fruit and veg (government guidelines recommend that we eat at least 30g of fiber each day) is vital for our overall health, too much of certain types of fiber can negatively impact sufferers.

Andrea Burton, Technical Advisor at Bio-Kult, says a high percentage of IBS sufferers do appear to get an increase in symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, constipation and diarrhea after eating vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli: “This could be due to the amount and type of fiber and sugar in the veggies.

“For example, with raw vegetables, your digestive system may not break down all the fiber effectively which may then irritate the digestive tract as it passes through.”

Andrea adds: “FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols) is the collective abbreviation for a group of fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates.

“These are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, and so provide easily available food for intestinal bacteria to ferment.

“For example, mushrooms, celery, cauliflower, onions and sugar snap peas are high-FODMAP foods that can trigger symptoms.”

You might want to consider a short-term low FODMAP diet.

After six weeks, reintroduce each of the FODMAP groups one at a time, “in order to ascertain which foods are causing IBS symptoms”.

“Eventually people will know what they can tolerate and what they cannot and can tailor a personalized diet accordingly,” says Andrea.

Elements on FODMAP foods? Check out this useful list here.

Regardless of IBS, Andrea says if you do increase your vegetable intake over a short period, it’s best to do it gradually or you could end up suffering from the unpleasant side effects of digestive distress.

4. Drinking only bottled water

Most of us know the negative impact plastic water bottles have on the environment.

But, the human body itself may actually experience negative effects from drinking bottled water.

Andrea says: “A lot of manufacturers have now removed the harmful BPA chemicals from bottles and proudly mention BPA-free on their bottles – but not all.

“And BPA is a weak synthetic oestrogen that can have negative and detrimental impacts on our body’s hormonal systems.”

Andrea adds that unless the label states the water is from a particular special spring or is filtered somehow, the water in the bottle could be just the same, or perhaps worse, than drinking ordinary tap water.

“Considering bottled water may not be as pure, or as safe, as many people think, it may be best to filter your tap water at home and make up your own bottles to take out with you.”

Try adding cucumber, mint, berries or your favorite fruit to give the water a lovely, fresh taste too.

5. Cutting out all fatty foods

Fatty foods aren’t necessarily the devil despite previous guidelines that have suggested limiting fats.

Although fats do contain more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins, healthy types of fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil can support good health.

Andrea explains that fats have many important roles in the body.

Not only do they provide an easily available and storable source of energy, they also support healthy cells and hormones.

She says: “In addition, they are required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and other food components.

“Therefore, consuming a very low-fat diet for prolonged periods could lead to unintended consequences, especially if fats are replaced with refined carbohydrates,” says Andrea.

“It’s recommended to reduce processed foods (a source of unhealthy trans-fats, as well as simple carbohydrates and sugars), and instead focus on eating a balance of natural whole foods.

“Including healthy sources of fat from oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring), nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil.”

6. Over-brushing teeth

We know it’s incredibly important to brush our teeth, morning and night, and generally stay on top of our oral hygiene, but you certainly can have too much of a good thing.

Liz Cooper, Nutritional Therapist at Bio-Kult, says tooth brushing at any time is abrasive to the teeth, so brushing them too much or too rigorously can be damaging.

Plus, despite being often told to brush teeth straight after a meal, Liz explains that the research says otherwise.

“Brushing our teeth immediately after eating, especially if we’ve eaten acidic food such as soft drinks, refined grains, citrus fruits and tomato products, can soften the enamel on our teeth, weakening them, making them more susceptible to acidic substances and ultimately leading to tooth tissue loss.”

Liz recommended waiting 30 to 60 minutes after a meal before brushing so that the oral pH is able to return to normal levels.

7. Over-using hand sanitizer

Covid-19 led to many of us carrying hand sanitiser, with offices, shops and stations now offering hand sanitiser to use as and when you need.

But over-using hand sanitiser can cause an imbalance in our skin’s microbiome, which is an integral part of our immune system.

Liz explains there are studies which have raised concerns about the impact of hand sanitiser on skin health: “These impacts include irritation and peeling of the skin by the alcohol and other harsh chemicals in the sanitiser, thinning of skin, which can increase the risk of penetration of UV rays, allergic reactions and ironically, an increased susceptibility to germs due to the negative impact on the skin’s immunity.”

While hand sanitizers can still be used in moderation, Liz says using hand sanitizers that are kinder to our skin, such as those that contain natural antimicrobials like essential oils, could give us the protection we’re looking for, while keeping our skin healthy too .

8. Exercising too much

“Working out too much can be counterproductive and may be harmful to your health,” explained David.

“Overdoing it or pushing too hard too quickly, especially if you are a beginner, can lead to doing more harm than good.

“As with any exercise, it’s important to listen to your body and incorporate rest days into your training regime, as well as making sure you’re getting enough sleep to help aid recovery.”

He adds that mentally, over exercising can affect your mood and energy levels, leading to irritation, anger and trouble sleeping.

“Physically, over-exercising can increase the risk of injury, joint pain, and muscle strain.”

New to exercise? Aim to work out every other day, with rest days in between.

9. Chewing gums

Although it’s great for freshening breath, David says that when you chew gum, you naturally swallow a lot of air which can make you feel bloated, and leave your stomach distended.

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“Chewing gum can also stimulate your digestive enzymes to expect food, which in turn can make you feel hungrier and end up causing you to overeat.

“In addition, sugar-free gum often contains artificial sweeteners, which people can find difficult to digest and, as a result, can exacerbate gas and bloating.”