What to eat, and what not to eat, for a good night's sleep

How well you sleep can have a significant impact on your overall health, and not getting enough sleep has even been linked to overeating, according to ABC News’ senior medical contributor, Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

Ashton appeared live on “Good Morning America” today to share why it is so important for adults to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, saying that insufficient sleep impacts your hunger and fullness hormones.

When you’re not getting enough sleep, the level of ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to eat, increases. In addition, the level of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain when to feel full, decreases.

As a result, sleep deprivation can lead to overeating and gaining extra pounds, according to Ashton.

If you find yourself especially hungry late at night, Ashton shared her top picks for foods that can help promote good sleep, as well as what to avoid eating before going to bed.

Dairy products make the perfect late night snack, as well as foods like nuts and seeds, bananas, honey and eggs.

If you are especially hungry at night, Ashton recommends going for some carbohydrate rich foods, which may help boost tryptophan in your blood. She recommends eating a bowl of cereal and milk, nuts and crackers or bread and cheese.

“People used to think it’s the tryptophan, which is that amino acid [but] actually you can’t just pull out tryptophan in foods because they’re all bundled together,” Ashton said. “What it probably is, is an insulin spike in your body that occurs after you eat carbs like this that helps you sleep.”

She added, “In moderation, it’s a good thing for sleep.”

Spicy foods, such as jalapenos, can hurt your sleep, Ashton said.

Chocolate contains “hidden caffeine,” and should be avoided before bedtime, according to Ashton.

Alcohol can also hurt the quality of your sleep.

Foods high in protein can hurt your sleep because it is harder to digest and contains the amino acid tyrosine, which promotes brain activity. Ashton recommends skipping out on high-protein snacks before bedtime.

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ABC News: Health

Trump hopes to boost lower-premium health insurance plans

Frustrated by failures in Congress, President Donald Trump will try to put his own stamp on health care with an executive order Thursday that aims to make lower-premium plans more widely available.

But the president’s move is likely to encounter opposition from medical associations, consumer groups and perhaps even some insurers — the same coalition that so far has blocked congressional Republicans from repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Critics say the White House approach would raise costs for the sick, while the lower-premium coverage provided to healthy people would come with significant gaps.

Administration officials say one of the main ideas is to ease the way for groups and associations to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land, reflecting Trump’s longstanding belief that interstate competition will lead to lower premiums for consumers who buy their own health insurance policies, as well as for small businesses.

Those “association health plans” could be shielded from state and federal requirements such as mandates for coverage of certain standard benefits, equal pricing regardless of a customer’s health status, and no dollar limits on how much the insurer would pay out.

Other elements of the White House proposal may include:

— Easing current restrictions on short-term policies that last less than a year, an option for people making a life transition, from recent college graduates to early retirees.

—Allowing employers to set aside pre-tax dollars so workers can use the money to buy an individual health policy.

Democrats are bracing for another effort by Trump to dismantle “Obamacare,” this time relying on the rule-making powers of the executive branch. Staffers at the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have been working on the options since shortly after the president took office.

But as Trump himself once said, health care is complicated and working his will won’t be as easy as signing a presidential order. Some parts of the plan will have to go through the agency rule-making process, which involves notice and comment, and can take months. State attorneys general and state insurance regulators may try to block the White House in court, seeing the plan as a challenge to their traditional authority.

Experts say Trump’s plan probably wouldn’t have much impact on premiums for 2018, which are expected to be sharply higher in many states for people buying their own policies.

Sponsors would have to be found to offer and market the new style association plans, and insurers would have to step up to design and administer them. For insurers, this would come at a time when much of the industry seems to have embraced the consumer protections required by the Obama health law.

Depending on the scope of the order, some experts say the new plans created by the White House would draw healthy people away from “Obamacare” insurance markets, making them less viable for consumers and insurers alike. This could start happening as early as 2019. Premiums for those in the health law’s markets would keep rising, and so would taxpayer costs for subsidizing coverage.

“If the order is as expansive as it sounds, association plans could create insurance products that would siphon off healthy people with lower premiums and skinnier benefits, leading more insurers to exit the ACA marketplace or raise premiums significantly,” Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said recently.

“Healthy middle-class people not now eligible for subsidies could get cheaper insurance, but people with pre-existing conditions could be priced out of the market altogether,” he added.

