TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Best and Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

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A symptom-by-symptom guide to the eats that will soothe (or strengthen) your symptoms

When you’re under the weather, the last thing you want is to eat something that makes you feel worse. But what if the last thing you want is chicken soup or crackers, and you’re craving ice cream or a glass of wine? It depends on what’s wrong with you, experts say. Here are common symptoms and expert suggestions on foods that help—and hinder—relief.

You’ve got the runs

For diarrhea caused by a stomach virus or a meal that didn’t agree with you, try the BRAT diet, says James Lee, MD, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. “Many different things can cause diarrhea, such as Crohn’s disease or colitis,” he says, so see your doctor if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or sooner if signs of dehydration appear, or if diarrhea is accompanied by fever, blood, severe pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.

Best foods: The BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without skin are also safe bets.

Worst foods: Sugarless candy and gum containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners, which aren’t digestible and can trigger diarrhea. Other foods that can cause gas and bloating include onions, apples, broccoli, cabbages, and beans. Dairy may also aggravate diarrhea, as well as alcohol and caffeine.

You’re constipated

Constipation can occur when not eating enough fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and veggies, which stimulate digestion. “Adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day,” says Dr. Lee.

Best foods: High-fiber whole grain breads, nuts, beans, prunes, oatmeal, flaxseed, broccoli, pears, and apples. (Here are the 20 best foods for fiber.) Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day also helps get things moving, says Dr. Lee.

Worst foods: Chocolate, dairy products, iron supplements, narcotics (pain medications) and some blood and anti-depression medications may worsen constipation.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

You’re feeling nauseous

Feeling queasy makes all foods sound unappealing, but the right ones can ease symptoms by calming stomach acids, says Dr. Lee. “In general, keep food portions small and odors to a minimum.”

Best foods: Saltine crackers or pretzels can help, says Dr. Lee, as does small quantities of dry toast or cereal. Ginger or lemon tea, fresh or frozen lemon slices, and peppermint also work.

Worst foods: Greasy, spicy, or oily foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can make nausea worse.

It hurts to swallow

When you have a sore throat, several foods can coat your throat and soothe the pain, says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers.com and author of The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).

Best foods: Combine peppermint tea (lukewarm, not hot)—which has analgesic and anesthetic effects—and Manuka honey, which is known for its wound-healing properties. Soft, creamy foods such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and custards are also soothing.

Worst foods: Avoid hot liquids and hard, scratchy foods such as potato chips, nuts, and granola. The acidic juices from raw fruits and vegetables, as well as orange juice, grape juice, and lemonade can also irritate a sore throat.

Read more: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks

Your entire body aches

Foods that ease muscle aches depend on the specific reason for the body aches, says Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “For general muscle aches, food containing magnesium or calcium may help ease soreness,” she says.

Best foods: Magnesium-containing foods include nuts, bananas, beans, leafy greens, and avocados. Foods high in calcium such as canned salmon, yogurt, dark-green leafy greens, and orange juice fortified with calcium also lessen muscle cramping and pain.

Worst foods: Anything that dehydrates you can worsen muscle aches, says Dr. Arthur, particularly alcohol and caffeine.

Your head hurts

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of headaches, says Dr. Arthur, so it’s best to treat that cause first and see if it relieves your pain.

Best foods: Water and other fluids are your best bet. “Drink a bottle of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you feel better,” says Dr. Arthur. Caffeine is known for drying you out, but ironically, it can help in small doses. “But for each cup of tea or coffee, drink an equal amount of water to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Arthur says.

Worst foods: Headache-triggering foods include artificial sweeteners, MSG (found in sauces and soy sauce), aged cheeses (blue, stilton) that contain tyramine, plus chocolate, red wine, hot dogs, deli meats, and dried fruit. MSG is metabolized to glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, says Dr. Arthur. Tyramine links to increased blood pressure, which can trigger headaches.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

You have an earache

Earaches typically accompany other symptoms, says Dr. Arthur, “so they’re not correlated with any food in general.” Since they occur most often with upper respiratory infections, however, foods that clear up congestion can help earaches as well.

Best foods: Clear fluids and chicken soup ease congestion by loosening up mucous in nasal passages. Omega-3s found in salmon and nuts decrease inflammation, and vitamin C found in dark leafy greens, berries, and citrus boost the immune system, says Dr. Arthur.

