Healing Foods

By James Raiswell
Originally Published by Askmen.com


Our day-to-day lives seem to be fraught with all kinds of minor health setbacks, from the common cold to gastrointestinal problems and all kinds of maladies.

Generally, when we’re hit with any of these little ailments, our first inclination is to go to the pharmacy and drop $20 on some over-the-counter products that usually relieve the symptoms, but do very little to actually cure the problem. So, in an effort to save you a bit of cash, we’ve compiled a list of common ailments and a few suggested foods that can help clear them up. A word of warning: None of us is a doctor, so please don’t rely on these suggestions as factual, medical advice.

Acne
Ah, acne: The bane of any male past the age of 12 (and you thought you’d given up zits forever when you hit age of 20!).

Acne has a number of causes, but it’s most commonly the result of a buildup of hormones in the body. Stress, medication and environmental factors (like pollution and skin irritants) can also contribute to it later in life.

Two of the best vitamins known for the treatment of acne are niacin (100 mg per day) and vitamin A (50,000 IU per day), followed closely by vitamin E (400 mg). These vitamins are usually found in fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit, pineapples, and peaches, which are also high in fiber and help your body get rid of toxins.

Generally speaking, there’s no true cure for acne, but eating more fruits and vegetables like these, along with increasing your intake of whole-grain foods and avoiding toxins like sugar, caffeine and salt are all good rules of thumb to help reduce the likelihood that you’ll get more zits.

Constipation
As far as natural laxatives are concerned, there’s nothing better than a high-fiber diet. Nearly every fruit, with the exception of bananas, is very high in fiber and will help with the treatment of constipation. Some fruits, however, are better than others.

If you can find it, bael fruit is considered one of the best natural laxatives out there. It will clean out and tone the intestines and generally get things moving again. Grapes -- and to a lesser degree, raisins -- are known also to help clear out the bowels and will help to improve your stomach’s overall state. If you prefer raisins, it’s advised that you soak a handful in water for a day or so. After that, eat the raisins and drink the soaking water. Some other helpful high-fiber remedies include prunes, pears, pear juice, guava, oranges, raw spinach, and fresh, dried figs.

Try also to incorporate more whole-grain breads into your diet and stay away from white-bread products with bleached flour, as whole-grain products have more fiber, and help food move through the digestive tract.

Headaches
Really, just about anything can cause a headache; from stress to loud noises to eye strain, hangovers and a buildup of toxins in the body. Headaches are also known to be associated with food allergies, and some of the major triggers include milk and milk products, chocolate, chicken, and liver.

Part of the difficulty in treating headaches is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Over-the-counter pain medications will alleviate some of the discomfort, but they don’t get to the source of the problem, particularly if you have an allergy to foods or to commonly found drugs, like caffeine .

Natural cures you may want to consider usually revolve around getting more blood and oxygen into the brain. These types of remedies (which include going for a plain, old brisk walk) are especially good for tension headaches. Try putting three or four lemon slices into a cup of herbal tea (or just drinking straight peppermint tea) to restore circulation a bit. Two teaspoons of honey taken with each meal will also help cure migraines or hangovers. The potassium and magnesium it contains help relax your arteries, increasing blood flow to the brain.

Insomnia
Like headaches, it’s difficult to assign one specific cause to insomnia. Stress, obviously, will have a lot to do with not getting healthy sleep, but so can your diet. Drugs like caffeine and alcohol will also cause you to lose sleep. So too can a low-salt diet.

One of the best natural relaxants you’ll ever find is thiamine, one of the B vitamins. A deficiency of thiamine can leave the body unable to relax and fall asleep naturally. If that’s the case, you’ll want to consider eating more whole grains, pulses, nuts, and bananas, which are an excellent source of many B vitamins.

Mom’s old standby of a mug of hot milk with honey is still one of the best tranquilizers out there. The milk itself is a very good sedative and the honey also helps relax the body. Of course, we all know about turkey’s sleep-inducing properties. Turkey meat contains tryptophan, a natural sedative and an essential amino acid that helps the body produce niacin, which helps produce serotonin, a calming agent for the brain.

But before you make yourself a turkey sandwich before bed, remember that tryptophan is most effective on an empty stomach, where it doesn’t have to work against other chemicals to take effect. The biggest reason you feel tired after a Thanksgiving meal is not the turkey; it’s because you’ve eaten so many high-carb foods and washed it down with a few beers. That’s enough to knock anyone down for the count.

One last sedative you may not have known about is lettuce, which contains a sleep-inducing substance called lectucarium.

Canker sores
No one is 100% sure what causes canker sores, but it’s generally believed that they’re caused by eating too many foods like chips and nuts that are more difficult for the body to process. Though, sometimes, canker sores are also caused by food allergies or by a lesion (like a bite) in the mouth. Either way, they can be pretty painful.

Some foods that will help include raw onions, plum juice or fresh papayas, all of which have antiseptic properties. It’s believed that foods high in B vitamins, like whole grains and leafy vegetables can help with the treatment of cankers. Yogurt is also believed to be effective.

If you have a canker sore, you want to avoid things like coffee, citrus fruits and spices which can irritate the sores. And stay away from dairy foods, sugary foods and animal proteins to let your body concentrate on dissolving the sores instead of trying to digest complex, toxin-ridden foods.

Gas
Flatulence may have been a laughing matter in grade school, but when it’s reoccurring at the office or after a nice dinner with your lady, it’s no longer funny. Obviously, flatulence is caused by a buildup of gas in your intestines, so your diet has to be the first place you look to conquer the problem. Stay away from high-carbohydrate foods like beans, potatoes, oats, and vegetables and fruit like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Other foods with yeast, like cheeses and breads, can also produce gas, and so can carbonated drinks.

One of the best ways to soothe digestive muscles is with menthol, so try chewing peppermint after meals. The menthol will ease tension on the digestive tract and reduce bloating and abdominal pains -- and help freshen your breath. Also, chewing on fresh ginger slices that have been marinated in lime juice or drinking a cup of warm water with two teaspoons of brandy mixed in can also help relax the works a bit.

Some other things you may want to consider to help prevent gas is to eat smaller meals and chew foods slowly and steadily. Properly chewed foods pass more easily through the digestive tract. Also, get regular exercise to keep the body processing the fuel you give it.

Prevention is key
There are a host of healing foods out there that can cure common ailments, and the old adage, “If it tastes bad, it must be good for you,” need not necessarily apply! As always, prevention is the best medicine when dealing with the minor aches and pains we all suffer. Avoid refined flour, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, as well as processed foods like chips and cheap crackers. Get regular exercise and get plenty of sleep.

Of course, along the way you will probably catch a cold or get the occasional pimple -- we all do -- but following these tips and trying some of these natural cures can help your body ward off the little ailments that can, with time, lead to bigger problems.

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