5 foods that help cure everything
The pharmaceutical market is booming, with total global revenues now exceeding $1 trillion annually. Now sure, that's a really big number, but we doubt that figure surprises you. It's a powerhouse industry, due to people's reliance on medications to ease everything from the sniffles to serious ailments.
What may come as a surprise is that it is often the case that these medications are not required. Evidence has always been there to suggest that food and diet may, in fact, be as effective as medicines when it comes to the treatment of a very large number of conditions.
To be clear, as a physician I am of course a firm believer in prescribing medication whenever necessary. There have been some amazing breakthroughs over the years on the pharmaceutical front, resulting in medications that have brought tremendous relief – and have literally been lifesavers – for millions of people.
But medications often come with side effects – sometimes very unpleasant ones. And if natural remedies exist, it certainly doesn't hurt to know about them. Also, as hinted at above, we are not just talking about cures for the small things. Case in point: A study by a team of Spanish researchers found that select nuts and virgin olive oil are more effective than drugs in reducing the likelihood of heart disease.
That is just one example among many, so let's look a little closer at five specific foods and the unique abilities they have to cure some rather serious afflictions:
There are countless applications for this healthy root, proven to be effective in a range of conditions from colds to cancer. But it also has the ability to eliminate the symptoms of a rather brutal affliction that millions around the world suffer from: migraines.
One of the leading drugs available for treating migraines is Sumatriptan. However, ginger recently went up against Sumatriptan in a study testing the effectiveness of both in the treatment of migraines – and ginger more than held its own.
In fact, in a blind test of 100 subjects who had suffered chronic migraines for an average of seven years, ginger was as effective as Sumatriptan in decreasing symptoms by almost half, and achieving 90% relief after two hours.
Ginger – which can be crushed and mixed with hot water to drink, or simply chewed – helps to combat migraine symptoms by blocking prostaglandins, the compound which stimulates muscle contraction and controls inflammation, both of which are responsible for migraine pain.
It's hard for the non-migraine sufferer to appreciate the significance of this. Migraines are not just headaches for many, they are a crippling affliction that can be so painful at times as to literally make it impossible to function. If you are a migraine sufferer, give ginger a try next time you feel one coming on.
This rather unusual tasting vegetable is another food that's packed full of reasons to consume it in good quantities. But the reason celery makes our list is for its specific power in combating high blood pressure. As well as containing magnesium, potassium and calcium – all nutrients vital to the body – celery also contains a chemical called 3-n-buytlphthalide. This particular chemical relaxes the smooth muscles of our arteries and expands our blood vessels – in turn, lowering blood pressure.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that blood pressure readings dropped by around 12-14 percent when animals were given a celery compound under test conditions. In a separate study on humans, referenced by Dr. Mark Houston of the Department of Internal Medicine at Vanderbilt University, subjects saw a “significant drop” in blood pressure as a result of eating celery.
The easiest way to get celery into your system is, of course, to eat it raw, but for those who don’t like the taste, it is delicious juiced with fruits such as apples and berries.
Garlic is often hailed as nature's greatest medicine, and it is easy to see why. Shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing risk of certain cancers – and even helping to cure impotence – there’s seemingly not much the “stinking rose” can’t do. However, today I want to cover its effectiveness in helping to break down bacteria – which is what makes garlic the perfect weapon in fighting off stomach bugs and infections.
Garlic's potencies are in fact off the charts. A 2012 study conducted by the Washington State University found a garlic compound to be 100 times more effective than two well known antibiotics in the treatment of gastro and intestinal infections. Garlic is also thought to be effective in soothing the stomach and bowel linings, as well as in calming down other common symptoms of stomach bugs such as cramping. (I will cover the harmful effects of antibiotics on the gut in a future article).
According to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, garlic is so effective in fighting bacteria because of its ability to first and foremost dissolve the bio-layer that protects bacteria colonies. Once through, it then goes on to directly destroy the bacteria itself. Impressively, tests have shown that garlic compounds are able to destroy this bio-layer in a fraction of the time common antibiotics are able to do so.
Garlic has been shown to be 100 times more effective than two well known antibiotics in the treatment of gastro and intestinal infections.
For maximum effect, garlic should be added raw to your favourite dishes. That's because heating and drying can have an adverse impact on its beneficial compounds.
The health benefits of tomatoes could fill an article all by themselves. They are found to be effective in aiding digestion, promoting heart health, lowering cholesterol, preventing blood clotting – and many many other things that make me want to wax lyrical about this beautiful red fruit.
The key to the health benefits of tomatoes is their high vitamin A content, and this particular benefit is at the heart of what I am going to mention here today, which is the impact tomatoes have on fighting off sinus infections.
Specifically, the vitamin A in tomatoes is known to help reconstruct and repair damage to the mucus membrane that often occurs during a sinus infection, helping the pathways to heal more quickly, rather than letting infection linger.
The fastest way to realise the healing effects of the tomato is to drink its juice, either hot or cold. But, for an even more effective – and even tastier – remedy, boil up some tomato juice and add lemon juice and garlic, both of which are also great for relieving sinus congestion.
I'll wrap things up with turmeric, which just might be my favourite. Packed with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, this incredible spice has been shown to help protect the heart, the brain and the liver, as well as ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Where it really stands out for me, though, is in its ability to treat joint pain and arthritis. There have been many studies around the bone-healing properties of turmeric, showing very interesting and positive results.
One such study, cited by the Arthritis Foundation, found that turmeric supplements provide long-term improvement in pain and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. And the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found turmeric to be more effective than the popular drug ibuprofen in treating joint pain and knee osteoarthritis.
The latter study, which took place over a six-week period, treated one group for knee pain with ibuprofen and the other with turmeric. At the end of the study, results showed similar benefits across both groups, but with the turmeric subjects actually reporting less pain when walking up and down stairs (and walking in general). What’s more, 91% of the turmeric group said they were happier with their treatment compared to 80% of the ibuprofen group.
The beauty of Turmeric is that, believe it or not, it is easy to get into your diet – even for those who don’t cook with spice. A spoonful of Turmeric is an excellent way to jazz up a smoothie, and it can also be easily mixed with a little olive oil and drizzled over salad.
The opinions in the column are by Dr Graham Simpson, the Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah, Dubai, and are not necessarily those held by Esquire or Hearst International.