TIME Research

5 Science-Backed Reasons Why Music is Good for You

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Next time you’re preparing for a work presentation, crank up the Bach

Music is a powerful medium: Not only does it make us want to jump to our feet and “shake it off, shake it off” (thanks Taylor Swift), but soul-stirring tunes also can help us fight through myriad health challenges as well. Here are five great reasons to pump up the jams, and listen with intent:

It can help ease pain

Feeling achy? A study conducted in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that when fibromyalgia patients were exposed to 10-minutes of music they liked—anything from pop to folk to classical—that was slower than 120 beats per minute, they experienced less pain versus when they listened to pink noise. The participants also saw an increase in their mobility with the music.

HEALTH.COM: 7 Tricks for Instant Calm

It could help you focus

Next time you’re preparing for a work presentation or studying for something, listen to a little Vivaldi or Bach. A 2007 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that tuning into music from the late baroque period, leads to changes in the brain (recorded by an fMRI scan) that help with attention and storing events into memory.

It elevates workout performance

We all know that bopping to Beyoncé can be a lifesaver during that cardio kickboxing class, but did you know it could also be the key to successfully sweating through those unbelievably grueling high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, too? Researchers had 20 active adults perform two interval workouts—four, 30-second “all-out” cycling sprints with four minutes of rest in between—one with music and one without. Those who sweated to beats not only found the interval training much more enjoyable, but it also revved them up, making them exercise harder, too.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Mood-Boosting Meals

It cheers you up

As we creep into the colder months, those winter blues have a way of raining on our happiness parade. Luckily, music is a proven spirit saver. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, certain classical tunes caused folks to get the chills, which in turn led to the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that can help you feel jollier. To reap this mood-boosting benefit, download “Clair de Lune,” by Claude Debussy, “New World Symphony—Movement 4,” by Antonin Dvorak, and “First Breath After Coma” by Alexander Keats—they have all been scientifically proven to keep you in good cheer.

It can keep you calm

Switching to mellow music during a stressful drive may prevent road rage and even help you drive better, according to a 2013 study in the journal Ergonomics. Researchers found that upbeat music made people happy, but as soon as the drive became demanding, an abrupt dial change to more soothing tunes kept study participants calmer and boosted driving ability better than those who didn’t change the station as quickly.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

6 Breath Tests That Can Diagnose Disease

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A new study uses breath to diagnoses diabetes, but other diseases like cancer and obesity may be breath-detectable too

A new study shows that it may be possible to diagnose type 1 diabetes in kids even before the onset of severe illness.

Currently, about one in four kids with type 1 diabetes don’t know they have it until they start having life-threatening symptoms. However, a new study published in the Journal of Breath Research shows researchers might be able to diagnose the disease by detecting a chemical marker (acetone) in the breath that makes it smell sweet, but indicates a build-up of chemicals in the blood (ketones) that occurs when a person’s insulin levels are low. High levels of acetone in the breath can indicate high levels of ketones in the blood. The hope is that if proven effective, this breath test will help physicians make a diagnosis earlier.

Growing research suggests breath tests can be used to detect a variety of diseases, from diabetes to various cancers. Research is still early in some areas—and there are other factors beyond disease that can result in chemical markers in the blood and breath—but some medical institutions are already using the tests of a variety of diagnosis.

Type 1 Diabetes
In the new study, researchers collected compounds in the breath from 113 children and adolescents between the ages 7 and 18. They also measured the kids’ blood-sugar and ketone levels. They found a link between higher levels of acetone in the breath and ketones in the blood. “Our results have shown that it is realistically possible to use measurements of breath acetone to estimate blood ketones,” said study author Gus Hancock, a professor at Oxford in a statement. “We are working on the development of a small hand-held device that would … help to identify children with new diabetes.”

Colorectal Cancer
In a small study published in 2012 in the British Journal of Surgery, researchers from the the University Aldo Moro of Bari in Italy collected the breath of 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy control participants. The researchers were measuring the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the participants’ breath, with the thought being that cancer tissues and cells may release distinct chemicals. The researchers were able to identify 15 of 58 specific compounds that were correlated with colorectal cancer. Based on this, the were also able to distinguish between cancer patients and healthy patients with 75% accuracy.

