For those of us that have adverse reactions to medications, turning to natural remedies can be a great way to manage and heal ailments. Your most basic plant-based foods are chock full of medicinal properties, from anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agents to protective antioxidants.

With that said, it’s recommended that you speak with a medical professional before embarking on a natural remedy course of action!

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Cold or Influenza

Goji Berry and Ginger Smoothie/One Green Planet

Spring has sprung, yet this is the time that many of us find ourselves confined indoors, not due to bad weather, but due to a “change of season” cold. Plant-based foods are incredibly effective at boosting the body’s ability to ward off and fight sickness. How can plant-based foods protect you from the various colds and influenzas?

Plant-based foods are chock full of vitamins — such as “beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and vitamins C and E” — as well as minerals — such as “iron, zinc, selenium, and sulfur.” These foods are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body from harmful agents, as well as rich in fiber, which promotes healing anti-inflammatory properties in the body. To prevent or treat a cold or influenza try integrating carrots, pineapples, ginger, garlic, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, wild bilberries, goji berries, cabbage, broccoli sprouts, and rutabaga.

Headache

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Headaches are one of the most debilitating ailments. Once that pain begins, it’s difficult to function at any level. Did you know that there are actually different levels and names for headaches?

Primary headaches include cluster, migraine (with or without auras), tension, and trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC) headaches. These types stem from “chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding your skull, or the muscles of your head and neck (or some combination of these factors) can play a role in primary headaches.” On top of that, your genes may also make you more “likely to develop such headaches.”With that said, there are far more types of headaches. While some headaches may be considered primary — such as chronic daily headaches, cough headaches, sex headaches, and exercise headaches —they could by telling of a more serious ailment. On top of that, there are secondary headaches that include a long list of instigators that “activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.”

Try some of these headache aiding, plant-based foodsapple, kale, ginger, celery, peppermint, asparagus, pumpkin, and squash — as well as russet potatoes (for the potassium), cucumber (for the water), cherries (for nitric oxide), and hot peppers (for that airway opening spice!).

Ulcer

White Bean and Kale Soup/One Green Planet

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Ulcers can be very dangerous ailments affecting your stomach. Peptic ulcer is the umbrella term referring to “open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine.” That can be broken down into gastric ulcers — which “occur on the inside of the stomach” — and duodenal ulcers — which “occur on the inside of the upper portion of your small intestine” or duodenum.

While ulcers have various causes, in the early stages, the symptoms present very similarly such as burning stomach pain, bloating, belching, or feeling full, heartburn, nausea, and if you find you can’t tolerate fatty foods. If left untreated, symptoms progress to vomiting (or vomiting blood), faintness and trouble breathing, appetite changes, unexplained weight loss, and dark tarry stools (or blood in your stool).

Looking for the best foods to heal from an ulcer? In this case, flavonoids and probiotics, are your friends! This includes kale, broccoli, legumes, soy beans, green tea, red grapes, kimchi, and miso. Also, try integrating a few of these plant-based stomach healing foodsgarlic, cranberry, dark chocolate, and flaxseed — as well as lots of veggies and fruits, in particular, cabbage, carrot, celery, raspberries, and elderberries.

High Blood Pressure

Apple Sweet Potato and Mushroom Hash/One Green Planet

You hear a lot about making sure you’ve got healthy blood pressure, but what does that mean? High blood pressure, also called hypertension or simply HBP, “is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.” If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to sexual dysfunction, vision loss, kidney disease or failure, heart attack or failure, and a stroke.

Luckily, there’s been a slew of research regarding plant-based foods positive effects on lowering blood pressure. Certain plant-based foods help lower sodium levels, increase flavonoids and nitric oxide, and boost fiber, all of which aid in treating hypertension. In particular, try out red beets (as well as beet greens!), swiss chard, kale, arugula, apple, celery, cucumber, ginger, oatmeal, bananas, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, pistachios, and pomegranates.

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Eye Infection

Raw Green Tea Matcha Lemon Cheesecake/One Green Planet

Some say eyes are the windows to the soul. I say they are my windows to the world.

The design of the eye is just as intricate as the world itself! We’ve got the cornea which regulates, “bends, or refracts, the rays that pass through” the pupil. Next up, the lens, which acts as a filter that change shape as needed, passing the light to the retina, a “thin layer of tissue that contains millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells” called rods and cones. Cones “provide clear, sharp central vision and detect colors and fine details,” while rods “provide peripheral or side vision,” as well as “allow the eyes to detect motion and help us see in dim light and at night.”

With the delicate balance of our eyes, it’s incredibly important to get the proper nutrients that will nourish these essential mechanisms, as well as protect them from infections. Plant-based foods are here to help!