Worst foods: Dairy can thicken phlegm and worsen congestion, with the exception of yogurt, which contains probiotics, says Dr. Arthur. “Stay away from processed and packaged foods, too, which increase inflammation and lengthen the recovery process.”

You’re red and itchy

A rash could be a symptom of an allergy, says Dr. Arthur. “Keep a detailed food journal to look for links to foods that seem to trigger a rash.”

Best foods: Omega-3 containing foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines) and walnut and flax seed oils, as well as foods high in protein are all important for skin health, says Dr. Arthur. “Skin is made up of proteins, so a diet adequate in protein is necessary for skin protein synthesis.”

Worst foods: The most common foods that cause itching are nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, berries, soy, wheat, and milk, says Debra Jaliman, MD, dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist ($9, amazon.com).

Read more: 20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health

You have a runny nose

When you have a cold, the worst symptom might be a nose that just won’t stop running. Aside from taking a steamy shower, Slayton suggests drinking warm tea—it may not slow down the drip, but a soothing tea will make you feel better.

Best foods: Try Wakaya ginger tea, suggests Slayton. Ginger contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help clear up a cold faster than just waiting it out. “Apple cider and lemon in water works well, too,” she says.

Worst foods: Spicy foods can cause an immediate runny nose (which then turns into congestion), as may alcohol.

You’re stuffed up

A cold, flu or sinus infection can irritate and inflame blood vessels in your nose, making it hard to breathe. Aside from inhaling steam from a hot shower or using a humidifier, if you’re stopped up due to mucous, some foods can help.

Best foods: Slayton recommends “golden milk,” which includes turmeric, a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Place 2 cups of coconut or almond milk in a saucepan with 1 tsp dried turmeric, 1 tsp dried ginger, a dash of black pepper and honey to taste. Bring to a simmer, allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve warm.

Worst foods: Skip dairy, spicy foods, and sugar, all of which can aggravate symptoms, says Slayton.

Read more: 13 Ways Inflammation Messes With Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Being Unemployed Changes Your Personality

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The new results question how permanent personality really is

Add another stressor to the financial burden of losing your job. Being unemployed can change the nature of your personality, making you significantly less agreeable and changing your level of conscientious and openness, according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the U.K., asked more than 6,000 Germans to self-evaluate five of their core personality traits—agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness—over a period of several years. Everyone in the sample began the study with a job, but part of the group lost their jobs and remained unemployed for the duration of the study. Others lost their job and found new employment.

Read More: Employers Hired 257,000 Workers in January

Researchers thought that men and women would behave differently in response to unemployment, since the workplace values different things from each sex. Indeed, psychologically, men and women seemed to respond differently to unemployment.

Women scored lower in agreeableness every year they were unemployed, but when men lost their jobs, they saw a temporary spike in agreeableness before a sharp decline after the third year. The study argued that agreeableness is especially valued in women in the workplace, perhaps partially explaining why women reported being less agreeable after losing their job.

Conscientiousness immediately declined in men and continued the downward slope as long as men remained unemployed. It went down in women, too, but not as consistently as it did for men.

The study challenges the notion that personality is made of unchanging traits, and suggests that public policy efforts to combat unemployment might extend beyond economic benefits.

“Policies designed to curb unemployment preserve not only psychological health but also, critically, the basic personality traits that characterize personhood,” the study authors write.

TIME psychology

10 Things That Will Prevent You From Getting Sick, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Look at pictures of sick people.

Via The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature:

Being exposed to photographs of individuals spreading their germs (e.g., via sneezing or coughing) is sufficient to elicit a boost in one’s immunological defense system.

It’s legit. Here’s the study he’s referring to:

An experiment (N = 28) tested the hypothesis that the mere visual perception of disease-connoting cues promotes a more aggressive immune response. Participants were exposed either to photographs depicting symptoms of infectious disease or to photographs depicting guns. After incubation with a model bacterial stimulus, participants’ white blood cells produced higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the infectious-disease condition, compared with the control (guns) condition. These results provide the first empirical evidence that visual perception of other people’s symptoms may cause the immune system to respond more aggressively to infection. Adaptive origins and functional implications are discussed.