Lung Cancer
In 2013, researchers from the University of Latvia used an electronic nose-like device to identify a unique chemical signature in lung cancer patients. As TIME has previously reported, there are several groups who think this process can be standardized for cancer with further research. In June, scientists at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago presented a device they think has real promise.

Obesity
There are obviously a number of ways that obesity can be diagnosed without a breath test, but a 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that obese people had unique markers in their breath, too. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center studied the breath of 792 men and women trying to detect methane. Those with higher levels of methane and hydrogen gases in their breath also tended to be heavier with a BMI around 2.4 points greater than those with normal gas levels. The hope, the researchers say, is that a test could be developed that could detect a type of bacteria that may be involved in both weight and levels of gas in the breath. There may be ways to clinically curb that bacteria growth.

Lactose Intolerance
Johns Hopkins Medicine uses breath testing to help diagnose lactose intolerance. Patients drink a lactose-heavy drink and clinicians will analyzed the breath for hydrogen, which is produced when lactose isn’t digested and is fermented by bacteria.

Fructose Intolerance
Johns Hopkins also uses breath tests to assess whether an individual is allergic or intolerant to fructose, a sugar used to sweeten some beverage and found naturally in foods like onions, artichokes, and wheat. The test is similar to a breath test for lactose intolerance. Patients will drink a cup of water with dissolved fructose and over a three hour period, clinicians will test their breath. Once again, a high presence of hydrogen can indicate that the patient is not properly digesting it.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s The Scientific Way To Make A Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Prebake the crust for pumpkin pie before filling

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The kind of fat that goes into a pie dough can totally change the chemistry of the crust—and for a supremely flaky crust, you can’t beat lard, as former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses explains in the above selection from the 2014 World Science Festival event “Biophysics? More like Pie-o-Physics!” (Yosses is something of an authority on deliciousness; earlier this year, President Obama joked that his pies were so good he must be lacing them with crack cocaine.)

But traditional Thanksgiving fare presents additional “pie-o-physics” conundrums. Pumpkin pie filling is closer on the pastry evolutionary tree to flan or custard. Baking one requires some special considerations, according to Yosses.

In pumpkin pie, “the eggs coagulate to form a silken smooth network,” Yosses told us. “The egg proteins shrink as they cook, and you need to stop the process at the right time.” The time to remove a pumpkin pie, he says, is when it is “set,” but the center should still jiggle when shaken in the oven. “This is sensitive because too little cooking and the pie will be liquid.”

To avoid overcooking his pumpkin pies, one trick Yosses likes to employ is to lower the bottom of pie dish into cold water for about 30 seconds right after taking it out of the oven (take care not to splash water or burn yourself). This will stop the protein threads from continuing to cook.

“I like a filling made with acorn squash and some sugar pumpkin, and I love trying all kinds of vegetable and ginger variations—but then it is not really a pumpkin pie,” Yosses says. He prebakes the crust for his pumpkin pie before filling. If you do the same, but don’t want an extra-crispy edge on the crust that forms during the second round in the oven, he recommends covering the edge with aluminum foil before baking.

If any foodies reading this feel guilty about going with canned pumpkin instead of the fresh stuff, take comfort in the fact that Yosses himself often reaches for a can of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix. As he says: “Why reinvent the wheel?”

This piece originally appeared on World Science Festival.

TIME Research

14 Holiday Health Hazards to Avoid

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Check out these top holiday health risks and what you can do to avoid them

The holiday season is supposed to be a time for relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. Sorry to be a Grinch, but the most wonderful time of the year can also prove hazardous to your health and safety. The seemingly endless string of parties, the introduction of new foods and cooking techniques to your home, and even shopping for gifts can all put your wellbeing at risk. To ensure you make it to January 1 unscathed, follow this guide to the biggest holiday health hazards and how to avoid them.

Holiday weight gain

Christmas cookies, eggnog, late-night leftover ham sandwiches: All that holiday joy adds up to at least a pound a year, but studies suggest that you never really take it off. Keep eating everything you want over the holidays and you’ll end up looking like Santa when swimsuit season rolls around. Try these tips to avoid holiday weight gain.