Nonetheless conservatives such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., believe the federal government has overstepped its bounds in regulating the private health insurance market. They argue that loosening federal rules would allow insurers to design plans that — although they may not cover as much — work perfectly well for many people.

About 17 million people now buy individual health insurance policies.

Nearly 9 million consumers receive tax credits under the Affordable Care Act and are protected from higher premiums.

But those who get no subsidies are exposed to the full brunt of cost increases that could reach well into the double digits in many states next year.

Many in this latter group are solid middle-class, including self-employed business people and early retirees. Cutting their premiums has been a longstanding political promise for Republicans.

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ABC News: Health

South Sudan winning against Guinea worm, says Jimmy Carter

War-torn South Sudan “should serve as an example” for other countries in the progress it is making in eradicating Guinea worm, said former United States President Jimmy Carter.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Carter praised the world’s youngest nation for making steady progress in ridding itself of the debilitating parasite despite the “tremendous problems.”

Contracted and spread by drinking infected water, Guinea worm affects some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In 2006, when the Guinea worm program launched in South Sudan, the country had more than 20,500 cases in over 3,000 endemic villages. At the time it was one of nine affected countries. Today, it remains one of three still tackling the disease, with Chad and Ethiopia.

This year South Sudan reported zero cases. If this continues, the country will be on track to becoming certified Guinea worm free in the next couple of years.

This feat is being touted as one of the few successes to emerge from the young nation, while it battles a 4-year civil war, starvation and grave human rights atrocities being committed against its own people.

Jimmy Carter has been at the helm of the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm for more than 30 years. From 1986, when there were an estimated 3.5 million people infected annually in 21 countries in Africa and Asia, the number has dwindled to 10 confirmed cases all of which are in Chad.

Unlike other diseases which are controlled by medicines or vaccines, Guinea worm can be eradicated by educating people how to filter and drink clean water.

An excruciating affliction, the meter-long worm is asymptomatic and incubates in people for up to a year before painfully emerging, often through extremely sensitive parts of the body.

“It was more painful than giving birth,” said Rejina Bodi, tracing the stump of her deformed toe with her finger. “Childbirth ends but this pain persists.”

In 2009, the 48-year-old mother of six was one of South Sudan’s most severe Guinea worm cases. Seated on a mat outside her small hut in the rural village of Terekeka, Bodi yanks down her shirt to expose her chest and frantically point to the many scars covering her narrow frame.

Eight years ago more than 10 worms were pulled out from her breasts, legs, feet and arms over a seven month period. Three worms forced their way out of one hole in her small toe, leaving it misshapen and a permanent reminder of the agony she endured.

“It’s a disease of those who basically have nothing,” says Makoy Samuel Yibi, director for South Sudan’s Guinea worm eradication program.

Due to its low literacy rates and remote location, Yibi says Terekeka was one of the worst hit areas.

He attributes the success of South Sudan’s Guinea worm project to more than 17,000 community volunteers who go door-to-door providing preventative information and acting as surveillance systems in some of the most hard to reach areas across the country.

“The worst thing is a missed case,” said Yibi. Due the mass displacement of people since the onset of the war, his team is working closer with neighboring countries to increase cross border surveillance.

Looking back, Jimmy Carter said this local network is something he wished he had implemented sooner.

“At the beginning we underestimated the importance of local leaders,” said Carter, who admitted that he initially thought Guinea worm would be eradicated within five to 10 years of launching the campaign.

Much of South Sudan’s success is due to the large strides taken before the war erupted in 2013, although experts say the conflict hasn’t greatly harmed the program’s progress. Between 2006 and 2012 the country’s cases reduced by 93 percent.

Globally, the Guinea worm program is entering the final stretch, however, according to the World Health Organization, the last remaining cases can be the most difficult to control as they usually occur in remote and often inaccessible areas. Guinea worm has been on the verge of being eradicated for a few years.

Although fighting between President Salva Kiir’s government forces and troops loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar show no signs of ending, those battling Guinea worm refuse to let the war stand in their way.

“We’re pretty stubborn,” said Carter. “We don’t ever give up.”


AP journalist Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

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ABC News: Health

White House plans order to expand health care options

The White House is finalizing an executive order that would expand health plans offered by associations to allow individuals to pool together and buy insurance outside their states, a unilateral move that follows failed efforts by Congress to overhaul the health care system.

