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Heal Yourself With These Foods That Double As Medicine

July 27, 2015 3 min read

For many of you, healing your body and preventing illness through diet is nothing new. But for others, this may be new and uncomfortable territory. For those of you who are new to it, you might want to get used to it because a growing number of physicians are "prescribing" foods to treat and prevent chronic diseases. CNN had a chat with a medical nutritionist to find out what sorts of foods may be recommended and the good news, you don't have to have years of culinary school under your belt to prepare and benefit from these foods. It is important to remember, according to Dr. Melina Jampolis, a board-certified physician nutrition specialist, that no one food works in isolation. “True nutrition experts prefer to speak about dietary patterns or groups of foods, as nutrients in foods work in combination to improve certain conditions,” Jampolis said. But, Dr. John La Puma notes that there are a few exceptions to this rule... Here are 10 foods you might want to consider having on hand. Anything that can keep you out of that medicine cabinet right?

Buckwheat for a cough.

“Buckwheat honey is better than cough syrup for nocturnal cough in kids,” according to La Puma. This is an especially useful food-as-medicine for children under 6, who are ill-advised to take over-the-counter cough medicines. “Foods can work like medicine in the body — and they do,” said La Puma.

Pickled foods for diarrhea.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, miso, kimchi and poi contain living bacteria that help keep your digestive tract healthy. Bacteria-filled foods can be used to prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, infantile diarrhea, eczema and allergies  said Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of “The Gut Balance Revolution.”

Ginger for menstrual cramps.

“As a digestive disease specialist I frequently recommend the spice ginger in the form of tea for nausea and abdominal discomfort,” said Mullin. Ginger can also be incredibly helpful for women. “Ginger probably works as well as ibuprofen for menstrual cramps. It works taken as a ginger capsule or chewed,” said La Puma.

Peppermint for IBS.

When used medicinally, peppermint is useful in treating abdominal cramping and irritable bowl syndrome (IBS). “What I find interesting about peppermint is that when compared to the various medical therapies for IBS, peppermint is the most effective and the least toxic,” Mullin told CNN.

Hibiscus tea for high blood pressure.

“Hibiscus tea has a greater anti-hypertensive effect than blueberries,” said La Puma. Infused as an herbal tea, hibiscus flowers contain anthocyanins, which could help to lower blood pressure. Multiple studies back up the blood-pressure-lowering abilities of hibiscus, including one published in the Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences.

Turmeric for arthritis.

Jampolis recommends turmeric to help treat inflammatory conditions. “Turmeric is used especially for brain-related conditions and to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be also be used for arthritis,” said Jampolis. Add black pepper to turmeric to maximize the disease-fighting benefits. “This helps your body absorb more of the curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric that delivers the positive health effects,” said La Puma.

Chia sees for high cholesterol.

Chia seeds are a great little superfood. Dr. Jampolis said she recommends them to patients with high LDL cholesterol as a bonus to other healthy food choices. “I can actually say that I’ve seen great results just adding chia seeds to an already healthy diet for lowering cholesterol,” said Jampolis.

Steel-cut oatmeal for high LDL cholesterol.

“This is a no-brainer for lowering LDL if you haven’t tried anything else,” said La Puma. “There are lots of studies showing that foods high in soluble fiber lower LDL cholesterol.” For bonus points, (and to add to the cholesterol lowering potential) throw a little chia on top!

Beans for high blood sugar levels.

Beans help manage cholesterol and are good for high blood sugar levels. “I have certainly seen improvements in blood sugar with encouraging more fiber-rich foods like beans that are also rich in magnesium, but it is harder to isolate that effect alone,” said Jampolis.

Salmon for inflammation.

Salmon is one of the greatest sources of dietary omega 3 fatty acids which are important for treating  any inflammatory or autoimmune condition, according to Dr. Jampolis. Jampolis also recommends salmon to those dealing with high triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or MS. “I think most people think food can’t possibly be as potent as drugs, but I see the powerful direct benefits all the time,” said Jampolis.

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