Choking

You may wish your mother-in-law would choke on her snarky comments, but choking is a serious health hazard. Nearly 3,000 people in the United States die each year from choking, according to the National Safety Council, and since you’re eating more during the holidays anyway, better chew your chestnut pudding and pumpkin pie well. To avoid choking, take small bites, chew slowly and carefully, and avoid talking or being distracted while eating. Be wary of high risk foods including hotdogs, grapes, candy with nuts, and hard fruits and vegetables.

HEALTH.COM: 50 Holiday Foods You Shouldn’t Eat

Poisonous holiday plants

Hold the holly (and mistletoe) if you plan to have small children or pets around during the holidays. All can be toxic, and even pine cones and falling berries can pose a choking hazard. Best bet is to make sure no one smaller than a holly bush gets near seasonal plants this year.

Deep-fried-turkey fireballs

Deep-frying your turkey can be so dangerous that Underwriters Laboratories, the product safety certifier, has refused to stamp any fryers on the market with its iconic UL logo. From 1998 to 2007, there were at least 138 incidents involving turkey fryers that caused 36 injuries and more than $7.8 million in property loss. (Watch UL techs demonstrate the perils of frying.) Still, if you must deep-fry your bird, follow your fryer’s instructions carefully, and heed these safety tips.

Holiday heart attacks

Think the weather outside is frightful? Check the perfect storm of heart attack risk factors looming on the horizon. It’s the worst time of year for heart trouble, with heart-related deaths peaking in late December and early January. (The deadliest day? December 25, according to one study.) Why? There are lots of reasons: holiday stress, heavy meals (a known heart attack trigger), ignoring chest pain for fear of disrupting the festive mood, skipping meds in the hustle and bustle, and understaffed hospitals. Stay safe by being aware: Take your meds and watch for symptoms. Oh, and moderation is key.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Worst Jobs for Your Lungs

Flammable Christmas trees

Each year, more than 400 residential fires involve Christmas trees, resulting in as many as 40 deaths and 100 injuries. In fact, though Christmas trees cause the fewest holiday-related fires, they account for the greatest percentage of deaths, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The safest tree is a flame-resistant artificial one; follow this advice if you want to bring a fresh one home.

Toy horrors

Besides troublesome questions about the safety of toys made in China, now you must face the most dreaded of all holiday hazards—opening the gifts. Sounds simple, but each year about 6,000 people in the United States visit the ER with wounds from trying to pry, slice, or stab open gifts encased in hard plastic “clamshells” or held down with a thousand metal twist ties. Some retailers, including Amazon, Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy, are moving toward easy-to-open packaging. Learn more about the health hazards of the toys themselves.

Seasonal car accidents

Thanksgiving is not only a traffic-filled holiday, it’s also one of the most deadly. In 2006, 623 people lost their lives in car crashes. Christmas and New Year’s, when alcohol is responsible for nearly half of accident fatalities, also have their share of road peril.

To stay safe from those statistics, John Kennedy, executive director of the Driver and Roadway Safety Department of the National Safety Council, offers these tips.

• Always wear your safety belt and have children in properly installed car seats.
• Stay sober or designate a driver.
• Keep your eyes on the road. Let passengers enjoy the scenery and chat on the phone.
• Maintain a safe following distance from the car in front of you.
• Plan your route ahead of time.
• Give your car a winter once-over: Check ignition, brakes, hoses, fan belts, spark plugs, tire air, headlights, battery, and wipers. Carry a shovel, jumper cables, tool kit, and a bag of salt or cat litter for traction.
• Don’t drive early on Saturday morning. “It’s a very hazardous time. A lot of people are driving under the influence or drowsy,” warns Kennedy. And if you can stay in or use public transportation on New Year’s Eve, do it.

HEALTH.COM: 21 Holiday Health Mistakes

Sledding catastrophes

As George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life could tell you, sledding can be very dangerous. What seems like good, clean family fun causes 33,000 injuries each year, according to the National Safety Council. Before you hit the hill, read these safety tips from the NSC.

