Do you suffer from personal ailments you’re too uncomfortable to ask about? Learn how to treat embarrassing health conditions from bad breath and warts to hair loss and bladder infections.
To combat digestive distress, try juices and tea made with ginger.
Photo by iStock/Rohit Seth
Let’s face it. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with our bodies that are, quite frankly, embarrassing to talk about with others. Especially when you’re going out of your way to look for natural, home remedies instead of simpler-to-find over-the-counter solutions. Don’t worry, though; we’ve got you covered—from warts and bad breath to hair loss and diarrhea, read on to learn how to naturally treat some of life’s most embarrassing health conditions. We always recommend discussing new remedies with your health-care provider before implementing them. Include a full list of any medications and supplements or other remedies you are currently using, as there may be potential interactions between them.
We’ve all caught ourselves with bad breath at the most inopportune time. Bad breath is embarrassing, but it can be avoided with proper oral care. If you are a longtime sufferer, evaluate what you’re eating. Foods rich in vitamin C may help prevent gum disease and gingivitis—two well-known causes of bad breath. Snack on berries, citrus fruits and melons to create an inhospitable environment for bacteria growth.
Bad breath is also caused by sugar-thriving bacteria, so you might benefit from antibacterial herbs more than candy mints. Time-tested herbal breath fresheners include parsley, anise, coriander, spearmint, cloves and, of course, mint. To make your own herbal mouthwash using any of these herbs, take several ounces of fresh or dried herbs, place them in a wide-mouthed jar with a lid, and fill the jar with vodka. Steep for a few days, then strain.
Our bodies play host to a number of fungi. Under normal circumstances, the good bacteria living in our bodies help keep these fungi under control. But change the pH balance of the body and these fungi can grow unchecked. Yeast infections are a manifestation of this problem. By far the most common manifestation, a vaginal yeast infection can cause burning, itching and soreness along with a thick, sticky discharge.
Yeast grows best in warm, moist conditions with little oxygen. Always dry the vaginal area after bathing or showering and wear cotton underwear and loose clothes to keep the area dry. You should also avoid heavily scented feminine products as they can irritate the vagina and upset the pH balance. Yeast infections can be sexually transmitted, so avoid intercourse until the yeast infection clears up as it can get passed back and forth. (Yes, men can get yeast infections, too!)
The fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections feeds on sugar and yeast. Avoid foods containing these substances (especially alcohol) during the initial phase of treatment. Instead, consume foods known to support detoxification such as onions, spirulina and wheatgrass. Oregano oil and garlic are two antiviral herbs that may help your body fight off a yeast infection. Take 100 to 150 mg of oregano oil three to four times daily or 300 to 600 mg of garlic twice daily. Garlic can thin the blood, so avoid it if you take blood-thinning medications or if you’ve recently had or will have surgery. It may also not be recommended for those with thyroid problems or ulcers.
For topical skin-related yeast infections, turn to tea tree oil, a natural antibacterial and antiviral. Undiluted, the oil can cause burning and irritation, so first mix 5 to 15 drops with water for direct application, then rinse the area.
You should also pump up on probiotics, as these good bacteria can restore balance to the body and fight excessive growth of yeast infection-causing fungi. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or found in a number of foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut. Check out 13 Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics.
Unsightly and occasionally painful, warts can be one of the trickiest ailments to treat. Warts result from one of many strains of human papillomavirus (HPV); they can spread through direct contact and indirectly via items used by someone with the virus. Children, whose immune systems are still developing, typically experience more warts than adults, but any age group is susceptible. Given enough time, most warts will disappear without treatment, but the waiting period can be long. Only 25 percent of warts disappear within three to six months, while 65 percent of warts can take up to two years to vanish.
The best way to dispel them is with antiviral, immune-boosting remedies. Garlic oil and tea tree oil both have antiviral properties. Apply one drop of either oil to the affected area twice a day for four weeks and cover with a bandage. Tea tree oil is powerful stuff, so unless you’re using it on the bottom of your feet (where skin is thicker), dilute with water or oil, or apply with a cotton ball. You can also take olive leaf, which has antiviral properties (take 500 mg twice daily), or vitamin E, a natural immune- and skin-booster (take 400 IU daily).
Although men also suffer from urinary tract infections, 90 percent of those affected are women—and the symptoms are no walk in the park. When the bladder gets infected, its lining becomes inflamed, creating the feeling of an urgent and constant need to pee. Urination is accompanied by pain and burning, and often the bladder doesn’t completely empty, so the person feels an increased urge to urinate.
