Health

Ease belly bloat and 7 other food hacks for annoying health problems

May 23, 2014 at 9:04 AM ET

Fresh yogurt served in a clear glass bowl
Elena Elisseeva / TODAY
Eating unsweetened yogurt could reduce the level of odor-causing bacteria in your mouth.

You know that eating right makes you healthier. But did you know that solving some of your most pesky health problems, from smelly breath to even smellier gas, could be as easy as a trip to the supermarket? Yes, food can be your best weapon when it comes to helping your body overcome some of life's hairiest situations. 

Here are 8 foods that can help in a pinch: 

Eat yogurt to fix gnarly breath

Eating unsweetened yogurt could reduce the level of odor-causing hydrogen sulfide bacteria in your mouth, according to a Japanese study. Researchers asked 24 study participants with bad breath to eat 6 ounces of unsweetened yogurt a day for six weeks. They found that the good bacteria—streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus—in the yogurt overpowered the hydrogen sulfide, or bad bacteria, and helped lower levels by more than half, thereby eliminating odor.

Eat kiwi for some ZZZs

Kiwifruit could help insomniacs sleep better, according to researchers in Taiwan. They asked 24 men and women between the ages of 20 and 55 who were suffering from sleep disturbances to eat two kiwi one hour before they went to bed. After four weeks, the researchers found significant improvements in subjects' quality of sleep, which they say could be because of the high levels of antioxidants and serotonin in kiwi. People with sleep disorders often have increased levels of oxidative stress, and low levels of serotonin may cause insomnia. 

Eat ginger after a tough workout

Did you go too hard in the gym? Try eating ginger, which can be easily added to stir-fries, juices, smoothies, or tea. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that consuming 2 grams (g) of raw or heat-treated ginger per day can reduce post-workout muscle soreness by 25 percent. Why? Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds and volatile oils called gingerols that have shown painkilling and sedative effects in animal studies.

Eat salmon to stop zits

Skip the expensive and irritating creams to prevent breakouts. Changing your diet could work just as well, according to George Washington University School of Medicine researchers. They reviewed 27 studies about diet and acne and concluded that components of Western diets—particularly dairy products—may be associated with acne. However, they found eating foods like salmon that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids could decrease inflammation, which researchers believe could be one of the underlying causes of acne. 

Eat dark chocolate to chill out

Reaching for the candy dish when you're stressed out might not be the worst idea. Researchers from the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland found that eating 40 grams of chocolate—about one bar—every day for two weeks significantly lowered the level of the stress hormone cortisol in people with self-reported high levels of stress. 

Cortisol, known as the fight-or-flight hormone, elevates in people with chronic stress. A bar a day might seem like a dream come true, but maybe just have a handful of dark chocolate handy for a busy work week.

Red wine and chocolate for better health? Maybe not 

Eat peppermint to reduce gas and bloating

Instead of clearing the room next time you're feeling gassy, try sucking on a peppermint. In one Italian study, 75 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome saw a major reduction in symptoms, including bloating and flatulence, after taking peppermint oil capsules for four weeks. The researchers aren't exactly sure why, but in another study in the journal Pain, researchers from the University of Adelaide found that peppermint soothes inflammation and pain in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Eat pumpkin seeds for your pounding head

Snacking on seeds could ease the pounding in your head. Numerous studies suggest low magnesium levels could be one of the main culprits for migraine headaches. One cup of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg of magnesium, which is about 42 percent of your daily value. 

A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that eating one daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils can significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Eating 3/4-cup of legumes for three weeks decreased LDL levels by an average of 5 percent among the 1,037 study participants. This could be because legumes are high in fiber, which previous research has linked with lowering cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.

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