President Donald Trump has long asserted that selling insurance across state lines would trigger competition that brings down premiums for people buying their own policies. Experts say that’s not guaranteed, partly because health insurance reflects local medical costs, which vary widely around the country.

Moreover, White House actions may come too late to have much impact on premiums for 2018.

Trump was expected to sign the executive order next week, likely on Thursday, a senior administration official said Sunday.

Under the president’s executive action, membership groups could sponsor insurance plans that cost less because — for example — they wouldn’t have to offer the full menu of benefits required under the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare.” It’s unclear how the White House plans to overcome opposition from state insurance regulators, who see that as an end-run to avoid standards.

“There are likely to be legal challenges that could slow this effort down,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Similar alternatives have been promoted by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican holdout during the health care debate. Senate leaders didn’t bring the latest GOP health care bill to a vote because they lacked the votes to pass it.

Association plans “kind of went away with the ACA, and now the idea seems to be to re-create them,” said Jeff Smedsrud, a health insurance marketing entrepreneur. “It’s not clear what they would really look like.”

Smedsrud said a different option also under consideration by the White House, to loosen restrictions on “short term” insurance plans, could be a safety valve for some consumers.

Those plans generally have limited benefits and remain in force for less than a year. During the Obama administration, the availability of short-term coverage was restricted. One of Smedsrud’s companies sells short-term plans.

Others warned that over time the White House order could undermine state insurance markets created under Obama’s law, by siphoning off healthy people to plans with lower premiums and skinnier benefits.

The order was being drafted as Trump expressed his willingness to work with Democrats on health care after Republicans were unable to approve legislation that would have repealed and replaced “Obamacare.”

The president said Saturday that he had spoken to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York to see if Democrats would want to collaborate with him on improving health care. He told reporters before departing for a North Carolina fundraiser that he was willing to consider a “temporary deal” and referred to a popular Republican proposal that would have the federal government turn over money for health care directly to states in the form of block grants.

Schumer said through a spokesman Saturday that Trump “wanted to make another run at ‘repeal and replace’ and I told the president that’s off the table.” Schumer said if Trump “wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we Democrats are open to his suggestions.”

It was unclear if the expected White House order could lead to changes sweeping enough and quick enough to help several million consumers exposed to higher premiums next year for their individual health insurance plans.

It typically takes government agencies several months to carry out presidential directives, since they generally must follow a notice-and-comment process. Sign-up season for individual health insurance starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

“Whether this executive order could impact the 2018 market is yet to be seen, since the health plans have created and priced their 2018 products already, and open enrollment begins in just three weeks,” said health industry consultant Robert Laszewski.

While nearly 9 million consumers who receive tax credits under the Obama-era law are protected from higher premiums, about 6.7 million other customers with individual coverage get no subsidies and will bear the full brunt of cost increases that reach well into the double digits in many states.

Many in this group are solid middle-class, including self-employed business people and early retirees. Cutting premiums for them has been a longstanding Republican political promise.

“If the question is, is the president interested in working with Democrats to repeal and replace — that would be our language — the answer is yes,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”The Democrats would use a different word for that, but the president wants to get something done.”

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ABC News: Health

Study Shows That Your Office Coffee Cup Is Probably Covered In Poop

A photo shows Hilary Clinton's coffee mug.

You may want to think next time before you grab a cup of coffee at work to fuel you for the day because chances are it’s covered in fecal matter.

According to a study done by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, about 90 percent of mugs in office kitchens are covered in bacteria with about 20 percent being covered in fecal bacteria, according to the New York Post. The 1997 study showed that most of the bacteria was caused by kitchen sponges in the workplace, which are not changed or washed very frequently.

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The Inquisitr

Survey: Men Must Communicate Health Issues With Families

Health talks between fathers and sons

While it is no surprise that men would rather discuss sports or current events with their sons than talk about health issues, it is important to note that when these conversations don’t take place, sons are missing important parts of their medical history. The Cleveland Clinic wanted to learn more about this, so they conducted a survey, and the results led them to create the MENtion It campaign to get men and their families talking.

The Cleveland Clinic surveyed 567 U.S. men over the age of 18 who are currently fathers or father figures to a boy, and who had a father and/or father figure growing up, and nearly two-thirds (62 percent) reported that they wished that their own father (figure) had been more open to them more about health topics. It was also reported that almost half (47 percent) of fathers with sons revealed that they didn’t know about their family health history until they started to go to the doctor as an adult.

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The Inquisitr