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April 17, 2013 by APRIL McCARTHY
7 Habits You've Been Told Are Bad But They're Actually Good For You

How many times have you been told as a child to stop biting your nails, picking your nose or cracking your knuckles? It turns out all those and many more 'bad habits' are actually good and beneficial for our health.

1. Cracking Your Knuckles
The arthritis warnings surrounding cracking your knuckles are misguided and misinformed at best. Scientists explain that synovial fluid present in your joints acts as a lubricant. The fluid contains the gases oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you pop or crack a joint, you stretch the joint capsule. Gas is rapidly released, which forms bubbles. In order to crack the same knuckle again, you have to wait until the gases return to the synovial fluid. The process can relieve joint and muscle tension and is very similar to the therapeutic techniques practiced by Chiropractors. In a large study following people that did and didn’t crack their knuckles over a five year period found that knuckle crackers’ joints were just as healthy as those who didn’t. Cracking your knuckles is actually healthy for your joints, giving you more flexibility and movement.

2. Nail Biting
Biting your nails can actually boost your immune system! Chomping on your nails exposes you to trace amounts of microorganisms that can make you sick. When a bug is encountered a second time, the immune system reaches into its memory and releases weapons -- called memory lymphocytes -- that it knows will beat it. So, regular nail biting exposes us to small amounts of potentially immune-boosting bugs.

3. Nose Picking
The same principle applying to nail biting also applies to picking your nose and consuming the result. Professor Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, a lung specialist in Austria, says picking your nose and eating it is healthy for two reasons:
i) With the finger you can get to places you just can't reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner.
ii) Eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system. The nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria is collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.
Although it won’t harm you, you may be a social outcast if done in public so consider it as a private practice.

4. Burping
Though most of us consider burping to be impolite, suppressing one of your body’s natural processes can actually be bad for you. In fact, it can actually trigger heart burn and chest pain! The sound comes from the rush of gas as it passes through the valve in the gullet at the bottom of the throat. This valve, the upper oesophageal sphincter, then vibrates, says Dr Nick Read, a consultant gastroenterologist for the charity the IBS Network. Burp gas is formed of a mixture of substances. As well as containing air we swallow when we bolt down food, it also contains carbon dioxide. This is produced in the stomach when the acid mixes with alkaline bile (which comes from the section of gut below the stomach). This natural gas release - the belch - is a normal part of digestion and suppressing it can cause problems. Certain fat-rich food, such as chips or creamy sauces, alcohol and smoking can exaggerate this process, called duodeno-gastric reflux. If you can’t let go of a burp in public, try changing your diet -- avoid carbonated beverages, beans and, for some people, artificial sweeteners, dairy and gluten.

5. Passing Wind (Flatulence or Farting)
As with burping, it’s important that we pass wind. ‘We evacuate wind for a reason - it forms in the bowel and we need to get rid of it,’ say Dr Read.Most of the gas comes from the fermentation of protein and carbohydrate. Gas is usually produced from your bottom around six hours after eating. ‘If you eat at 7pm, by 2am you’ll feel it bubbling away in your lower abdomen and may start to produce gas,’ he says.
‘Your may even feel your intestines, specifically our caecum (the first section of the large intestine), start to expand in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen.’ Releasing the gas eases pain and bloating, especially if you have a sensitive gut that becomes bloated regularly. ‘Holding it back can also trigger pain. A colleague used to call it Metropolitan Railway Syndrome -- all these commuters suffered pain and bloating because they were too embarrassed to break wind on public transport.’ Flatulence is also produced by an enzyme in blood vessels where it relaxes them and lowers blood pressure. Although moderate flatulence is healthy, excessive amounts can actually be an indicator that something is seriously wrong in your digestion leading to a variety of health issues. Again, pay attention to your diet.

6. Expressing Anger
"Don't you dare raise your voice in this house," says just about every parent in the modern world. Although anger directed at another human being can be hurtful and detrimental to our health, outward expressions of anger fueled to exercise or simply destress may help protect us from heart disease and stroke. Men with moderate levels of anger expression are less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely expressed anger. The difference is not the levels of anger, but the styles of coping with anger. Sarcastic remarks to others, slamming doors, or arguing with others will only increase stress. However, outward expressions which are controlled can release tension and decrease cortisol levels responsible for inflammation and pain. It's one of the reasons very angry people who exercise are able to control the emotion. Anger can ultimately motivate us to take action and remedy situations that are wrong. The key is figuring out how to appropriately channel our anger.

7. Fidgeting
This may be some relief to all the fidgeters out there. They tend to have faster metabolisms, better circulation, and less joint and back pain. And it’s not just the physical stuff- fidgeters also tend to have stronger memories, more effective thought processes, and lower stress levels when in the act. The difference translates into about 350 calories a day, enough to produce a weight loss of 30 to 40 pounds in one year without trips to the gym - if only heavy people could act more restless, like thin ones.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

Reference Sources 231, 253
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