Here are a few of the top eye-health foods: kale, turnip greens, peas, kiwis, corn, oranges, mango and honeydew melon — for lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and beta carotene that protects eyes from sunlight, cataracts, and macular degeneration — sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots — for vitamin A, which stems from more of that beta carotene, shown to prevent dry eyes and reduce the risk of night blindness and eye infections —  strawberries, bell peppers, and cantaloupe — to soak up that vitamin C “which is an antioxidant that can help lower your risk of cataracts” — and green tea, dark chocolate, and apples — yet another source of antioxidant powerhouses with anti-inflammatory properties.

Constipation

Pineapple Raspberry Crisp/One Green Planet

Constipation has become so common that it’s almost understated as a serious condition. Yet, constipation can cause a cascade of unruly symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea, abdominal bloating, gas, hemorrhoids, and even anal fissures. Therefore, there’s nothing simple about constipation. With that said, constipation is usually a symptom of something bigger such as “an underlying disease or condition, mental health (stress, depression, trauma, or anxiety), and diet.”

Luckily, plant-based foods can be incredibly effective at treating constipation. Focus on fiber-rich foods such as prunes, apples, pears, kiwi, figs, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, grapefruit, lentils, chia seeds and flaxseeds, oat bran, and whole grains. In regards to fiber, focus on getting some Jerusalem artichokes and chicory, which have a particular kind of soluble fiber called inulin that is especially effective for constipation. Also try out mineral and vitamin rich-foods such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, mint, broccoli, rhubarb, lemon, and regular artichoke.

Heartburn

Banana Bread/One Green Planet

Heartburn — referred to as Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in their more serious forms — “occurs when stomach acid escapes through a small sphincter of muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which is located at the top of the stomach.” This escaped acid can cause all sort of issues including irritation and inflammation of the esophagus lining, “mild to severe heartburn, stomach ache, nausea, and, in severe cases, vomiting.”

While there are many causes for heartburn and heartburn related issues, diet plays a large role in both causing and healing the ailment. Keep in mind that those who suffer from heartburn react to a broad-spectrum of foods, therefore it’s crucial to determine your specific trigger foods and avoid those, even if they’re on this list!

With that said, plant-based, heartburn healing foods include many vegetables — such as “green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, leafy greens, potatoes,” cabbage and cucumber — ginger (anti-inflammatory properties), oatmeal (ability to absorb acidity), healthy fats — such as “avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil” — and many nonacidic fruits — such as “melons, bananas, apples, and pears”

Hangover

Mushroom, Beet, and Black Bean Burger/One Green Planet

Searching for the cure-all to a bad hangover is as popular as the search for everlasting life! While I can’t offer you a magic potion to make those unpleasant symptoms — nausea, headache, body aches, dizziness, and dehydration — go away, there are a host of plant-based foods that can help you heal quicker and feel better sooner. Contrary to the myth that consuming mass amounts of fat and carbs will “soak” up the alcohol, instead you should focus on certain replenishing vitamins and minerals such as sodium, magnesium, and those with high-water content. Some of the most popular hangover beating plant-based foods include apples, bananas, carrots, beets, watermelons, lemons, almonds, spinach, avocado, blueberries, oatmeal, oranges, asparagus, ginger, sweet potatoes, and, of course, water!

Anxiety

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Bars/One Green Planet

Anxiety is what I like to call a cascade ailment, meaning, this one ailment causes a cascade of others. Anxiety has been shown to instigate digestive tract issues, heartburn, headaches, and many more ailments. Plus, anxiety is “incredibly complex — stemming from various factors including ‘genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events’ — yet, one avenue that is beginning to be prominently research is … diet.”

A great first step for a natural remedy to eliminate your personal anxiety triggers and implement anxiety-friendly plant-based foods such as omega-3 fatty acid rich-foods — chia seeds, brussels sprouts, hemp seed, walnuts, and flaxseeds — as well as calming and anti-inflammation products including chamomile, turmeric, dark chocolate, almonds, green tea, and bell peppers. 

Depression

Kiwi Spinach Popsicles/One Green Planet

Similarly to anxiety, depression is a kind of cascade ailment. With that said, depression has been linked to more severe conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, and even heart disease and stroke. Plus, depression can manifest in many different ways with symptoms ranging from “feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness” to physical symptoms including “unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.”

Diet can help! Recent studies have shown that a plant-based diet focusing on high-fiber, low-glycemic foods has positive effects on those suffering from depression. Focus on foods with high antioxidants such as “apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato,” beets, blueberries, apples, “grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato,” nuts and seeds. Also, think about brain-boosting proteins and selenium-rich foods — beans, peas, and whole grains.

To learn more about plant-based foods as treatments, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

For more Vegan Food, Health, Recipe, Animal, and Life content published daily, don’t forget to subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter!

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