• Keep all equipment in good condition.
• Choose a spacious, gently sloping hill free of trees, fences, rocks, or other obstacles—and make sure it doesn’t cross traffic.
• Do not sled on or around frozen lakes, streams, or ponds (like poor little Peter Bailey did).
• Assume the proper position: Sit or lie on your back on the top of the sled, with your feet pointing downhill.
• Wear thick gloves or mittens and protective boots.

Sleep problems

A good night’s rest is often the first thing we sacrifice in the midst of late-night parties, early-morning shopping, and year-end deadlines. For people traveling on vacations or to relatives’ houses, obstacles such as red-eye flights, jet lag, and unfamiliar bedrooms can disrupt z’s as well. But skimping on sleep can lower immunity, increase stress levels, and lead to weight gain; plus, it raises your risk for depression and automobile accidents. As tempting as it is to ignore, it’s important to make sleep a priority to ensure a happy and healthy holiday.

People who take sleeping pills may have their own set of holiday worries: Read about more ways the season can disrupt sleep and medication usage.

Decorating disasters

Decorations sure are pretty, but the fact that more than 5,000 people are injured in decorating-related falls each holiday season is not. To make sure you’re not a statistic this year, do the following when stringing lights or hanging mistletoe.

• Check that the ladder is on secure and level ground.
• Space the ladder 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet high it reaches.
• Stay centered between rails and do not overreach.
• Don’t step on the top two rungs.
• For roof access, extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the roof.
• Keep the top and the bottom of the ladder clear of obstacles.
• Make sure the ladder is locked open.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Natural Back Pain Remedies

Stress

Stress around the holidays can be worse than other times because people tend to overcommit themselves,” says Jennifer Caudle, DO, a board-certified family physician and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey. Women especially find the holidays hard to manage. A study from the American Psychological Association found that 44% of women reported increased stress around the holidays compared to 31% of men. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to enlist some help. Say you’re worried the family dinner won’t be prepared on time. Ask others to bring dishes or help you set the table, Caudle suggests.

Holiday shopping

With any shopping trip, you need to watch how much you carry. Going from store to store with several bags could bring on back pain and wear you down. “This is not the time to be a superhero,” Caudle says. “Take breaks so you’re not standing on your feet the entire day.” Another smart move: when shopping at the mall, drop bags off at your car between stores. How you carry and lift heavy objects is also important. “Bend at the knees and tighten the stomach muscles while lifting,” Caudle says. “Hold the item close to you to distribute the weight with legs a good distance apart.”

Food poisoning

Each year, about 48 million people are hospitalized because of foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With all the food made around the holidays, it’s a prime time to get sick. You should be mindful of preparing meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs especially, Caudle says. Use separate cutting boards and dishes so bacteria can’t spread from one food to the next. Make sure ground meat like is cooked to 160 degrees, chicken reaches 165 degrees, and whole meat (like steak) gets to at least 145 degrees. “Bacteria grow on foods as they drop in temperature,” Caudle says. So don’t leave dishes sitting out for long periods and put away leftovers within two hours, she says.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

Study: Brain Abnormalities Found in 40% of SIDS Cases

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A quirk in the brain may be causing unexplained deaths in babies

The unknown cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) could be a brain abnormality, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers reported that around 43% of infants who died of SIDS shared a brain abnormality that affects the area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for basic functions like breathing and heart rate, in study published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

The team from Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston looked at sections of the hippocampus from 153 infants who underwent an autopsy in San Diego. All of the infants had died suddenly between the years of 1991 and 2012. Some of the infants’ deaths could be explained; those that could not be explained fell were ruled as SIDS. Eighty-three of the cases were classified as SIDS.

MORE: Don’t Count on Smart Baby Monitors To Prevent SIDS

Within the infants with SIDS, the researchers found an abnormality in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus. Specifically, at some parts of the dentate gyrus, it contained a double layer of nerve cells instead of the typical single layer. It’s possible that this abnormality interferes with the brain’s regulation of breathing control and heart rate while a child is sleeping. This abnormality was found in 43% of the SIDS cases.

