Heal yourself with these foods

Eat yourself well.

01 July 2005
by Leanne Feris

Feeling bloated? Eat celery. Can't get rid of that cough? Eat lots of apples. Food is indeed the best medicine...

Acne

Flaxseed oil contains essential fatty acids, which help to prevent clogged pores -­ so sprinkle flaxseed on your cereal. Other acne-busting foods include strawberries, green veggies, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, cucumber, kelp, sweet potatoes, peaches and apricots.

Pharmacy fact: Holding the telephone receiver too tightly against your skin can cause acne to break out around your ear or along the side of your chin.

Allergies

Try up to four cups of anise, ginger or peppermint teas, which have a decongestant effect.

Expert tip: Garden flowers rarely cause allergies because their pollen is too heavy to be carried by the air and must be transported by insects. The most troublesome pollen is grass pollen and the pollen of some oaks, pines, planes, willows and poplars. Fynbos pollen causes allergies in spring and autumn.

Alzheimer's disease

Fish, fish oils and flaxseed are all packed with beneficial omega-3 fats, a vital component of brain cell membranes.

Pharmacy fact: Arthritis sufferers have a strikingly low incidence of Alzheimer's, perhaps because they take ibuprofen, aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to relieve joint pain. Researchers are studying the possible role of these over-the-counter medicines as weapons against Alzheimer's.

Bad breath

Avocado removes intestinal putrefaction or decomposition, which is one cause of a coated tongue and bad breath. You could also try a drop or two of essential oil of peppermint on the tongue, or chew on fennel, anise seeds, cloves, or parsley.

Top tip: Liquorice-flavoured anise seeds can be made into a breath-freshening mouthwash or beverage. Boil several teaspoons of seeds in a cup of water for a few minutes, strain and cool.

Bronchitis

If you're prone to bronchitis, don't automatically ask for antibiotics. Stock up on garlic -­ lots of it -­ and eat it raw or cooked.

Clogged arteries

Some foods help the body to remove arterial residues of fat and cholesterol. Up your intake of legumes, such as mung and soybeans, tofu, peas, beans, and lentils, grains such as rye and oats, rice, sprouted wheat and buckwheat, vegetables and fruits, pungent foods such as radish, horseradish, hot peppers, and the onion family (garlic, onion, leek, shallot, scallion, chive), leafy greens, tomato, citrus, celery, banana, persimmon, seaweed, cucumber, and mushrooms. Get enough healthy oils too, from nuts and seeds such as almonds, hazelnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, walnuts, and sunflower sprouts, fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, and other deep/cold-water fish. Besides maintaining a diet with lots of fruit and veggies, soluble fibre and fatty fish, replace sunflower oil with olive or canola oil.

Colds and flu

Besides eating lots of citrus fruit, you can also try ginger. Cut it into small pieces and boil in a cup of water. Strain and drink hot.

Pharmacy fact: When buying zinc lozenges, make sure you buy the right kind. Only zinc gluconate, ascorbate and glycinate work against colds.

Constipation

Popcorn is not fattening and practically starch-free because, in the process of popping, the starch is converted into dextrine and intermediate carbohydrates, which are easily digested. Popcorn also promotes peristalsis because it absorbs moisture.

Honey, which is high in fructose, begins a fermentation process in the large intestine. This allows fluid to be drawn into the bowel, which acts as a laxative.

Pharmacy fact: If you're constipated, drink lots of fluids ­ but not alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, because these cause fluid loss, making constipation worse.

Cough

Eat sweet apples for a dry, hacking cough. Drink lots of water, warm soup, tea and room-temperature fruit and vegetables.

Depression

Turkey, salmon and milk products can help to ease depression because they contain the amino acid tryptophan.

Low tryptophan levels reduce the brain's production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps to regulate mood.

Diabetes

Add soya foods to your diet. Eat more tofu, soya protein, soya milk and soya flour to improve your glucose control, protect against heart disease and lessen the stress on your kidneys.

Pharmacy fact: Poor control of glucose levels can deplete the body's stores of antioxidant nutrients. Vitamins C and E protect the body's cells against damage from free radicals and may reduce the risk of some serious complications of diabetes.

Diarrhoea

Banana soothes the stomach, strengthens the stomach lining against ulcers and has an antibiotic effect.

Pharmacy fact: If you have diarrhoea, dehydration fluid can provide the body with electrolytes. Add half a level teaspoon of salt and eight level teaspoons of sugar or honey (which has an antibacterial effect) to one litre of boiled and cooled water. Drink 150ml every 15 minutes. Babies should be given small amounts of fluid every two to three hours.

Earache

In a recent Finnish study, children who chewed gum sweetened with xylitol, a type of natural sugar that's found in a number of commercial chewing gums, had almost half the number of ear infections as those who chewed other types of gum. Xylitol may help keep harmful microorganisms at the back of the mouth from reaching the ear, where they can cause infections.

Eczema

Keep a closed bottle of mixed seeds in your fridge, and eat a handful with your breakfast everyday. Seeds contain skin-revitalising essential fatty acids that can relieve itching and inflammation.

Did you know? A recent study found that people with eczema who took evening primrose oil for six months experienced less itching and decreased inflammation.

Endometriosis

Women who get more omega-3 fatty acids have decreased menstrual discomfort. So eat more salmon, mackerel, sardines and snoek! Soya products (such as tofu and soya milk) contain phyto-oestrogens that may offset the effects of oestrogen, which is known to worsen endometriosis.

Fatigue

Eat more complex carbohydrates, such as pasta, wholegrains, beans, and fruit and veggies. These foods release their energy slowly, sustaining your energy levels longer.

Flatulence

Turmeric, a major ingredient in curry powder, is a natural antibiotic that relieves intestinal gas by lowering the numbers of gas-forming bacteria. It's also antifungal and has been traditionally used for relieving inflammation. The effective dose is about one gram per day.

Haemorrhoids

Citrus fruit, berries, cherries and onions are good sources of fibre and contain flavonoids, which may help to strengthen the veins.

Insomnia

Eat foods with large amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, such as warm or hot milk, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey and cashew nuts. Honey also has sleep-inducing properties.

Migraine

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as snoek and tuna, may help to prevent migraines. Omega-3s seem to alter blood chemicals, reducing the risk of blood-vessel spasms associated with migraines.

Pharmacy fact: Some foods can trigger migraines. Common culprits are mature cheeses, onions, pickles, cured meats, red wine, beer, sour cream, nuts, freshly baked yeast products, eggs.