Health Conditions You Can Improve with Dietary Changes
Healthcare has made tremendous advances in the past few decades, with researchers identifying promising new treatments for chronic illness and disease that were once impossible to overcome. While there is still no cure for diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, new treatment approaches coupled with better diagnostic approaches enable patients to maintain a higher quality, and in many cases, longer life than they once could following such a diagnosis.
Acknowledging the value of traditional medicine is important, but it’s equally critical to not overlook the value of diet in preventing, managing, and even overcoming disease. By eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and adopting a disease-friendly diet, as well as following recommendations of your healthcare providers, you can make dramatic improvements in physical and mental well-being. Here’s a look at a few diseases and chronic illnesses that can benefit from dietary changes.
High cholesterol is a precursor to more serious chronic illness such as heart disease and stroke, but it is one health condition that can be managed quite well through consistent dietary changes. With the right nutrition and regular exercise, it’s possible to avoid the development of heart disease and other complications of high cholesterol later in life. To improve your blood cholesterol levels, consider these dietary changes:
- Eat lean meats with a minimal amount of visible fat.
- Broil, roast, or bake foods rather than frying.
- Consume oily fish such as salmon and trout, which are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat fresh vegetables, lightly sautéed with one to two teaspoons of vegetable oil.
- Use low-fat or skim milk in place of whole milk.
- Increase your intake of fiber and whole grains.
Many people struggle to fall asleep in the evenings or stay asleep all night long. Insomnia can be detrimental to your immune system, leaving the body without the rest it needs to rejuvenate, and also contributes to chronic diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The good news is your diet can help you sleep better, too. If sleep is evasive, these changes can help you catch your Zzzs:
- Increase your carb intake, which helps to make tryptophan (an amino acid known to cause sleepiness) more available to the brain.
- Protein is also known to help promote sleep, so foods containing both protein and carbs can be an ideal combination. Think peanut butter on a slice of whole grain toast.
- Bananas and oatmeal make the perfect bedtime-snack combo to promote better sleep. Bananas contain tryptophan, which is converted to melatonin and serotonin after digestion, and oatmeal offers a variety of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, potassium, silicon, and phosphorous.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that leads to high blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled, diabetes is a serious condition with life-threatening consequences, so proper health management is essential for long-term disease management. Treating diabetes requires careful dietary changes along with ongoing health monitoring by a qualified practitioner. People with diabetes often require insulin treatment to manage their disease, so ignoring traditional medicine is not an option. That said, nutrition plays an important role in the management of diabetes, including changes such as:
- Eating a diet rich in foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables,
- Consume fish and lean meats, but in moderation. Servings should be about three ounces and be baked, broiled, or grilled, rather than fried in fatty oils.
- Lower your salt and fat intake.
- Eat a diet rich in fiber.
- Limit foods and beverages sweetened with sugar.
- Reduce your intake of fats and butters that are solid at room temperature.
- Eat more beans, nuts, and seeds.
When managing your diabetes through dietary changes, be sure to talk with your dietician and/or physician to ensure that your nutrition plan meets your individual needs.
The Common Cold
Nearly everyone is familiar with the traditional belief that chicken broth or chicken soup is one of the best foods to fight the common cold. Before you write it off as an old wives’ tail, there might just be something to it. According to Dr. Mercola, homemade broth or stock is “easily digestible and contains many valuable nutrients that help heal the lining of your intestines.” Some other dietary changes that can help you battle the common cold include:
- Consuming foods rich in Vitamin C such as kiwi and other citrus fruits, broccoli, butternut squash, and red bell peppers, and tomatoes.
- Eat probiotic-containing foods such as yogurt, which can help to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
- Consume foods containing beta-carotene, such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene is a form of Vitamin A only converted to Vitamin A as the body needs it, thereby preventing you from taking in too much of this nutrient.
- Eat more garlic. Believe it or not, garlic contains a substance called allicin which contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, meaning it can help you fight infection-causing bacteria and prevent you from getting sick or shorten the duration of colds you may catch.
Prevention is still the best medicine, and eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet before you get sick in the first place will keep you healthy and well. If you do develop a chronic condition, suffer from a bout of insomnia, or catch a cold, there are some ways you can ramp up your body’s natural immune response with the foods you eat.
Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.
Image via Pixabay by kengzz
Health Conditions You Can Improve with Dietary Changes