Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Eleven common ailments and foods that can help heal them.
Whether you have an upset stomach, insomnia or a yeast infection, you may want to consider heading for the pantry or fridge instead of the medicine cabinet. A number of everyday edibles have been shown to be just as effective as medication for treating a variety of ailments. Keep in mind that while the studies of such foods are quite promising, many are not totally conclusive. Fortunately, there are few, if any, side effects from reaching for ordinary food as a curative. Still, if you're pregnant or already have a preexisting medical condition, be sure to consult your physician first.
Ailment: Common cold
Pantry Rx: Soup
Mom was partly right: Soup really does relieve cold symptoms. (Where she got it wrong: It needn't be chicken soup.) When you slurp hot broth, you inhale the vapor rising from the bowl, which helps clear stuffed-up nasal passages. Clever researchers figured this out by giving people straws to sip soup — an alteration that led to zero nasal benefits.
Pantry Rx: Flaxseed
While it's no secret that a high-fiber diet combined with plenty of fluids helps to prevent constipation, flaxseed has some of the fastest-acting effects. Take one to two tablespoons of whole flaxseed with plenty of fluids, or mix a few tablespoons of ground flaxseed to cooked cereal, applesauce or a smoothie, and voilà!
Ailment: Ear infection
Pantry Rx: Garlic
Garlic is a natural antibiotic that contains allicin, a chemical capable of killing the bacteria responsible for ear infections. This is especially good news today, as many bacteria are now antibiotic-resistant due to the over-prescription of a number of standard antibiotics. Garlic is best eaten raw, because heat reduces many of its beneficial compounds. One caveat: You have to eat as much as an entire bulb of garlic daily to achieve the medicinal effects — and at that amount, others may not want to get too close!
Pantry Rx: Turkey sandwich
Take a look around the house after a Thanksgiving dinner and you'll know for sure that tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey promote sleepiness. The reason is that tryptophan, an amino acid, helps produce the sleep-inducing neurochemical serotonin. Tryptophan is found in a variety of non-poultry foods, too, including dairy, soy, hazelnuts and peanuts, whole grains, beans and more. For this amino acid to be utilized, you need to eat it in conjunction with carbohydrates, since carbs help transport tryptophan to the brain, where serotonin is made. Some good ready-for-bed combinations include a turkey sandwich, peanut butter on toast, or milk and graham crackers.
Ailment: Burning mouth
Pantry Rx: Milk
Next time that you eat something so spicy your tongue feels on fire, reach for a glass of cold milk instead of water. Researchers believe the casein protein found in dairy products helps remove the sting out of spicy foods by stripping the fiery irritant capsaicin from the mouth's pain receptors.
Pantry Rx: Ginger
Feeling queasy? Sip some ginger root tea. A variety of studies have shown that ginger in its many forms — fresh, dried, powdered — can prevent nausea, be it from morning sickness, motion sickness or chemotherapy. To make the tea, pour one cup of boiling water over ¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger. Dilute to taste.
Pantry Rx: Cheese and other calcium-rich foods
Studies show that women on high-calcium diets have markedly lower PMS-related cramping, bloating and irritability compared with women who don't get as much calcium. For best results, consume four servings of calcium-rich foods, such as cheese, milk and yogurt, daily. Can't stomach dairy? Research suggests that calcium supplements (1,220 mg/day) can also relieve PMS symptoms.
Ailment: Urinary tract infection
Pantry Rx: Cranberry juice
Certain compounds in cranberries inhibit the bacterial culprit E. coli from sticking to the urinary tract. Since the bacteria are prevented from gathering, no infection can develop. Drink 10 ounces (1¼ cup) per day for best results.
Ailment: Yeast infection
Pantry Rx: Yogurt
Yogurt contains the healthy bacterium lactobacillus acidophilus, which cancels out harmful bacteria in the body and keeps the yeast infection fungus under control. In a recent study, women who ate a cup of yogurt daily for six months saw their rate of yeast infection fall by 75%.
Pantry Rx: Smoothies
Your body requires more energy when it's mounting a full-on assault to fight an infection, because for every degree your temperature is elevated, your metabolism increases by 7%. Try easy-to-ingest foods, such as smoothies, juice and soup, which can provide an energy boost. (Check out a great smoothie recipe here.)
Pantry Rx: Bean burrito
There's one type of headache that can be readily resolved with food — a hunger headache. If it's been longer than five hours since your last meal, your blood sugar is low, and your primal hunger may be kicking in. Reach for something that is both substantial and a good balance of carbs and protein, such as yogurt, a sandwich, a smoothie or a bean burrito.