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Try these easy, effective (and unusual!) tips to prevent indigestion, boost brain power, stop osteoporosis, and more.

As awareness of the shortcomings of modern medicine has grown, we have become more enthusiastic about natural approaches. Generally, these methods are less invasive and safer. Underlying most of these choices in healing is the belief that the human body has remarkable powers of self-repair.

Brain: Controlled trials demonstrate that the herb ginkgo biloba, which increases the brain’s blood supply, may improve memory. It also has antioxidant properties, playing a key role in maintaining the health of nerve cells. Be sure to get enough vitamin B12. A recent study has found that people with low blood levels of B12 experienced a faster decline in cognitive function. It has also been noted that people who eat foods containing vitamin B12 are six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage. As many as 20 per cent of older people are thought to be deficient in B12, and most of them have no symptoms. And – seeing as animal foods, especially organ meats, oysters, sardines, eggs, meat and cheese, are the primary sources of B12, supplementation is advisable for vegans and vegetarians.
P.S. Whenever the mood strikes you – sing! New research shows that singing improves memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, both by stimulating brain function and alleviating depression.

Sinuses: The ancient Ayurvedic technique of neti yoga – the irrigation of the sinuses with mildly saline water, via a special neti pot – is particularly effective for flushing out mucus. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that congestion and head pain in people with sinusitis improved 30 and 40 per cent, respectively, following regular use of a neti pot. They were also far less prone to getting repeat infections, and to irritation by smoke, air pollution or allergies. One of the best ways to prevent and treat sinusitis is to strengthen the body’s defences. For acute attacks, take astragalus or cat’s claw until the infection clears up; for chronic sinusitis, alternate each one in fortnightly-rotations to build up immunity. Reduce congestion by inhaling steam scented with eucalyptus, peppermint or rosemary essential oil.

Gums: Just when you thought that green tea couldn’t possibly get any better for you, along comes a study in the Journal of Periodontology that shows drinking just one cup a day results in a significant decrease in two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Green tea’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory catechins are thought responsible. Supplements of vitamin C and flavonoids protect gum tissues against cell damage and speed healing. Studies of coenzyme Q10 show that it reduces the depth of pockets formed around the teeth by bacteria. Natural toothpastes containing tea tree supply antibacterial substances that reduce accumulation of dental plaque. Commission E, a noted panel of German health experts, officially recognises chamomile as an effective gargle for treating gingivitis.

Bones: Calcium is vital for maintaining bone strength and preventing osteoporosis (from the Latin for ‘porous bones’). However, the single most important factor in slowing bone density loss may be weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or lifting weights. Research from NASA shows that an astronaut can lose up to 15 per cent of his pre-flight bone mass after just six months in space. So, take the hint and get moving. And remember that, in order to be effective, any calcium supplement you take must be married with vitamin D (to ensure absorption) and the minerals magnesium and boron (to keep calcium in the bone).

Tummy: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a general term to describe several ailments, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The jury is still out on why someone will get it, though heredity, a virus, or a poorly functioning immune system may all play a part. What is known is that IBD lowers the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially B12 and folic acid. Another nutrient worth taking is quercetin, which has an anti-inflammatory effect similar to that of conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, but without the side effect of depleting folic acid. Licorice tea has healing and soothing properties; so do the essential fatty acids found in flaxseed or fish oils. Peppermint tea is a time-honoured remedy for digestive complaints, along with slippery elm and marshmallow. Minimise stress – a common denominator in all IBD conditions – with yoga, meditation and regular exercise. And, probably most important of all for any digestive or intestinal ailment, eat probiotic foods like yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, and Korean kimchi, which all contain ‘good’ bacteria. The latest studies indicate that probiotics also combat some cancers and prevent tumour recurrence, as well as lowering blood cholesterol levels by absorbing cholesterol in the intestines before it reaches the arteries and causes damage.

Feet: Your ankles are the most vulnerable joints in your body, and are particularly vulnerable to sprains and strains. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the ankles represent flexibility; it follows that stiff ankles and repeated ankle injuries indicate that change is difficult in that person’s life. Simple ankle rotations – 10 to 15 circles in either direction, practised every day – will improve flexibility and prevent sprains and strains. Supplements can promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation: try vitamin C and flavonoids to heal connective tissues and muscles, glucosamine to strengthen and protect joints and ligaments, and bromelain to reduce inflammation and pain. Apply creams or ointments containing the plant extract arnica to sore muscles or joints. Compresses soaked in sweet marjoram oil and water have a pain-relieving effect. Applying magnets to painful areas is thought to speed healing. Finally, go barefoot whenever you can. A new study in the Journal of Podiatry has found that shoe-wearing populations have feet that are markedly more unhealthy than those who went barefoot. Podiatry expert Dr William Rossi adds, “It took four million years to develop our unique human foot and our distinctive human gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument - our shoes - we have warped our pure anatomical form.”