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Headaches, bloating, insomnia? Which foods to eat to combat these five common ailments


Putting the right fuel into your body can lead to better levels of concentration, memory, alertness and even muscle function.  It can help you sleep, relieve headaches, send energy and concentration levels soaring and ease bloating. 

Registered Dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson Anna Daniels knows more than most how important food is for making you feel your absolute best. If you're suffering from bloating, headaches, lack of concentration and insomnia then there is help at hand.

"Eating the right foods can help you feel like a whole new person," Anna says. "Our health, mood and general well-being can be improved simply by making the right choices about what you eat. And remember, steer clear of fad diets and detoxes - eating should be enjoyable." 

Nutritional health coach Madeleine Shaw admits she used to wake every morning 'foggy headed,' suffering from terrible IBS and bloating, feeling tired and uncomfortable. But all those sensations are now a rarity for the successful chef, cookery writer and food blogger who embarked on a radical overhaul of her life and diet.

We asked Madeleine and Anna to share the foods that can help alleviate five common ailments a lot of us suffer from; bloating, headaches, hunger pangs, lack of concentration, and insomnia along with recipes ideas and quick fixes that are well worth a try..

Common problem; bloating

Madeleine's folded eggs with asparagus and lemon salsa

Madeleine's folded eggs with asparagus and lemon salsa

Breakfast: Hot water with lemon and ginger- a natural diuretic and a gentle laxative when added to warm water, it can help reduce the amount of salt retained in the body. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and an all-star digestive aid. 

Lunch: Celery, squash, parsley or any leafy green soup. Lean towards cooked rather than raw veg as it's easier to digest.

Dinner: Salad with plenty of fennel (fresh or seeds) a digestive tract savior, cucumber which inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes, avocado which helps regulate sodium levels and asparagus which is an anti-bloating superfood. Finish with a probiotic yogurt to get some good bacteria into your gut - they help regulate digestion and champion the overall health of your digestive tract.  

Dietitian Anna says:  "Lean protein can prevent bloating, so opt for chicken or turkey breast. Avoid pre-packaged meats that can contain high levels of sodium and can cause bloating. Steam your veg as its easier for the gut to break down." 

Madeleine's tip: "Drink a cup of chamomile, liquorice root or peppermint tea before bed; these soothe and relax the belly. And add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your water before you eat; this will get your digestion going."

Common problem: headaches 

Banana Chia Pudding

Madeleine's Banana Chia Pudding

Breakfast: Bananas are great when trying to relieve a stubborn headache. They are high in magnesium, which can relax your blood vessels and ease head pain. They are also high in potassium, which is an essential part of your electrolyte balance. 

Lunch: Try snacking on spicy foods which can relieve congestion, reduce sinus pressure and open up your airways. Chili powder is packed with vitamin E to relax your blood vessels, and help relieve a sore head.

Dinner: Baked potato with skin on as a potassium rich food for easy headache care. Fill with yogurt and herb dip as the high calcium content can help relax your body and take care of a sore head.  A side salad and watermelon desert is a delicious way to quickly rehydrate and consume healthy sugars.  

Dietitian Anna says: "Make sure you are hydrated - it's one of the most important factors to ward of headaches. Foods with a high water content and rich in magnesium can help a sore head. Try a salad of vegetables and dark green leafy greens such as rocket and spinach and cantaloupe melon, blueberries, raspberries, apricots and peaches to finish."

Common problem: hunger pangs

Beetroot and sweet potato soup

Beetroot and sweet potato soup

Breakfast: Grapefruit – even the smell of this superfruit helps reduce appetite. Eggs are also proven to help keep you fuller for longer. 

Lunch: Try a broth-based soup with your favorite cut-up veggies, plus a protein such as beans, chicken, or fish, so you have all the elements of an energy-dense, satisfying meal.

Dinner: Whole-wheat pasta or quinoa, this grain is a great with sautéed veggies and will help you to feel fuller. Include a big salad – add some cheese or chicken for protein and plenty of veggies, such as sweet potatoes, with the skin on and a handful of carrots. Top it with whole-grains, nuts and seeds. 

Dietitian Anna says: "A diet rich in fibre with lots of veg and whole grain and wholemeal. Low GI carbs are slower to release energy into your blood stream and will keep you feeling full for longer."

Common problem: lack of concentration

Smoked salmon and fattoush salad with avocado mash

Madeleine's smoked salmon and fattoush salad with avocado mash

Breakfast: Certain nutrients, especially iron, can help women feel more energised and improve concentration. Nearly 10% of women between the ages of 20 and 49 are iron-deficient but for foods high in iron try organic greek yogurt with apples, berries and a good fat like nuts or seeds and raw or toasted oats.

Lunch: Salad of beans, or lentils with spinach and sesame seeds

Dinner: Try leaner meats like chicken and fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, needed for brain development.

Dietitian Anna says: "Beetroot and blueberries are also known to slow cognitive decline and improve mental performance. One formula for maximum energy is: fruit or veggie + a whole grain + lean protein +plant-based fat + herb/spice. Eat with vitamin C-rich foods to boost iron absorption."

Madeleine's tip: "Try adding some cinnamon to your breakfast – this can help stabilise your blood sugar levels. Up your protein intake – this really helps sugar cravings. Good sources of protein are fish, grass-fed meat, free-range eggs, nuts, seeds and quinoa."

Common problem: insomnia

Sleep tonic

Sleep tonic

Breakfast: Raw spinach smoothie with yogurt, celery, milk and parsley. Add some berries for sweetness.

Lunch: Try a salad of beans, ricotta cheese or cottage cheese followed by a yogurt. Certain vegetables such as raw spinach, cabbage and parsley provide a rich glutamine source which helps you to sleep.

Dinner: Fish and meat such as beef, chicken, pork and turkey provide a rich glutamine source.

Dietitian Anna says: "Have a carbohydrate rich snack close to bedtime as it aids serotonin production and promotes sleepiness . Bananas are a good carb with potassium and magnesium to help promote relaxed muscles. Kiwi fruits are also another fruit that aids serotonin production."

Madeleine's tip: Try a Stir and Purr (sleep tonic):  1 green apple, peeled and cored, 7 strawberries, hulled, 15 cherries, stones removed, 2 sticks celery, ½ cucumber. Put all the ingredients into a juicer. Drink that day.

Get the Glow: 100 delicious and easy recipes that will nourish you from the inside out by Madeleine Shaw is out now. Published by Orion Books in hardback and eBook, priced £20/£10.99. For more info visit madeleineshaw.com

For more info on dietitian Anna Daniels check out honestnutritionrd.co.uk 

by Sofia Zagzoule



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