alimental: stuff to make things better
Because I’m boring and repetitive, I may have mentioned a bunch of times recently that I’m not feeling very well.
How about today, instead of talking about unwellness, we talk about the stuff that makes us feel better? I’m not talking about sex, hot-air ballooning, or indulging in a trashy whodunit under the covers. I’m talking about stuff that you can eat, drink, or use on your body that genuinely helps to smooth out the rough times.
The word aliment means something like ‘nourishment’ or ‘support’ and was adopted into English in the 15th century from Latin (alimentum; alere).
Everybody’s different (you are a unique and beautiful snowflake), but these are some products/ingredients that I find particularly alimental (a word adopted into English in the 21st century from Amber Gwynne).
Brew it at a lower temperature than black tea to stop bitterness in its tracks (about 80° Celsius). Green tea is jam-packed with antioxidants (e.g. polyphenols and catechin) that slow down ageing, protect against tissue damage and disease, and stave off certain cancers. Green tea can also help regulate blood glucose levels and speed up the metabolism.
In and on the body, coconut oil is a winner. Once maligned as a source of saturated fat, scientists now recognise the benefits of its medium-chain fatty acids, which are actually a healthy form of saturated fat compared with trans fats. Coconut oil helps the body to avoid insulin resistance (a precursor to metabolic syndrome, weight problems, and diabetes), eases digestion, tames sugar cravings, and supports immunity. Coconut oil is, in fact, a powerful anti-fungal and anti-viral. It cooks at high temperatures and can be applied directly to the skin to hydrate and tone. This is my favourite way to use it at the moment. I try to use a coconut oil or butter with a mild aroma (like this one from Loving Earth) because the characteristically rich oily smell is a little nauseous to me… following an unfortunate incident with an icky coconut butter product this time last year. Oh well.
When people find out that you are suffering from any kind of malady, be it physical or mental, they’ll often enthusiastically suggest a variety of pills and potions: ‘My uncle in Place You’ve Never Heard Of swears by the powder of crocodile claws for indigestion! You should try that!’ Whatevs. I have tried a lot of supplements to feel better over the last million years. Out of all the pills and powders that I’ve ever taken, magnesium is the only one to have had a pronounced, observable, positive effect on my wellbeing. I use it to manage muscle spasms, body aches, and anxiety. I can usually feel the effects within a couple of hours after taking it. Choose a potent brand, like Wagner Magnesium Forte.
OK, maybe this veers slightly towards the sex-and-hot-air-ballooning side of Wellness Boosting, but dark chocolate is not just delicious — it’s also an excellent source of antioxidants. Generally, the higher the cocoa content of a chocolate, the lower the sugar content. It’s still important, however, to indulge in only a small piece or two now and then. Cocoa is guilty of leaching minerals from the body if consumed too eagerly.
Apple cider vinegar.
ACV is surprisingly palatable drunk in warm water with a tiny dob of honey — like a tea. I’ve both taken it as a tonic and applied it to my skin as an astringent toner. One of its claims to fame is its alkalising effect on the body. Remember — the body wants to be alkaline, not acidic, for optimal health. Sugar and meat, two foods that we eat a lot of in the West, are very acidic. Alkalise at any chance you get! Research also shows that apple cider vinegar can help stimulate cardiovascular circulation, detoxify the liver, and improve the lymphatic system. It’s even excellent for people like me who suffer from acid reflux or GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease): despite being an acid, ACV actually corrects acid balance in the gut. It also supposedly aids weight loss, but I can’t vouch for that. Try to locate an organic, raw, unfiltered vinegar to use as a tonic or toner. (You can also rinse your hair with it!)
Again, even though lemons are acidic, they actually have an alkalising effect on the system. Lemons are anti-microbial and excellent for treating cold and flu symptoms as well as a variety of infections. They are (as most of us know) high in vitamin C, and anti-carcinogenic. Win!
I started using Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) as a scrub in the shower when I started doing paleo back in October and began experiencing whacky breakouts on my back. As somebody who had never before suffered the much-reviled ‘backne’, I wigged out pretty fast, and started to read articles and forums all over the place. Many sites recommended Epsom salts for spots of all kinds. (Now, to be clear, I am still not sure whether my unfortunate epidermal episode was the result of my drastic dietary change at the time or another cog in the evil machine of my menstrual patterns, but it certainly appeared very suddenly.) Epsom salts really helped to clear and heal my skin after a couple of weeks of use, due to its toxin-drawing abilities, I presume. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath also allows the magnesium to absorb into your body via the skin, making it wonderfully calmative and excellent for soothing muscle pain, aches, and spasms. It’s cheap as chips, too.
I like to use the Grants of Australia liquid chlorophyll concentrate for clearing and brightening my skin and generally making me feel ‘cleaner’ on the inside. Chlorophyll is alkalising and provides oxygen for good bacteria in the bowel. And, as we know, good bowel health usually means good overall health. The Grants formula contains spearmint and tastes inoffensive and ‘green’. I usually add about two teaspoons to a tall glass of water.
Last, but not least, I highly recommend probiotics. As I was just saying, bowel health is pretty important for systemic health. In Australia, the Inner Health Plus brand gets all the buzz, but I recommend choosing a formula that has a broader spectrum of good bacteria. We need good bacteria to balance out the bad bacteria in our guts (the average adult hosts around 500 different species of bacteria in their large intestine!) to keep the lining healthy and to maintain a strong immune system. Common annihilators of good bacteria are antibiotics (obviously), other medications (like the contraceptive pill), contaminated water or foodstuffs, sugar, wheat, and alcohol. I am currently using a dairy-free MICROgenics capsule each day to help with my latest onslaught of Crohn’s symptoms, and finding it very effective. Good quality, fresh yoghurts, kefir, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi are also good sources of probiotics.
That’s a wrap.
What do you like to eat or use to support your health and happiness?
I’m keen to add more cinnamon and ginger tea into my diet this month. Yum yum.