A sleep-deprived girlfriend recently confided in me that her husband incessantly snores like a high-powered buzz-saw forcing her to resort to desperate measures to catch a few good zzzz’s. Alas, when his nose strips, neti pot and anti-snoring pillows failed to alleviate the problem — as well as her ear buds and audio books to drown out the cacophonous snorts — she moved into their detached granny flat.
Luckily, her hubby did not suffer from the dangerous and sometimes life-threatening condition known as sleep apnea, which can also cause snoring. Rather, he was diagnosed as a common “habitual snorer,” a condition, which according to the National Sleep Foundation, can affect as many as 90 million American adults (about 30 percent of the population).
Although males have a greater preponderance to snoring than females (2:1 ratio), this gap shrinks once women reach menopause. Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the air passageways, whether due to allergies, congestion, weight gain or atrophy of the oral and respiratory apparatus, including the tongue, soft palate and uvula.
Let’s kick snoring under the bed with lifestyle changes and an optimum diet. Here’s how:
• The Bee’s Knees: Add a dose of divine honey to your day, whether golden acacia, floral alfalfa, dark and hearty buckwheat, light and delicate clover, woodsy linden, mild and citrusy orange blossom or robust manuka. All varieties are antibacterial, antimicrobial, and most importantly, anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling in the mouth and throat, including the tongue, soft palate and larynx.
Brew a cup of soporific herbal tea like chamomile with a splash of almond or coconut milk to add body and a richer taste, along with a spoonful of honey to transform the beverage into a throat-soothing balm and natural sleeping pill.
• Gold Standard: The golden boy of Indian spices — tantalizing turmeric, ginger’s first cousin — is as healthful as it is gorgeous and flavorful. It has been revered for centuries by ancient practitioners for its Herculean healing powers, including its mighty anti-inflammatory properties, particularly the potent curcumin found to combat nasal congestion.
Sprinkle turmeric powder or grate fresh turmeric root on both savories and sweets, including omelets, soups, stews, sauces, salad dressings, potato, rice and pasta dishes. Even incorporate the vibrant spice in cakes, cookies and cobblers. Since turmeric is more effective when combined with a fat, where possible, blend with olive, avocado or coconut oil.
• The Pineapple of My Eye: This tropical treat contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain, which aids in digestion and puts the skids on swelling and mucous formation in the respiratory system, especially the nose and lungs. Pineapple is both sweet and tangy, and can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, candied, canned, juiced, grilled, flambéed or baked.
Fill the hull with assorted fruits. Soak chunks in rum and make an adult ice cream sundae topping. Blend in rice puddings and carrot cakes. Jazz-up chicken, seafood, or veggie kebobs. Toss on pizzas, in quinoa, couscous or pasta dishes. Do Hawaiian-style shrimp cocktail or ceviche, or whip up a sassy salsa (see recipe) to top a turkey burger, wild-caught grilled salmon fillet, or just dig in with a batch of blue corn chips.
• Peeling Back the Onion: Allium vegetables, whether cooked or raw, including garlic, scallions, shallots, Northern Reds, Western yellows, whites, sweet Vidalias, or squat cipollini onions have a rich store of potassium, folate, Vitamins A, B6 and C, dietary fiber, and odoriferous sulfur compounds with antimicrobial properties. These reduce inflammation and swelling, provide relief from coughs, colds, bronchitis, and general congestion, clearing the air passages for a quiet night’s sleep.
• Mint Condition: Peppermint, a hybrid of winter mint and spearmint soothes the mind, body and spirit with its zippy and aromatic essential oils. The vibrant Mediterranean herb jazzes up everything from taboulis, pilafs, lamb dishes, fruit salads, and gelatos to thirst-quenching lemonades, mojitos, and iced green teas. Or chew some fresh sprigs before bedtime to calm your palate and put the skids on snoring.
Note: Flammatory, mucous-producing, and difficult to digest foods have been found to exacerbate swelling, congestion and snoring. Standing advice: Steer clear of these troublemakers, or eat in moderation caffeinated drinks, simple carbs, especially foods containing refined white flour and white sugar, cow dairy products, along with corn and potatoes. Remember to eat lightly before bedtime as a heavy late evening meal can cause acid reflux and other digestive ails that prompt snoring.
Recipe: Anti-snoring Pineapple Salsa
• Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups fresh chopped pineapple; 1/4 cup each yellow and red peppers, diced; 1/4 cup red onion, diced; 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro; 1 jalapeno pepper, minced; 1 Persian cucumber, minced; juice from one lime; Himalayan pink salt, to taste.
• Method: Combine ingredients in a glass bowl, and refrigerate before eating.