Researchers believe that there might be a variety of factors that influence the risk of SIDS, which is why the researchers say not all of the cases had the brain abnormality.

It’s also possible that when a child is sleeping in an unsafe position or environment (it is recommended that infants sleep on their backs), the abnormality is triggered. More research is needed to conclude how exactly this quirk in the brain plays out.

TIME Environment

Vodka Leftovers Can Help Make Driving Safer by Removing Highway Snow

City Of Chicago Prepares For Another Winter Storm
Streets and Sanitation workers in Chicago prepare to load trucks with road salt as the city braces for another winter storm on Feb. 4, 2014 Scott Olson—Getty Images

Scientists are looking to curb the use of road salt, which damages roads, vehicles and the environment

Cold-climate researchers at Washington State University (WSU) are using barley residue from vodka distilleries to develop environment-friendly deicers to combat highway snow.

Every winter season, the U.S. government spends $2.3 billion to remove highway snow and ice, but also another $5 billion to mitigate additional costs the process accrues. Most of the hundreds of tons of salt that is applied to American roads doesn’t degrade, and actually causes damage to the surface, vehicles and the environment.

“In 2013, the [Environmental Protection Agency] reported alarming levels of sodium and chloride in groundwater along the East Coast,” says Xianming Shi, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering in a press release from WSU. As a nation, “we are kind of salt addicted, like with petroleum, as it’s been so cheap and convenient for the last 50 years.”

Shi’s work is part of a U.S. Department of Transportation–funded collaboration between WSU, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Montana State University.

Apart from developing deicers, the team is working on the technology of smart snowplows, which are equipped with sensors that collect data to help operators regulate the amount of salt they apply. They are also working on software and new types of concrete.

“Our ultimate goal is to apply the best amount of salt, sand or deicers at the right location at the right time,” Shi said.

Any advances would be welcome as road salt is in short supply in northern states, and prices have ballooned by 10% to 30% since last year.

Read next: Road Salt Prices Skyrocket After Last Winter’s Snowstorms

TIME Obesity

You Exercise Less When You Think Life Isn’t Fair

The 'why try' effect gets in the way of weight loss

People who have been the target of weight discrimination—and who believe the practice is widespread—are more likely to give up on exercise than to try to lose weight, according to a new study published in Health Psychology.

The online study of more than 800 Americans specifically looked at whether participants believed in “a just world,” or in this case, the belief that their positive actions will lead to good results. People who experienced weight bias in the past and didn’t believe in a just world were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise than those who did believe the world is just. In a separate part of the study, participants primed with anecdotes designed to suggest that the world is unjust were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise.

Experiencing discrimination leads some people to adopt a pessimistic view of the world, and they accept negative stereotypes about themselves, including the belief that they’re lazy, said study author Rebecca Pearl. “When someone feels bad about themselves and is applying negative stereotypes to themselves, they give up on their goals,” said Pearl, a researcher at Yale University, referring to a phenomenon known as the “why try” effect.

It’s an area of conflicting research. Some previous studies found that weight discrimination leads to weight loss, while others concluded that weight discrimination discourages exercise. Belief in a just world may be the factor that distinguishes between the two, Pearl said. People who think their exercise will pay off are more likely to try.

Because believing in a just world is key to losing weight, Pearl said that legislation and other public policy efforts could act as a “buffer against loss of sense of fairness.”

“It’s important for doctors to be aware of what people are experiencing, to know that these experiences might have real effects on people’s confidence,” Pearl said.

TIME

Your Pharmacist Called. You Owe $1.3 trillion

A new report predicts that drug spending will shoot up 30% by 2018

Here’s a shocker: global spending on drugs is going up. Way up.

A new report from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics projects the world will shell out $1.3 trillion for medications in 2018, a 30% increase over the figure in 2013.

The proliferation of new, pricey specialty medications like Sovaldi, Gilead’s $84,000 Hepatitis C wonder drug, has something to do with this spending increase, particularly in developed markets, but so does an aging population and increased accessibility of healthcare around the globe.

