Healthy Diet: What To Eat For These 6 Common Ailments

The foods you eat provide building blocks needed for the body’s growth, repair and maturation, says Dr Sarah Brewer, who suggests the most beneficial diet for 50 common ailments in her new book, Eat Well, Stay Well. Below are the top 6 you may be suffering with right now, the best foods to eat and foods to avoid that could prevent or help treat.


Colds and flu

If you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, you are far less likely to succumb to a virus spread. The common cold is the most common disease in humans, with adults getting an average of two to three colds per year.


Immune boosting foods

  • Eat at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
  • Increase intake of omega-3’s found in oily fish, nuts, and seeds.
  • Have an apple a day – they contain soluble fibre and antioxidant flavonoids that activate immune cells and reduce inflammation.
  • Enjoy more elderberries, which supply natural antiviral substances shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu injections.
  • Cook with onions and garlic, as these have antiviral properties.
  • Step up your selenium, needed to make antibodies and to stimulate natural killer cells. The richest dietary source is Brazil nuts.
  • Ensure good levels of vitamin D: fish liver oil, animal liver, eggs, butter, and fortified milk and .
  • Get enough zinc from most meats, shellfish, nuts, and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds).
  • Have a daily probiotic drink.

Extra tips

Avoid stress and get enough sleep. Exercise regularly, but do not over exercise.


Everyone has a different stress threshold, and this can depend on your fitness levels, relationships, and whether you are well rested, for example. The automatic response of needing to fight or flee rarely occurs in modern life, and so stress can build up when energy preparing you for fight or flee isn’t consumed. It can drain your energy and make you feel exhausted, leading to burnout or even a nervous breakdown.


Foods that help with stress

  • Stress raises blood glucose and fat levels, ready to fuel muscles during fighting or fleeing. It’s best to select foods with a low to moderate glycemic index(GI), to help maintain an even blood glucose level.
  • Low-GI foods you can eat freely include bran cereal, baked beans, most fruit and vegetables, including sweet potato, carrots, mangoes, kiwi, peas, grapes, oranges, apples, pears, and berries.

Foods to avoid

  • Go easy on foods with high-GI, and if you do eat them, combine them with foods that have a lower-GI to help even out fluctuations in blood glucose levels.
  • Also monitor caffeine, as it can act on the adrenal glands to increase circulating levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Cut back gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms, to no more than one cup a day, and no more than three mugs of tea, preferable green or white tea.
  • Avoid excess alcohol, not exceeding 2-3 glass a day for women and 3-4 glass a day for men, with at least two days per week alcohol-free.

Extra tips

Try stress relieving activities so you don’t emotionally eat. Regular exercise, yoga or meditation can neutralise stress hormones, and keeping a diary can help identify how you cope with stressors.




There is no conclusive evidence that acne is solely caused by a poor diet, but it can worsen symptoms. Nutrition influences the effect of male hormones, the ‘stickiness’ of skin cells and the degree of inflammation that occurs, all of which can lead to pimples. There are different types of acne, and the most severe is at risk of scarring.


Foods good for skin

  • Follow a low-GI diet that doesn’t produce swings in blood sugar levels.
  • Fruit and vegetablesoily fish that contain omega-3 oils (DHA, EPA), and dark chocolate (with at least 72 percent cocoa) all contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

Food to avoid

  • Cut back on sugary and carbohydrate rich foods, as these promote release of insulin, which enhances the effects of androgen hormones, and increases the proliferation of skin cells.
  • Switch to goat’s milk, and cow’s milk contains sugars, which can affect growth factors, and hormones.
  • Reduce the intake of red meat, as this contains hormone-like substances that may affect DHT levels in body tissues.

Extra tips

Do not pick on or pop acne/spots and persevere with treatments to avoid a longer healing process.



Bad breath

There are many causes of bad breath, including dissolved tooth enamel, lack of saliva (use an artificial saliva spray), infected gums which can also lead to periodontitis, which involves the jawbone and can be detectable from several feet away.


Best foods for bad breath

  • Decrease the frequency with which you consume acidic food or drink, and consume them quickly, rather than chewing or sipping daintily. Don’t avoid fruit and fruit juices altogether, as they form a vital part of a healthy diet. Using a straw positioned towards the back of the mouth lessens the contact time between fluids and your teeth, and may help reduce erosion caused by soft drinks.
  • Rehydrate your mouth regularly by sipping water, and sluice your mouth out after drinking any other drinks.
  • Eat more foods containing calcium, such as cheese, as this protects against acid erosion, and select fruit juices fortified with added calcium; this decreases their erosive potential.
  • Dental experts suggest holding a piece of cheese in your mouth for a few minutes after eating a fruit salad, to counter the acidic effects.
  • Eat peppermints or parsley, or chew sugar-free gum, to help mask breath odours from eating onions and garlic.

Foods to avoid

Avoid high protein diets, which contribute to mouth odour.


Use dental floss, mouthwash, and electric toothbrush. Coconut oil, when used as a mouthwash, also helps with reducing bacteria in your mouth and removing of bad breath. Consider Co-enzyme Q10 tablets and topical hyaluronic acid gel, which can reverse gum inflammation and promote healing of gum disease.



Painful periods

Causes of period pain are related to over-production of hormone-like chemicals (prostaglandins) in the lining of the womb (endometrium). These trigger uterine spasms which, normally, help to close blood vessels and reduce menstrual losses. The pain of dysmenorrhoea (the medial name) is thought to be linked with lack of oxygen reaching womb tissues during these contractions. The bowel is also sensitive to prostaglandins, so painful periods may be accompanied by diarrhoea and nausea.


Foods that can help painful periods

  • Follow a wholefood diet that avoids excess salt, caffeine, sugar, fried and processed foods.
  • Products that contains low sodium, such as Naturel reduced salt spread, are ideal to reduce painful periods
  • Eat more oily fish. Painful periods are less common in women who eat oily fish regularly, as the omega-3 essential fatty acids they contain have a beneficial effect on the types of prostaglandins produced, to reduce muscle spasm.
  • Maximize magnesium intake- supplements taken for six cycles were shown to reduce period pains, especially on the second and third days, due to their muscle-relaxant effect. Dietary sources of magnesium include beans (especially soy), nuts, wholegrains (these lose most of their magnesium content when processed), seafood, and dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Cook with ginger as it helps reduce nausea.

Foods to avoid

  • Reduce your intake of red meat and dairy products, but make sure to take supplements in iron and calcium to compensate.
  • Cut back on saturated fats.

Extra tips

Consider the low fat variety of Naturel margarine, omega-3 fish oil and pine bark supplements, or magnetic therapy.




Most people experience insomnia at some point in their life, whether for a few days or long term due to anxiety, depression, illness, or alcohol abuse.

Foods for Insomnia

  • Eat foods containing tryptophan which is needed for the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. These include turkey, bananas, oats, honey, wholegrains, dairy products, oily fish, and nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid substances that interfere with sleep such as caffeine, nicotine, and excess alcohol.
  • Get into a routine of going to bed at a regular time each night.
  • Make sure your room is of an ideal temperature: 18-24 degrees Celsius.
  • Avoid using your phone or expose yourself to any blue light before bed.

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