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Reverse sleep problems that are tied to the family tree with diet


Last updated 2/21/2019 at 4:31pm

FLOWER MOUND, Texas – It’s estimated that 50-70 million U.S. adults have some type of sleeping disorder, and what they eat or don’t eat may impact how they sleep.

Many studies provide evidence of how nutrition influences sleep quality and also plays a role in disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, temporomandibular joint disorder and insomnia. According to some doctors, the connection goes even further – perhaps back one or two generations in a family tree.

 “Although patients often understand the role that diet plays in their overall health, many are surprised to find out that factors such as what their mother ate, or what their family traditionally eats, may have also played a role in their issues with breathing-related sleep disorders and TMJ,” Dr. Shab Krish, author of ”Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders,” said. “That happens when outside stimulus detected by the body causes modifications at the cellular level, known as epigenetics. Diet can have a significant impact on changes to the cells.

“Several studies show that a poor or high-fat diet is detrimental to health across several generations. So what the mother eats when she is pregnant can affect the cells of the fetus. But the good news is that epigenetic marks are reversible and can respond to environmental changes like a healthy diet,” Krish said.

She gave three diet recommendations that can lead to healthier cells and better sleep.

First, avoid inflammatory foods. Krish said foods such as sugar, dairy products and gluten can cause inflammation and weight gain all over the body. This inflammation in turn increases the chances of sleep disorders.

“For example, if there is excess fat in the neck, it can put more pressure on the airway,” Krish said. “Sugar is the worst; it causes inflammation everywhere, including in the nasal passages, which can cause a person to develop a bad habit of breathing through the mouth. And when that happens, the lower jaw is set back and downward, which can lead to poor tongue position and poor swallowing habits. All of these contribute to sleep issues.”

Load up on omega-3 fatty acids.

“The typical Western diet is filled with refined carbohydrates and animal proteins and does not include many inflammation-reducing omega-3s – fatty acids which have been shown to reduce cardiac arrest,” Dr. Krish said.

Omega-3 foods that Krish recommended include fish – anchovy, mackerel, salmon and sardines – nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flax seeds, navy beans, soybeans and vegetables such as spinach and brussel sprouts.

Eat epigenetic boosters.

“An epigenetic diet can maximize the health of DNA,” Krish said. “Foods such as broccoli, turmeric and green tea have demonstrated the ability to slow or reverse damage to the DNA. Foods that are rich in folate – vitamin B9 – improve epigenetics. These include citrus fruits, strawberries and leafy green vegetables. Foods rich vitamin B12, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs, also are part of the folate family and boost epigenetics.

“When it comes to sleep problems, nasal breathing and issues of the jaw and mouth, inflammation is a big culprit,” Krish said. “A strong overall diet goes a long way toward reducing it.”

Dr. Shab Krish, author of ”Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders,” is director of TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of North Texas. She has board certifications with the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain and the American Board of Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine. She is also a double specialist in both periodontics and endodontics. Find more information at


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