E. coli bacteria are the most common cause of bladder infections, and they can get there a number of ways. Using certain forms of birth control, such as spermicides or an improperly fitted diaphragm, can increase the risk of contracting a bladder infection, as well as taking antibiotics. Women with bladder infections often are prescribed antibiotics, but because antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria in the body, they can inhibit the body’s natural means of staving off infection.
You may be able to bypass antibiotics with alternative bladder infection treatments, particularly in prevention. Cranberry juice is a well-known home remedy for bladder infections. Studies have shown unsweetened cranberry juice to prevent bacteria from latching onto bladder walls and starting an infection. Drink at least 3 ounces daily or take 400 to 500 mg of cranberry extract twice daily to prevent a bladder infection. If you already have an infection, drink two to three glasses of unsweetened juice a day. (If you have an aspirin allergy, avoid large quantities of cranberry juice. Be cautious with cranberry juice or supplements if you are taking warfarin, also known as Coumadin, as the cranberry juice or supplements may increase how long the warfarin is in your body.)
To enhance immune function and fight off an existing infection, try vitamin C. This vitamin acidifies urine and inhibits the growth of bacteria in much the same way as cranberry juice. Take 500 to 1,000 mg one to two times daily. Oregano oil also has antibacterial and antiviral properties that may help fight infection. Boost immune function by also taking it in capsule form, 100 to 150 mg three to four times daily. Don’t use oregano oil if you’re pregnant or nursing or if you’re taking blood thinners.
If you’re taking antibiotics for a bladder infection, you can reduce your chance of a repeat infection by supplementing your diet with probiotic-rich foods to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
Another unglamorous topic, diarrhea can be the result of the digestive system trying to expel a toxin or a reaction to a food the body has trouble digesting. Unfortunately, this can leave us feeling rather, well, poopy. While it may be tempting to take over-the-counter medication, suppressing our bodies’ natural elimination system forces it to find another way to remove the toxin. Often, letting our bodies work naturally is the best and fastest way to recovery.
Symptoms usually run their course over a day or two. During that time, avoid hard-to-digest foods to help your system flush the toxin faster. Try liquid food such as broth and watered-down fruit and vegetable juices; easy-to-digest rice, noodles, soda crackers and cooked low-fiber vegetables; and apples, bananas, carrots and potatoes, all of which contain pectin, a gentle binding agent. Avoid dairy products as these are harder on the intestines. Likewise, avoid sugar, which can increase diarrhea, and high-fiber foods.
Ginger is beneficial for almost all digestive issues, including diarrhea, and it can calm inflammation in the intestines. Drink a cup of ginger tea, take up to 500 mg in capsule form or take 2 mL of tincture every two hours. Don’t exceed 4,000 mg per day. Studies have found probiotics effective at providing diarrhea relief, especially when diarrhea is antibiotic-related. Probiotics also protect intestinal cells from E. coli and prevent the bacteria from invading the body.
More than half of men and women in the U.S. experience rapid hair loss, generally by the time they hit their 50s. It can result from a number of factors, including circulation, stress, hormonal changes, nutrition and—most potent and toughest to combat—genetics. If you start to notice thinning or receding hair, chances are you’re seeing the first signs of genetic pattern baldness.
Natural treatments for hair loss often combine a variety of approaches that support and enhance each other. Prevention is the best treatment—once hair follicles die, it’s impossible to revive them. Saw palmetto, pygeum, horsetail, corn silk and licorice are among the herbs naturopathic physicians use to slow down hormonal effects. Saw palmetto is one of the most historically prescribed herbs for hair loss. Constituents in the herb disrupt the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from testosterone, a likely contributor to male pattern baldness. Historically this herb was used to treat hair loss in both men and women, but recent research suggests it may only be effective for men with mild to moderate baldness. Take 320 to 400 mg daily of an 85 percent liposterolic extract.
Vitamins, minerals and amino acids are also a critical part of having healthy hair and keeping it. Try the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the form of black currant oil or evening primrose oil (500 mg twice a day), or B vitamins—specifically biotin and B6 (2,000 to 3,000 mcg daily).
Certain foods may exacerbate hair loss. Saturated fats, for example, are pro-inflammatory, so bypass the burgers and fries. For some people, allergies to dairy or animal products cause inflammation and hair loss. And megadoses of vitamin A (as well as drugs derived from vitamin A, such as those for acne) also can be problematic. Eat varied, well-rounded meals made from basic foods and include plenty of whole grains, vegetables and quality proteins such as beans, nuts, fish and lean poultry.
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