How a calcium-rich diet can cure insomnia

Dairy is the easiest and richest source of the mineral.

 |  4-minute read |   03-04-2016
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Quite interestingly for some of us, the most dreadful part of our daily routine is getting a good night's sleep. Don't believe? But it is true. A number of my patients complain that despite being exhausted (mentally and physically) beyond imagination, they find it hard to get a sound sleep. Having tried every trick in the book from lighting aroma lamps to chanting mantras to investing in comfy beddings, they toss and turn throughout night but sleep evades them.

Yes, they suffer from chronic insomnia.

Like always, I recommended looking for reasons in their diets, following the thumb rule, "Diet is your therapy".

A month's diet log enlightened us all on the missing link. Their diets were grossly deficient in the mineral calcium. Strange? No!

Also read: Why you can't afford to miss out on Vitamin D (and 4 ways to get it)

We have scientific evidence, the latest research published in the journal Neurons states that inflow of calcium ions into the nerve cells (neurons) is required to make one sleep. Taking it further, the study says that if calcium ions are pumped out of neurons, you will stay awake.

Remember those childhood days at your granny's house where it was almost a ritual to end your day with a glass of warm milk flavoured with haldi (turmeric), honey or elaichi (cardamom)? I am sure many would. Gradually the habit got lost with the influx of concepts like dairy-free, a perennial weight loss obsession, night outs at office, a perpetual time crunch, pubbing and clubbing.

Also read: 4 reasons you must avoid diet soda

Indian diets have always been rich in addressing every nuance of holistic health which the West is now exploring. But we have let go of our heritage in pursuit of pseudo health.

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Dairy is the easiest and richest source of calcium. 

Coming back to calcium. The RDA (recommended dietary allowance), on an average, is 1,000 mg daily. Include this compulsorily in your diet now for strong teeth, bones, a flawless nervous system and to combat insomnia.

What to do? Simple. Choose your dietary options well.

Also read: 5 ways you can lose fat and be healthy

1. Dairy is the easiest and richest source of calcium.

If you do not have lactose intolerance or allergy, do reap the benefits of including at least three servings of dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, paneer) daily in your diet. It is the easiest to procure and offers a spectrum of recipes.

The inclusion becomes more lucrative because of synergetic relationship between protein and calcium that works wonders for weight loss. This benefit is missing with other sources of calcium.

However, if you are high on clean, non-genetically modified, no-hormones dairy, invest in getting Grade A2 milk (details in future write ups). The interchange of amino acid number 67 makes A2 milk more gut-friendly and healthier.

2. If you want to go dairy-free, lean meats like chicken, fish and also eggs are what you should eat for your calcium needs.

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Rajma is also rich in calcium. 

3. Vegans too need not worry about getting a good night's sleep stemming from calcium deficiency.

The following options can easily fulfil their calcium needs:

1. Lentils like chickpea (kaabli chana), black-eyed beans (lobia), rajma (kidney beans), whole moong beans and the king - soybeans.

2. Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and sesame (til).

3. Dark green leafy wonders spanning from amaranth, spinach, broccoli, bathua (chenopodium), methi (fenugreek), kale (karam saag), collard greens to turnip (shalgam leaves).

4. Last but not the least, fortified foods like whole grain cereals, brans, juices, nut milks and so on.

What not to do

While it is important to know what to include in the diet to get calcium, it's even more important to remember what not to do to procure, absorb and maximally use the mineral for achieving overall good health. Engrave these pointers deep in your memory.

Diets which are high in protein, meaning protein more than 1gm/kg of body weight, makes one loose calcium. So before you jump on the bandwagon of bodybuilding hogging n number of protein shakes and protein bars, use caution.

Caffeine, too much of coffee and chocolates, deprive the body of the capability to optimally absorb calcium, leading to calcium insufficiency, graduating to deficiency.

Your affinity towards salt-loaded junk foods (chips, pickles, sauces, papads) and table salt throws the sodium-calcium-potassium-phosphorous equilibrium off gear, again making you loose precious calcium through urine.

The dilemma doesn't end here. Check your smoking habit and alcohol intake as both these monsters inhibit calcium absorption despite you being cautious of your calcium intake.

Therefore, choose your day's menu well. Insomnia might be stemming from lacunae in the daily diet. Stop worrying. Eat your calcium right to sleep tight.

Writer

Nidhi Tayal Nidhi Tayal @nidhitayal20

I am a clinical nutrionist and dietician with experience of almost 20 years in therapeutic nutrition, and alumnus of Lady Irwin College, DU.

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