Source: “Mere visual perception of other people’s disease symptoms facilitates a more aggressive immune response.” from Psychol Sci. 2010 May; 21(5):649-52. Epub 2010 Apr 2.

You looked at the picture above, right? Your immune system is already stronger. (You’re welcome.)

There are a number of other simple research-based tips for staying healthy and dodging illness:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Sex/Relationships

8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

It can boost your mood, relieve pain, and more

Understanding how sex affects your brain can improve your roll in the hay, and it may also shed light on other parts of your health, says Barry R. Komisaruk, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. It’s not the easiest subject to study—test subjects might have to masturbate inside an MRI machine—so research is still developing. But scientists are starting to unravel the mystery. Here’s what we know so far about your brain on sex.

Sex is like a drug

Sex makes us feel good. That’s why we want it, like it, and spend so much time hunting for mates. The pleasure we get from sex is largely due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is also one of the chemicals responsible for the high people get on certain drugs. “Taking cocaine and having sex don’t feel exactly the same, but they do involve the same [brain] regions as well as different regions of the brain,” says Timothy Fong, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate also tickle the reward center, says Komisaruk.

Sex can act like an antidepressant

A 2002 study out of the University at Albany looked at 300 women and found that those who had sex without a condom had fewer depressive symptoms than women who did use a condom. The researchers hypothesized that various compounds in semen, including estrogen and prostaglandin, have antidepressant properties, which are then absorbed into the body after sex. (They corrected for other things that might affect both mood and condom use, such as being in a serious relationship or use of oral contraceptives.) This is good news for anyone who is in a committed relationship, but if you’re still playing the field, then you shouldn’t give up condoms. There are other ways to boost mood, but really no other way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Read more: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

Sex can (sometimes) be a downer

Those feel-good chemicals may be going full blast during the act, but after? According to researchers, there is such a thing as post-sex blues (technical term: postcoital dysphoria). About one-third of the women participating in one study reported having experienced sadness after sex at some point in time. While it’s possible that regret or feeling coerced might be the reason why, researchers can’t explain the connection at this point for sure.

Sex relieves pain

Don’t skip sex when you have a headache. Research shows that doing the deed may relieve your symptoms. In a 2013 German study, 60% of participants who had migraines and 30% of cluster-headache sufferers who had sex during a headache episode reported partial or total relief. Other studies have found that women who stimulated an area of the G spot had an elevation in pain threshold. “It took greater pain stimulus for them to feel the pain,” says Beverly Whipple, PhD, a professor emerita at Rutgers University who has conducted some research on the topic. Whipple didn’t study why this was so, but other researchers have attributed the effect to oxytocin, the so-called bonding hormone that helps mothers and babies bond and which also has pain-relieving properties.

Read more: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

Sex can wipe your memory clean

Each year, fewer than 7 people per 100,000 experience “global transient amnesia,” a sudden but temporary loss of memory that can’t be attributed to any other neurological condition. The condition can be brought on by vigorous sex, as well as emotional stress, pain, minor head injuries, medical procedures, and jumping into hot or cold water. The forgetfulness can last a few minutes or a few hours. During an episode, a person cannot form new memories or remember very recent events. Fortunately, there seem to be no lasting effects.

Sex may boost your memory

Or at least it might if you’re a rodent. A 2010 study found that, compared with rats who were allowed only one one-night stand, rodents who engaged in “chronic” sex (once a day for 14 consecutive days) grew more neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory. The findings were backed up by a second study, also in mice. It remains to be seen if regular sex also has this effect in humans (but you can always tell yourself it does).

Read more: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Sex calms you down

The same study that linked frequent sex to a brain boost in rats also found that the rats were less stressed. This works for humans, too. One study found that people who’d just had sexual intercourse had better responses to stressful situations like public speaking than people who had not, or who had engaged in other types of sexual activity. How did sex ease stress? In this case, by lowering blood pressure.

Sex makes you sleepy

Sex is more likely to make men sleepy than women, and scientists think they know why: The part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex winds down after ejaculation. This, along with the release of oxytocin and serotonin, may account for the “rolling over and falling asleep” syndrome.