Take the U.S., the world’s largest drug market, where spending is forecast to rise 11.7% in 2014. New innovative treatments— particularly for cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders—are one bigger driver for this, but so is Obamacare, which has expanded the number of individuals receiving medical care. (The spending increase in the U.S. this year was particularly dramatic because of the small number of drugs that went off patent. Also, the $1.3 trillion figure does not reflect the impact of rebates and discounts, pricing adjustments that are increasingly common in the modern health care landscape.)

A growing middle class and the adoption of universal healthcare is fueling drug spending in other parts of the world. Generics, rather than branded drugs, dominate these markets: IMS predicts spending on pain medication, the largest category of drugs in developing marketing, will increase roughly 10% annually. (IMS pegs the compound annual growth rate at between 8% and 11%.)

The rise in drug spending isn’t inexorable. The research firm points out that France and Spain are likely to see drug spending decrease, thanks in part to cost containment efforts.

The world is in a relative sweet spot for drug innovation. Whisked along by the FDA’s new breakthrough drug designations, the number of launches of novel medications will remain high in the coming years, IMS says. That’s particularly true in oncology. Cancer drugs account for 30% of the world’s pharmaceutical pipeline, and sales are expected to top $100 billion in 2018, largely because of breakthrough immunotherapy treatments.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Research

Study Suggests Banking Industry Breeds Dishonesty

Bank industry culture “seems to make [employees] more dishonest,” a study author says

Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.

Researchers out of Switzerland tested employees from several industries during a coin-toss game that offered money if their coins matched researcher’s. According to Reuters, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat” given the maximum pay-off of $200. One hundred and twenty-eight employees from one bank were tested and were found to be generally as honest as everyone else when asked questions about their personal lives prior to flipping the coin, the Associated Press reports. But when they were asked about work before the toss, they were more inclined toward giving false answers, the study determined.

The author of the study says bankers are not any more dishonest than other people, but that the culture of the industry “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association rebuffed the study’s findings to the AP.

“While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously,” the Association said.

[AP]

TIME Research

7 DIY Health Cures Anyone Can Do

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Home remedies for minor maladies

Somehow the most nonthreatening body problems almost always turn out to be the most frustrating. Sure, your cramps, stress headaches or yeast infections aren’t going to kill you, but man, what a hassle! Wouldn’t it be nice to solve them yourself, once and for all? Well, you can, with the right know-how: “Conventional medicine has a solid track record for serious issues, but natural cures can be a great way to ease those day-to-day annoyances,” says Mao Shing Ni (known as Dr. Mao), PhD, a doctor of Chinese medicine and author of Secrets of Longevity Cookbook. “Plus, in many cases, the risk of adverse reactions is much lower, and the ingredients may already be in your home.” Next time one of the following minor maladies messes with your life, look to some alternative remedies, along with dietary tweaks that can make all the difference.

HEALTH.COM: 21 Natural Headache Cures

You’ve got: A stress headache
What causes it: When you get really frazzled, the muscles in your head and neck tend to tense up, which constricts blood flow and can bring on the distinct throb of a stress headache. It’s generally felt all over, like a dull but distracting ache, versus a migraine’s one-sided pounding.

Eat this: Foods containing magnesium, such as spinach, nuts, Swiss chard and beans. “I call magnesium the relaxation mineral,” says Mark Hyman, MD, a functional-medicine specialist and author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “It pulls calcium out of muscle cells, which helps the muscle relax.” Running low on magnesium (which most of us are, Dr. Hyman says) can lead to constantly tense muscles because the calcium is locked in. It’s best to eat your magnesium, but supplements are an option. Women 30 and under need 310 milligrams daily. Over 30? Go for 320mg. In the meantime, avoid refined sugar, which can cause big spikes and crashes in blood sugar—a recipe for a skull throbber. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit.

Do this: Put your thumb on the back of your neck at the base of your skull, and look up so you’re creating firm, steady pressure. “There’s an acupressure point here that’s connected to the muscles that tend to tense up,” Dr. Mao explains. “While you’re pressing into it, breathe in as you count to five, then breathe out, counting to 10.” Perform this breathing exercise while holding the point for five minutes and the pain should dissipate. And “if possible, take a 15-minute break from the stressful environment that led to the headache and go somewhere dark and quiet to relax,” adds Draion M. Burch, DO, an ob-gyn at the University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Hospital. “Take deep breaths or turn on soothing music. When you relax, your muscles will too.”

