Tuesday, 18 April 2023
Walk into any health food store or supermarket and it is easy to be distracted by the shelves bursting with supplements, pills, powders, and potions designed to capture your attention and cure what ails you. While supplements have their place, many everyday foods have medicinal purposes and can help with common conditions.
Here are a few of my favourites:
They might not look like much from the outside with their furry brown skins, but kiwifruit can be a simple and effective tool for relieving uncomplicated constipation and constipation associated with IBS. Kiwifruit contains a solid dose of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, and fibre, an array of phytonutrients, and an enzyme called actinidin. The combined action of the fibre and actinidin relieve constipation by promoting stool softness, frequency, volume, and ease. They can also help to support healthy bacteria populations in your gastrointestinal microbiome. How many kiwifruits are required for this effect? For adults, two kiwis daily, consumed with the skin, can help to get things moving. If you find the skin unpalatable or off-putting, try cutting up your kiwi into small pieces so that you aren’t biting through the furry bit or ending up with a big mouthful of fuzz all at once. And if you just can’t eat the skin, don't beat yourself up; you still benefit from eating just the inside of the fruit.
Apples are an underrated medicinal food. While the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” might be a bit hyperbolic, apples are certainly more valuable than just a conveniently portable lunchbox option. Apples are a source of soluble and insoluble fibre, phytochemicals such as quercetin, and contain a good dose of vitamin C. Pectin is one of the key types of soluble fibre that is especially high in apples; it has a gelling effect which can provide relief from both diarrhoea and constipation. It also binds to cholesterol in the gut to help maintain healthy blood lipid levels, and it feeds the friendly bacteria in your microbiome to support balanced microbial populations. While a plain, whole apple is undoubtedly an excellent option, stewing apples makes the pectin more available and provides a gentle, yummy remedy if you are recovering from a tummy bug, experiencing adverse effects of prescription medication, or just need to get things moving.
Ginger adds an undeniable zing and warmth to a stir fry or curry and is another potent medicinal food that can help relieve nausea and vomiting in conditions like morning sickness or motion sickness. Research suggests that ginger is safe and effective, even in pregnancy or chemotherapy-induced nausea. In traditional herbal medicine, ginger is always a consideration for conditions like bloating, flatulence, and abdominal cramps. What’s the best way to use ginger medicinally to relieve nausea or digestive discomfort? The simplest way is to make tea by grating fresh ginger and steeping it in hot water for at least five minutes. Uncrystallised dried ginger can be another good option to combat nausea.
Blueberries are also a nutrient powerhouse. You can learn all about these little gems in this blog post.
Food as medicine can be a great first point of call in supporting your health, but if a mild symptom becomes worse, or things don’t resolve, it is vital to speak to a health professional to get to the bottom of things. And as always, use common sense! If kiwifruit, for example, gives you a rash around your mouth, this is likely not the right food as medicine for you!
Bellini, M., Tonarelli, S., Barracca, F., Rettura, F., Pancetti, A., Ceccarelli, L., Ricchiuti, A., Costa, F., de Bortoli, N., Marchi, S., & Rossi, A. (2021). Chronic Constipation: Is a Nutritional Approach Reasonable? Nutrients, 13(10), 3386. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103386
Blanco-Pérez, F., Steigerwald, H., Schülke, S., Vieths, S., Toda, M., & Scheurer, S. (2021). The Dietary Fiber Pectin: Health Benefits and Potential for the Treatment of Allergies by Modulation of Gut Microbiota. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 21(10), 43. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-021-01020-z
Chang, C.-C., Lin, Y.-T., Lu, Y.-T., Liu, Y.-S., & Liu, J.-F. (2010). Kiwifruit improves bowel function in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 19(4), 451–457.
Harvard School of Public Health. (2023). The nutrition source: Apples. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/apples/
Katsirma, Z., Dimidi, E., Rodriguez-Mateos, A., & Whelan, K. (2021). Fruits and their impact on the gut microbiota, gut motility and constipation. Food & Function, 12(19), 8850–8866. https://doi.org/10.1039/D1FO01125A
Lete, I., & Alluέ, J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integrative Medicine Insights, 11, IMI.S36273. https://doi.org/10.4137/IMI.S36273
Stanisiere, J., Mousset, P.-Y., & Lafay, S. (2018). How Safe Is Ginger Rhizome for Decreasing Nausea and Vomiting in Women during Early Pregnancy? Foods, 7(4), 50. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7040050
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Ashley is a practicing naturopath and Endeavour graduate (BHSc Naturopathy, Dux) based in Melbourne.
Ashley's journey into natural health and complementary medicine began as a desire to be in a helping profession combined with an interest in holistic healthcare. Her clinical practice has a focus on gut health, mental health, and the connection between the two, however, she works with people of all ages and with a broad range of health concerns. She is enrolled for further study to deepen her knowledge in the field. You can read more about Ashley at https://osok.com.au/practitioners/ or on her Instagram page @ashleyvonarx_naturopathy.
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