Why Do We Get Side Stitches? (And 8 Other Health And Fitness Mysteries Solved)

Curious about an obscure health and fitness question? Experts supply answers to a few of the strange questions that no doubt have popped into the mind at some point.

December 14, 2017
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We all have a natural curiosity about life’s strange health and questions. Do bananas really prevent muscle cramps? What the heck are hiccups? Sometimes, we turn to the internet for responses, but with that, we often find a mix of information. It would be nice to know the real answers.

To end the mystery for at least a few of these enigmatic health and fitness questions, we found experts to supply authoritative answers.

Are there really such things as aphrodisiac foods?

According to the University of California, Berkeley’s evidence based wellness publication Berkeley Wellness, the idea of specific foods making you feel extra tingly inside dates back centuries. Newly married couples used to drink fermented honey in water during the first month of marriage, which they believed upped their libido.

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The thing is, this brew’s intoxicating effect is likely what led to this uptick in passion.

The Berkeley Wellness entry, citing a scientific literature review published in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews, reported that “there’s limited or no good research to indicate that any food (or supplement) acts as an aphrodisiac.”

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But Jeanette Kimszal, a registered dietitian nutritionist for EduPlated, an online nutrition coaching platform, says not to discount the mind, as it is a powerful thing.

“If you think these foods may boost your sex drive, they may actually work,” she says. She lists foods that people do say get them going: oysters, chili peppers, chocolate, avocado, watermelon, asparagus, pumpkin seeds and celery.

Hey, why not go ahead and see if they work?

Why am I told to eat a banana when my muscles cramp?

In a study published in the journal Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, researchers found that eating bananas helped reduce exercise-induced muscle cramps. But why?

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It’s due to bananas’ potassium level, which is an important electrolyte found in this fruit.

“Muscle cramping can be triggered by electrolyte imbalances,” says Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer. When potassium levels are low, it can cause the muscle to spasm.”

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She does stress that eating a banana when you cramp will not automatically alleviate the pain, so you should use them on a preventive level.

Why do I urinate so much at night?

According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), one in three adults over the age of 30 need to go to the bathroom at least twice each night. The majority of these adults are over age 60, but it can happen to anyone at any age.

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According to Sasha M. Davidson, MD, this is called nocturia and can happen for a multitude of reasons, including “age; gender; men can have benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is an enlarged prostate gland, and women can have an overactive bladder; medication; diabetes, [because] when you have too much glucose, your body draws excess water; congestive heart failure, [because] when you lie down, you have fluid sitting in your blood vessels, causing your bladder to fill quickly; and sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.”

If you do face an excessive amount of trips to the bathroom every night, the NAFC recommends addressing the issue now rather than waiting until you get older, because the problem is undoubtedly going to get worse.

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You should make a doctor’s appointment and show up armed with information, the NAFC urges. Keep a hydration diary and know what medications you take. Even bringing in the medication bottles can help make the appointment run smoothly, especially if the doctor is not your primary care physician.

Why do my joints hurt before it rains?

No one is truly sure why some people feel joint pain before a rainstorm—and yes, this actually happens—but an accepted theory is that their discomfort is due to low barometric pressure that occurs when it rains.

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“The lower atmospheric pressure results in relative higher pressure inside one’s joint space. The joint space is a closed compartment, so it is responsive to changes in the surrounding pressure,” says Edna Ma, MD. She says that people with arthritis are especially sensitive to this pressure change because of the exposed nerve endings inside their joint space.

Why do we get hiccups?

When we take a regular breath, our diaphragm contracts and pulls air into our lungs, and when we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and air gets pushed out.

But sometimes, according to Samuel Hetz, MD, the diaphragm becomes irritated and contracts very quickly, “often due to drinking or eating too much or too quickly,” he says.

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“This spasm,” reads the WebMD overview of hiccups, “causes an intake of breath that is suddenly stopped by the closure of the vocal cords (glottis). This closure causes the characteristic “hiccup” sound.

But in the vast majority of cases, you shouldn’t worry about them: “Hiccups are usually nothing more than an annoyance, and usually resolve within minutes,” says Hetz.

“However, if hiccups last for a longer period of time or become more frequent, it may be a sign of any underlying serious condition,” he says, which can range from problems of the central nervous system to issues of mental health.

Why does my urine smell after I eat asparagus?

Asparagus: the food that comes back to haunt you. You spend the effort cooking it and relishing in how it is both healthy and delicious, but then you pay for the food consumption come bathroom time. Why?

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“Asparagus makes our urine smell due to the asparagusic acid found in this vegetable,” says Kimszal, our trusty dietitian. “When we digest asparagus, it breaks down into sulfur-containing chemicals that produce the pungent, weird smelling odor.”

You might want to tough it out, however. Asparagus is a versatile, low-calorie, nutrient packed food that reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, and some cancers, reports Medical News Today.

What are the differences between bottled water brands?

Per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bottled water is water sealed in bottles that contains no added ingredients. It can, however, “contain a safe and suitable antimicrobial agent” like fluoride, the administration says. The differences between bottle water brands, it turns out, relate to how the water is acquired.

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The FDA classifies bottled water as follows:

  • Well water, which comes from a hole drilled or bored in the ground that taps into an aquifer, which is a body of saturated rock in which water can easily move.
  • Artesian well water. This water is collected from a well that taps an aquifer—and that aquifer is under pressure from layers of rock above it. Brands include Voss, Fiji Water, and Hawaii.
  • Mineral water. This water comes from an underground source containing at least 250 parts-per-million total dissolved solids. No minerals can be added later. Brands include Indigo H20 and Gerolsteiner.
  • Spring water. Collected at the spring or through a borehole, this water comes from an underground that carries water to the surface naturally. Brands include Evian and Crystal Geyers.

You will also find other types of water on the market such as SmartWater, which has added electrolytes (remember what bananas do for you?), and sparkling water, which “typically starts as spring water which is then carbonated by adding carbon dioxide. Many sparkling waters come in flavored varieties which can be either natural or artificial,” says Turoff, our other trusty dietitian.

Why do you feel pain in your side when running or cycling?

“Side stitches” are common among runners and cyclists alike. They hurt like crazy, and they most often occur on the left side or center of the chest.

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Rushi Shahiwala, personal trainer and orthopedic clinical specialist of the NY Sports Science Lab, says side stitches stem from improper breathing. Most cyclists “use a shallow breathing technique to move quickly, which not only harms themselves for the long term, but also allows less oxygen into their body.”

Side stitches also occur when fatigue sets in and cyclists begin slouching, putting them “in a closed rib position and does not allow the diaphragm to move properly,” Shahiwala says.

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In addition, Shahiwala states that side stitches can come from a poor warm ups, dehydration, eating and drinking too much, and eating gaseous
foods.

What is a runner’s high?

“Experienced runners often revel in a euphoric state called the runner’s high,” says Brady Irwin, owner and coach at Science of Speed, a professional endurance coaching organization. “It is a feeling that often makes us feel super human and even unstoppable. It is also a feeling that, once you experience it, you want to be able to replicate it over and over again.”

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For decades, researchers always thought a runner’s high was related to endorphin releases, but it turns out that the release of endocannabinoids might play a roll as well. A 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, suggests a runner’s high mirrors the same system involved in, well, an actual, physical high.

If you are not a runner, you might want to think again: “With these chemicals in the body, runners often feel that they are outside of their own bodies, and can run faster and farther than what they are typically capable,” says Irwin.

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