10 Surprising Health Hacks
Is there a miracle cure for your back aches lurking in your lunch? Or can your daily snack help you perform better in the gym? Whether they’re foods that fight pain, odd practices that combat disease or just unexpected dietary tricks that can deliver results, here are 10 health hacks that are just crazy enough to work. Who knew singing could help end snoring?!
1. Eat Salmon for Achy Joints
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, like salmon, are natural anti-inflammatories. And they may be just as effective -- and possibly safer -- at treating nonsurgical neck and back pain as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin and ibuprofen. These OTC pain killers have been linked to side effects including gastric ulcers, bleeding and heart attacks. A study published in Surgical Neurology found that patients who spent an average of 75 days on a fish oil diet (1200 mg per day) experienced such significant improvements in overall pain that the majority discontinued their NSAID prescriptions.
2. Heal Headaches With Botox
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Just one shot of botox may smooth and soothe a throbbing, furrowed brow. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the famous wrinkling-fighting treatment Botox for chronic migraine prevention. According to a 2012 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed 27 studies, an injection of botulinum toxin A (brand name: Botox) in the head and neck may reduce the pounding pain by as much as two days in patients who reported having 17 to 20 headaches per month, on average.
3. Sing to Stop Snoring
If you sound like you’re taking a chainsaw to a rainforest in your sleep, this trick may be music to your ears (as well as your bedmate's). Chronic snorers who performed prescribed singing exercises for 20 minutes a day for 12 weeks snored less, especially if they weren't overweight and didn't have nasal problems, according to a British study. The act of belting out an Adele song (or three) might help strengthen throat muscles and keep them from collapsing and vibrating (the source of those off-tune nightly noises) while you doze.
4. Munch on Mushrooms for Super Sperm
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Talk about magic mushrooms! The unique antioxidant ergothioneine found in specialty 'shrooms -- including oyster, shiitake and maitake -- may improve overall sperm health, says Joy Dubost, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bonus: The fab fungi is also loaded with selenium, an essential mineral that may also gives your swimmers a boost.
Read more: 8 Surprising Things Giving You a Headache
5. Race Faster (and Longer) With Beet Juice
Swap neon-colored sports drinks for the natural red stuff. Research has found that cyclists who consumed about a pound of beets (in the form of pureed juice) three hours before a time trial saw an average performance improvement of 2.8 percent thanks to the veggie's nitric oxide, says Nancy Clark, RD, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. The gaseous signaling molecule relaxes and widens blood vessels, which reduces the amount of oxygen muscles need during physical activity. Another British study found cyclists were 11 seconds faster on a 2.5-mile course and 45 seconds faster on a 10-mile course after drinking beet juice.
6. Curb Cravings With Apple Cider Vinegar
You know what they say about an apple a day. Well, the fruit's fermented cider (read: vinegar) has some incredible benefits, too. A 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that obese people who consumed one to two tablespoons of the vinegar daily for three months saw a significant drop in body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference and triglycerides. “Acetic acid, a key player in vinegar, may help break down fat and act like a palate cleanser,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a New York City-based registered dietitian. Can't stomach the shot? Try adding the vinegar to marinades or salad dressings instead.
Read more: 8 Reasons to Love Apple Cider Vinegar
7. Prevent PMS With Beans
There's a good reason chocolate is the standard PMS treatment. It contains magnesium, a muscle relaxant that can aid in minimizing bloating and cramping, dietician Stephanie Middleberg says. “Low levels of magnesium are common in women who experience menstrual cramps, so craving chocolate may be the body's way of saying it's missing the key mineral,” she says. Skip the high-sugar content of chocolate and reach for other magnesium-rich foods like black and pinto beans. A cup of the latter is a great source of two B vitamins (thiamine and riboflavin), which may also help ward off PMS, according to University of Massachusetts-Amherst researchers.
8. Drink Decaf to Relieve Dry Eyes
For the most part, coffee is terrible at helping you stay hydrated. It's a diuretic, after all. But research from the University of Tokyo suggests that it actually can help your eyes stay hydrated. According to the Japanese study published in the journal Ophthalmology, caffeine intake (five to seven milligrams, which can be found in an average cup of decaf) stimulates tear glands and significantly increases tear production, which may aid in treating dry eye syndrome.
9. Use Garlic to Save Your Colon
Garlic has long been touted as a cure-all, fending off everything from colds to cancer. And it's good for your gut, too. The prebiotic fiber found in garlic can protect your stomach and bowels by keeping out unwanted pathogens, says dietician Joy Dubost. A study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy claims that the diallyl sulfide found in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at combating food-borne intestinal illness -- plus its symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. Bonus: It also contains antiseptic properties that may help clear canker sores when applied daily, eaten raw or cooked in food, says dietician Stephanie Middleberg.
Read more: 10 Incredible Garlic Hacks
10. Swig Cherry Juice to Squash Muscle Soreness
Finish your fitness routine with a cherry on top. Winona State University researchers found that anthocyanins (one of the active components of tart cherries with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity) reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness by 24 percent compared to a placebo group. While subjects took a gel supplement equivalent to about 100 cherries every day for four days after the workout, drinking the tart fruit juice may have the same benefits. “Research shows the effects of consuming two 10.5-ounce bottles (containing about 45 cherries each) per day for one to three weeks may be enough to reduce inflammation in healthy men and women,” says dietician Nancy Clark.
What Do YOU Think?
How many of these health hacks did you know about? Which ones surprised you? Do you think you'll give any of them a shot? If you do, let us know how they worked for you! Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.
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