You’ve got: A recurring yeast infection
What causes it: While pretty much every woman can count on experiencing the redness, intense itching and thick, white discharge of a vaginal yeast infection at some point, the worst is one that just keeps coming back, striking at least four times a year. If you’ve tried over-the-counter creams or prescription antifungals and you’re still itching, that’s a sign you may have a resistant strain of candida, the fungus that causes yeast infections.

Eat this: A daily 6- to 8-ounce container of plain yogurt (if you’re lactose intolerant, soy or coconut yogurt works). Make sure it contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a probiotic (good bacteria) that helps create an unfriendly environment in the vagina so yeast doesn’t grow out of control, Burch says. It’s very important to check that the yogurt has no added sugar, since yeast thrives on the sweet stuff, Burch adds. Other healthy whole foods, like lean proteins, leafy and cruciferous greens and healthy fats, along with garlic and coconut oil, also have anti-yeast properties, Dr. Hyman says.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

Do this: Try a vaginal suppository with boric acid powder. Yep, you know boric acid as a bug killer, but hear us out. “Ob-gyns used to prescribe boric acid to women all the time before over-the-counter creams and the one-day prescription pill appeared,” explains Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a specialist in natural remedies and author of Healthy at Home. “It’s effective against the less common species of the fungus, which don’t always respond to conventional treatment.” If you want to try it, “you can buy boric acid powder, not crystals, in any pharmacy, then place it in size 0 or 00 capsules, sold at drugstores, and insert one into the vagina each night for a week,” Dr. Low Dog says. Don’t take the capsules by mouth (they’re toxic if ingested), and don’t use them at all if you’re pregnant.

And FYI: Chronic yeast infections can be an early sign of diabetes. See your doc if you have symptoms such as frequent urination.

You’ve got: A runny nose
What causes it: When a cold virus or allergen invades your nasal passages, your body releases chemicals called histamines that increase mucus production and cause other symptoms, like itchy eyes or sneezing.

Eat this: Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso or sauerkraut. They contain probiotics that can help boost immunity so you’re armed against colds and flu. If you’re already congested, you might want to avoid dairy products (they can make symptoms more noticeable) and sweets, which can crank up mucus production. Sometimes a runny nose is a reaction to a food allergen, like dairy or gluten (a protein in wheat rye and barley). “If your symptoms persist, consider being tested,” Dr. Mao says.

Do this: Disinfect a small squirt bottle by dipping it in boiling water. Then, after the water has bubbled for at least a minute, let it cool and add it to the bottle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of table salt. Shoot a tiny amount into your nasal passage before blowing it out gently, Dr. Mao suggests. (Sounds unpleasant, but we promise it’s not bad.) Besides rinsing out allergens and other germs, salt water is a natural antimicrobial that helps fight the bacteria and viruses that caused the cold in the first place. It can also dry up excess mucus. Don’t have a squirt bottle? A neti pot will work the same way, or you can try a premade salt spray like Simply Saline. Both are available in drugstores.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

You’ve got: Constipation
What causes it: Often it’s a change in your routine—you go on a big trip or have a superbusy few weeks that keep you out of the gym—that disrupts your regular bowel habits, making you feel backed up and bloated. And the longer things remain standing still, the worse constipation can get.

Eat this: Down an 8-ounce glass of unfiltered aloe vera juice with 2 ounces of unfiltered apple juice. “Apple juice has pectin, which is fibrous, and the aloe vera speeds digestion,” Dr. Mao says. Another option: a tablespoon of hemp seed oil or flaxseed oil before bed, which lubricates the digestive tract, he says. If you’re often constipated, it might be a good idea to consider a daily regimen: Take 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds every morning (you can add them to your yogurt or mix them into green juice), pop 150 to 300mg of magnesium citrate in capsule form at breakfast and lunch and drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day. “Flaxseed is an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for reducing gut inflammation; water helps move things through,” Dr. Hyman says. “Magnesium citrate helps relax the bowels so you can go.”

