The human body is a beautiful, wacky, and mysterious machine. Here’s the thing: we live with it, so sometimes it’s easy to forget how amazing things like internal organs, eyes, or even the basic building blocks of life (cells) are. It is a strange and fascinating place and so much of it still remains a mystery to us, here is some weird science around the human body to surprise you today.
JUST AS I’M FALLING ASLEEP, MY WHOLE BODY JERKS AND JOLTS ME AWAKE.
That’s a hypnic jerk, and about 70% of people have experienced these sudden muscle contractions, according to the US National Sleep Foundation. As the brain eases into a dream, or REM, sleep, it sends a signal down the spine to immobilize voluntary muscles so you won’t act out your dreams. Normally that’s slow and subtle, but when you’re sleep-deprived it’s a faster and less smooth transition, explains neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. W Christopher Winter. So if you have a falling or stumbling dream, in a sense it gets acted out with a jerk.
THE FIX: While they may be alarming, don’t fret – hypnic jerks aren’t dangerous. But take them as a sign that you need to catch more zzzs.
MY JOINTS ARE CREEEEAKY!
That’s your body asking you to move more. Creaking, cracking, snapping or grating sounds in the joints (‘crepitus’ in medical lingo) can result from a tight muscle or tendon causing friction over a bone or a release of trapped gases (mostly air) from the soft tissues around the joints, says Dr. Brian Hollett, who focuses on integrative-health and wellness practices. ‘It tends to worsen with a lack of motion and circulation,’ says chiropractor Karen Bisesi. ‘That’s why you’ll often hear it first thing in the morning and it tends to dissipate after you walk around a bit.’
THE FIX: Amp up your activity level, suggests Hollett. ‘When it comes to joint health, we say, “Motion is lotion.”’ Stretching, achieving a healthy weight, and building and maintaining strength and cardiovascular fitness will all help quieten your skeletal symphony. Experiencing pain, swelling, or instability in your joints? See a doctor to check for other joint conditions.
WHEN I REMOVE MY POLISH, MY NAILS ARE TINTED YELLOW
The cells in your nails are tightly packed, but they’re porous, and darker polish – even high-end brands – can seep in and cause yellowing, says dermatologist and nail expert Dr. Dana Stern. Surprisingly, the use of polish remover may intensify staining, since this dissolves the pigments in the polish, which can then leach more easily into the nail. Longer soaks, like those required for gel polish, may also increase the potential for staining.
THE FIX: Use a soft brush to scrub nails gently with a whitening toothpaste containing hydrogen peroxide, says Stern. If that doesn’t lift stains, camouflage them with a new mani – including a clear base coat, which can help prevent yellowing.
I SNEEZE WHEN MY EYEBROWS ARE WAXED
That’s because the forehead and the tip of the nose are both connected to the trigeminal nerve. ‘It starts in the brain and has three main parts that spread throughout the face like tree branches, allowing for feeling and movement,’ says dermatologist Dr Emily Rubenstein. Thanks to the shared nerve, ‘when you aggravate the brows through waxing or tweezing, you can irritate the nose, causing a sneeze.’ A similar mechanism causes some people to sneeze when going out into the sun.
THE FIX: During your appointment, ask the aesthetician to press her finger to the eyebrow immediately after removing a section of hair; the pressure may help distract the nerve, interrupting the sneeze reflex.
THERE ARE CORN KERNELS IN MY POOP!
The hull, or outer layer, of a corn kernel is made of cellulose, a substance humans can’t digest. ‘If you swallow a kernel whole, it will travel through your stomach and intestines without getting broken down and will come out the other end (about three to six days later),’ says gastroenterologist Dr Deborah Fisher. Even if you chew every kernel, the insides will get digested but the hulls will remain more or less intact. Chances are there are other pieces of undigested plant matter there too, such as beans and seeds, but they stand out less.
THE FIX:None, short of skipping corn – but you shouldn’t fret, because this is nothing to worry about. Consider it a cool science experiment that shows you how efficiently your system is working.
WHAT’S THAT TINY, WEIRD BUMP ON MY TONGUE THAT KIND OF HURTS?
Some people call these ‘lie bumps’, thanks to an old wives’ tale claiming them to be the result of fibbing. They’re actually called transient lingual papillitis, a fancy way of saying ‘inflamed taste buds. Transient lingual papillitis culprits include acidic, spicy, sugary, or too-hot foods and stress. Trauma to the tongue from accidental biting may also cause transient lingual papillitis, says dentist Dr. Lauren Becker.
THE FIX: Transient lingual papillitis goes away on its own in a day or two, and while you can’t speed healing, you can get relief from the sting. Becker suggests swishing with salt water and avoiding spicy or acidic foods to relieve the pain of transient lingual papillitis.
MY LEGS ITCH AFTER EXERCISE WHEN I HAVEN’T DONE IT IN A WHILE
You’ve got runner’s itch! ‘Exercise increases blood flow to the capillaries – small blood vessels – on the skin’s surface,’ says Hollett. ‘If you’re out of practice, this natural capillary swelling can feel like an itching sensation.’ It’s often more pronounced in cool weather due to a triple whammy of dry air, poor hydration and friction between skin and workout gear, but it can occur in any season.
THE FIX: Moisturising regularly should help, as will choosing workout attire made from synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics, which ‘move and stretch well while limiting friction,’ says Hollett. Once you settle into a regular exercise routine, the itching should stop.
I GET DIARRHOEA DURING MY PERIOD
During menstruation, your body produces chemicals called prostaglandins that help the uterus contract and expel its lining. They can affect the large intestine in a similar way, speeding up bowel movements. To make matters worse, progesterone levels are low during your period, ‘and progesterone tends to slow down the gastrointestinal (GI) tract,’ says Fisher. The result? About 30% of women with otherwise normal bowel habits report diarrhoea during their periods, according to one study. (And chronically constipated women may have normal bowel movements at that time.)
THE FIX: Try ibuprofen or naproxen when your period starts, as they will block prostaglandins. The earlier you take it, the fewer prostaglandins will make their way towards your GI tract.
MY LEGS FEEL NUMB WHEN I SIT ON THE TOILET TOO LONG
That pins-and-needles sensation can happen when the sciatic nerve running through your glutes is compressed by a hard toilet seat. (It’s similar to when you sleep in an awkward position and wake up with a numb arm, but a different nerve is involved.) One modern-day culprit: the smartphone. ‘People scroll in the bathroom, checking e-mails and social media, and they end up with numb legs from hanging out in that position for too long,’ Fisher says. Constipation or excessive straining can also cause numbness. ‘When you bear down, the pressure can push the discs in your spine into nearby nerves, leading to strange sensations, like pins and needles or a “waterfall‟ down the leg,’ says Bisesi.
THE FIX: Don’t linger. If constipation is the reason you’re sitting there for a while, increase your intake of fibre and water (fresh fruit and vegetables supply both). Still stuck? Ask your doctor about fibre supplements, or try placing a low stool in front of the toilet: research shows that this facilitates pooping because it raises your feet a few centimetres off the ground, straightening the rectum.