Natural remedies doctors use to stay in tiptop shape
Reduce wrinkles with seafood
According to researchers at Michigan State University, the key to keeping your skin healthy is to eat six ounces of fish three times weekly. It’ll actually cut wrinkling and sagging by 30 percent. “Fish is packed with protein, minerals and omega-3 fats—nutrients that nourish the collagen and muscles that keep skin smooth,” says dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, M.D. “My favorite is salmon, because it’s also rich in astaxanthin—an antioxidant that reduces fine lines and wrinkling.”
Fight fatigue with green tea
“I keep a pot of green tea on my desk and sip it all day long,” says Vincent Giampapa, M.D., a plastic surgeon in New Jersey. “It keeps me energized and focused, yet it doesn’t give me jitters the way a pot of coffee would!” Green tea has compounds that help your brain use blood sugar for fuel and stimulate the production of energizing hormones called endorphins, say researchers at the University of California, Davis.
Heal injuries with music
A review of 14 studies found that patients who listened to one hour of soothing music daily recovered from injuries more quickly. They also required 25 percent fewer painkillers. The reason: Music lowers your production of damaging stress hormones, plus it relaxes arteries, improving the flow of nutrient-rich blood to injured tissues. “Music touches, and heals, almost every cell in the body,” says Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., director of Gaynor Integrative Oncology in New York. “It’s my first pick when I’m feeling under the weather.”
Kill viruses with honey
Unpasteurized honey is packed with natural antibiotics and healing enzymes, and nibbling it when you’re ill can cut three days off your sickness, say University of Illinois researchers. It also kills the bugs that cause sinus infections and other cold complications,” says Mark Moyad, M.D., director of preventive medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “I take two teaspoons daily when I’m sick, and it soothes my sore throat, reduces coughing and speeds my recovery—something over-the-counter cold meds never did.”
Snap out of it with dark chocolate
This mouth-watering snack is rich in flavonoids—compounds that relax and open the arteries that send oxygen-rich blood to the brain, increasing memory, concentration and focus for two hours straight. The catch? “At least 80 percent of today’s chocolate is loaded with sugar and has few healing flavonoids,” says Joseph C. Maroon, M.D., a Pittsburgh neurosurgeon. “So, I stock up on bars that are 70 percent dark chocolate, and enjoy one or two ounces daily.”
Boost moods with vitamin D Vitamin D shortfalls plague 80 percent of women, since your skin can’t produce this nutrient without regular blasts of strong, direct light, say Boston University doctors. And D shortfalls dampen your brain’s ability to produce mood-boosting serotonin, leading to the sadness and even depression. The good news: Taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D daily can correct a shortfall in as little as two months. “Within one week of starting vitamin D, I felt upbeat, energetic and 10 years younger—I’m still amazed at how much better I feel!” says Robin Miller, M.D., director of Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford, Oregon.
Erase anxiety with belly breathing
Even doctors feel overwhelmed when life throws them too many curves. “I use belly breathing to quell stress and anxiety—it’s phenomenal,” says Anne Kulze, M.D., spokesperson for the Prevent Cancer Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia.
To do: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of seven, allowing your belly to relax and expand as you do. Hold for a count of four, then slowly exhale through your mouth for another count of seven. Repeat until you feel zen. According to Canadian researchers, belly breathing tamps down stress hormone production, cutting anxiety by 63 percent in one minute.
Improve memory with turmeric
Starting to feel a bit forgetful? Adding turmeric to your diet could sharpen your memory 30 percent or more, suggests a study in the Journal of Neurochemistry. “Turmeric’s active ingredient—curcumin—is one of the most powerful brain-nourishing antioxidants ever discovered,” says Dr. Kulze. “I add 1/4 teaspoon to my meals four times weekly—it’s delicious in tuna, rice and chicken dishes.”
Strengthen immunity with veggies
”I’m often in contact with sick people, so I eat lots of colorful veggies to prevent illness,” says Dr. Kulze. “Carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, kale...colorful vegetables are the true superstars for boosting immunity.” The more colorful the better—because it’s what’s in the plant’s pigment that keep the lining of your respiratory tract healthy so viruses can't get a toehold and increase your production of disease-fighting immune cells. Eating two cups daily will cut your risk of illness in half, say UCLA researchers.
Strengthen your heart with walnuts
Enjoy 1/3 cup walnuts daily and you’ll cut your risk of a heart attack in half and add almost three healthy years to your life, say UCLA researchers. Turns out these crunchy treats are one of the richest natural sources of artery-healing monounsaturated fats. “I’ve been snacking on them for years,” says pediatrician Jim Sears, M.D., co-author of The Baby Book. “People think they won’t like the flavor, but whenever I set out a bowl, they quickly disappear!”
Lose weight with a hula hoop
“When I first tried hula hooping I felt incredibly clumsy—but within eight weeks, the roll around my middle and the fat pads on my hips had completely disappeared!” says Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of The Wisdom of Menopause. “Now I hula hoop while watching TV to keep my weight steady during the winter—the time of year when I find it easy to overeat and tough to exercise.” To do: Aim for 10 minutes, twice daily.
Prevent blood sugar fluxes with cinnamon According to USDA researchers, adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily diet could improve your blood sugar control by 29 percent or more—it slows carb absorption in your small intestines. “For years, I struggled with wild blood sugar swings—and the cravings were so bad I had to keep fudge icing in the cupboard for emergencies,” says urogynecologist Larrian Gillespie, M.D., author of The Menopause Diet. “But within 72 hours of adding cinnamon to my diet, my cravings started to fade—and by day 10, my hunger pangs, eating jags and bloating were a thing of the past!”
Nix aches and pains with naps
At least 67 percent of women will struggle with headaches, backaches, sore joints or other pain problems this year alone. Yet Cornell studies suggest getting a little more sleep could cut your discomfort in half within one month. “Sleep boosts your production of growth hormones, which reduce inflammation and speed healing of damaged tissues,” explains Jacob Teitelbaum M.D., medical director of Texas’ Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. “I aim for eight hours of sleep nightly to prevent pain, and if I’m shortchanged during the week, I catch up by napping on the weekend.”
Shut down cravings with fruit appetizers “When my kids and I have a yen for treats, we don’t deny ourselves—but we always start by eating a piece of fruit,” says Dr. Sears. “Funny things is, that fruit appetizer almost always shuts down the cravings!” The health payoff: Fruit’s healing antioxidants not only protect against heart disease and cancer, they also slow brain aging, plus keep your skin looking up to six years younger, say Cornell researchers.
M.D. advice on how to get great advice from your M.D.
Sure, she’s busy. But you can get much chattier, more helpful recommendations if you:
1. Walk in with a list. Writing down your concerns beforehand will keep both of you on track, so you don’t leave without a plan of action.
2. Ask how she’d treat this problem herself. Her family’s favorite remedy could become yours, too.
3. Ask how she’d explain it to her grandmother. Everything in medicine can be explained in plain English. If your doctor uses medical gobbledygook, ask for the “Grandma Friendly” version!
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.