Do this: “Lie flat and massage your lower abdomen with your fingertips in short up-and-down motions for a few minutes every hour to help get things moving,” Burch says. Afterward, walk around for a few minutes and have a full glass of water.

Are you chronically stopped up? See your doc for a thyroid check; a sluggish thyroid gland can cause constipation as well as other health issues, like weight gain and fatigue, Dr. Hyman adds.

You’ve got: Menstrual cramps
What causes them: When it’s time for your period, your body ramps up production of prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that help expel the uterine lining by causing contractions—and, unfortunately, triggering inflammation and those familiar pains in your belly. Over-the-counter pain meds are the usual go-to, but if you take them too often, they can lead to side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea.

Eat this: Ginger is an antispasmodic that helps block prostaglandins. Sip ginger tea (you can buy tea bags or steep grated fresh ginger root) at the first twinge of cramps so you stop them before they get really intense, Dr. Low Dog says. Foods with omega-3s, like walnuts, pumpkin seeds and fatty fish (salmon, sardines) can also help reduce cramps over time. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory powers that help slow prostaglandin production. “Up your consumption of cold-water fish to 3 to 4 ounces twice a week, or take a daily fish oil supplement that offers 500 to 800mg of EPA or 200 to 500mg of DHA. You’ll see improvement in your cramps in three months,” Dr. Low Dog says.

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Do this: Massage a pressure point at the end of your spine (about 2 inches above your butt). “The nerves here connect to the uterus, so applying constant pressure to this spot with your palm or fingertip relaxes the uterine muscles,” Burch says. You can reach back and do it yourself or ask your partner to help.

You’ve got: Canker sores
What causes them: These shallow, painful sores tend to strike because of some kind of irritation, like after you’ve bitten your tongue. They also appear when you’re stressed. Most of the time the exact cause is unclear, but they’re unrelated to cold sores (which are brought on by a virus).

Eat this: Yogurt. Swishing a spoonful of the plain, sugar-free kind along your gums helps rebalance the microbes in your mouth so it’s a less favorable place for the harmful germs that can irritate the sore and make it worse, Dr. Low Dog says. Skip spicy or acidic foods, such as citrus or sodas, which can exacerbate an existing canker sore and may even cause new ones to form, Dr. Mao explains.

Do this: Gargle with a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water three times a day and right before bed. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that can kill those bacteria, Dr. Mao says. “If the sore is already irritated, coat it with baking powder before bed, which helps it close up faster.” Canker sores can also be a sign of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, Dr. Mao notes, so consider being tested if you get them frequently or if you have symptoms such as abdominal pain.

You’ve got: Itchy winter skin
What causes it: Your skin just can’t win in the colder months. Both the heated indoor air and the dry, chilly air outside mean you’re facing dehydrated, flaky skin no matter what. And it’s hard to resist scratching it—which only contributes to the irritation.

Eat this: Foods high in B vitamins, such as poultry, meat and whole grains. “B vitamins, especially niacin (or B[subscript 3], found in poultry, meat and fish), help open capillaries near the skin’s surface, improving delivery of blood and boosting skin health,” Dr. Mao says. Avoid refined sugar: “Sugary, processed foods worsen skin issues because they immediately raise blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin response that leads to puffiness, itching and dryness,” Dr. Hyman says.

HEALTH.COM: Winter Skin Annoyances, Solved

Do this: Moisturize skin with natural nut or vegetable oils, available at supermarkets and organic food stores. “Walnut, coconut, hemp seed and avocado oils are high in specific amino acids that help your skin rehydrate,” Dr. Mao says. (One quick note of caution: If you or someone in your family has a tree nut allergy, skip oils made with those; there is a potential for a reaction when used on skin, Dr. Mao adds.) You can apply it directly to skin as needed. Or, for a hydrating treat, replace your nightly shower with a relaxing bath. Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite oil to the warm water and climb in. Afterward your flaky skin (and your stress) will be gone for sure.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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