by Sarah G. Mason
Our bodies are amazingly complex, with little idiosyncrasies that make them unique. However, trying to understand the quirks of our bodies can sometimes leave us baffled. Here are a few oddities of the body, along with the explications you’ve always wondered about.
We’ve all experienced the sudden and unexpected waterworks at the chopping block, better known as “onion tears.” Of course, these tears aren’t emotional – they’re scientific. When your knife cuts through an onion, it breaks cells and releases their contents. Enzymes mix with sulfuric acid to produce a sulfur compound that then wafts into your unsuspecting eyes. For the onion, this is a form of self-defense, but for you, it’s irritating! To keep the crying to a minimum, try chilling your onions before cutting them; cold temperatures slow the release of these irksome enzymes.
In a list of all things annoying, there’s “buzzing flies,” “little brothers” and, of course, twitching eyelids. But what causes that random quiver that no amount of rubbing, itching or blinking can seem to shake? Stress, eyestrain, allergies, tiredness, alcohol and caffeine are all to blame. These culprits interfere with electrical impulses to the nerve, and the result is a twitchy eye. To save yourself the headache of an eyelid twitch, try eliminating one or more of these.
When you’re scooping that delicious frozen treat into your mouth, the last thing you want is a painful “ice-cream headache.” Brain freeze is a result of a cold substance touching the roof of your mouth, which essentially shocks it. As the offender chills your palate, tiny blood vessels suddenly expand in an attempt to warm your mouth back up. The pain that you feel are receptors responding to the change. To avoid these unpleasant moments, try eating more slowly. If you just can’t help yourself and the brain freeze hits, push your tongue to the roof of your mouth to stop the ache.
Not only are these leg spasms excruciating, but they often disturb us in our sleep! Commonly known as a “charley horse,” these painful muscle cramps strike the calf region at night without warning. Because these spasms are short-lived and relatively harmless, doctors can’t quite tell us what causes them. Some believe they are a delayed result of a strained muscle, or potentially an electrolyte imbalance. For fast relief, try flexing the foot of the affected leg.
Pins and Needles
We’ve all felt the uncomfortable “pins and needles” that seem to jab at a limb that’s been still for too long. Formally known as paraesthesia, this phenomenon occurs when your muscles “fall asleep.” The uncomfortable prickling sensation is the result of resting on a limb wrong, which presses against nerves and reduces blood supply to the area. As you change position, the nerves resume sending messages to the brain, which you feel as bouts of pins and needles.
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Brr, It’s Cold In Here!
As you don your sweater once again, you wonder how you can possibly be cold; it’s the middle of summer! While iron-deficiency, high blood pressure, low blood sugar or reaction to certain medications can deprive our bodies of heat, don’t think you have a medical condition just because you’re cold. Studies have shown that simply being a woman is enough to do the trick. Females’ bodies are more sensitive to cold than mens’ due to body fat distribution, blood flow and muscle mass differences. With this in mind, it might be wise for all you ladies to get into the habit of carrying around that extra sweater.