Read more: Best and Worst Foods for Sex

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 5 Things You Need To Know About Kissing

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TIME health

5 Reasons to Spend More Time Outside—Even When It’s Cold

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Mother Nature provides serious benefits to our bodies and minds—even when the temperatures drop

Studies show that a stroll outdoors can actually improve brain function and mental focus. Walking not only results in increased physical activity, it also promotes the free flow of ideas, according to Stanford University researchers.

Another study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas​ found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending four full days in nature without any electronics. “Burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature,” co-author David Strayer said in a statement.

Research also suggests that time outside can improve focus. Children with ADHD are likely to score higher on concentration tests after time outdoors. Those children who strolled through a park saw a greater increase in focus than those who walked through a residential neighborhood or urban area.

It’s no secret that winter can bring on the blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the cause of reoccurring depression in 10 to 20 percent of women in the U.S. Symptoms of SAD can include anxiety, exhaustion, and overwhelming sadness. Researchers believe SAD is a result of shorter days in the winter, and the fact that there is less natural light. The cold can also keep even regular exercisers indoors, reducing their sun exposure. One quick and easy treatment for SAD: more time outside (even when it’s chilly or cloudy), according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition to easing SAD symptoms, time spent in natural light gives our bodies a chance to soak up vital rays. Vitamin D helps ward off heart attacks, and may even improve conditions including osteoporosis and some types of cancer. Although we can obtain vitamin D from foods like salmon and cheese, we get 80 to 90 percent of it from the sun. But don’t forget to smear on some SPF if you’re going to be outside for longer than a few minutes. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun won’t damage your skin.

Working up the motivation to exercise outside is trickier when it’s windy, snowy, or just plain cold. But being outside gives runners a better workout, burns more calories for cyclists, and makes physical activity more enjoyable overall, according to The New York Times. That means enduring the elements to jog on a frosty day may actually help us relish our workouts.

“The number one best part of going outside during winter is the solitude and space,” says Sarah Knapp, founder of OutdoorFest, a New York-based organization that encourages city dwellers to go outdoors. “The trails are significantly less crowded, a layer of snow quiets the world down, and when the trees lose their leaves, views are more expansive.”

Natural light may hold healing powers, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers found that spinal surgery patients saw lower levels of both pain and stress after they were exposed to more natural sunlight. In fact, patients exposed to 46 percent more sunshine took 22 percent less pain medication per hour.

Another study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Aging Health, suggests that getting outside remains just as important as we age. Seventy-year-olds who spent time outdoors daily reported fewer bouts of pain and had less trouble sleeping. They also seemed to show less of a decline in day-to-day activities. In other words, the outdoors may help us stay healthy later in life.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Wellbeing

Study Names Provo, Utah Most Feelgood City In America

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George Frey—Getty Images BYU fans cheer during a game against Washington State in 2012 in Provo, Utah.

A new Gallup survey of 189 American communities finds that people's overall well-being is generally higher in the Midwest and West—especially California, Colorado and Utah—but lower in the South. Hint: the top city is also one of the most religious

The secret to happiness might just be good, clean living.

Provo-Orem, Utah, ranked number one in the United States for overall wellbeing in a Gallup survey of 189 American cities released Tuesday. In the past, Gallup has also found that Provo is the most religious city in America—religiosity seems to correlate with higher levels of wellbeing in general—and that Utah has the lowest smoking rate among all 50 states. Boulder and Fort Collins, Colo., come in at the number two and three spots, and three of the top ten highest overall wellbeing communities in America are in California.

The place with the lowest level of wellbeing—a composite index of six metrics: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities—is the Ashland-Huntington area, where Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia meet. The region has seen hard times as its economic fate has declined with the coal industry in recent years. Kentucky and West Virginia are also the two states with the highest smoking rates in the country.

Among metro areas of one million or more in the U.S., the San Francisco Bay and Washington, D.C. areas score highest in Gallup’s well-being index. Perhaps unsurprisingly, residents of these two regions also told Gallup they felt the most confident about the economic prospects of the U.S. in a recent poll. And it’s not just that Americans in D.C. and San Francisco are glass-half-full people—their glasses really are half full, or fuller, as residents of two of the wealthiest population centers in the country.

[Gallup]

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