When we think of summer, barbecues, camping trips, and beach days come to mind. But with all the fun to be had, it feels like stomach issues, headaches, sunburn and other annoying ailments are inevitable. Do you wish there was a way you could enjoy all the fun without any warm-weather health hassles? Good news: You can with these easy, study-backed tricks.
Soothe stomach pain by gardening.
With summer comes lazy afternoon picnics, barbecues, and sangria with friends. But if rich foods and rising temperatures leave your stomach feeling unsettled, try tending your garden. Pruning, planting, or weeding for just 15 minutes a day exposes you to a probiotic found in soil, report British scientists. When inhaled, these beneficial bugs calm intestinal spasms and optimize the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, soothing even chronic stomachaches in as little as one week.
Or practice your downward dog: Pop in a yoga DVD for 20 minutes a day, and you’ll cut bouts of indigestion by up to 70 percent in a week, report scientists at NYU Winthrop Hospital. Stretching lowers your output of stomach-irritating stress hormones.
Ease heat headaches with a neck massage.
If it seems like the number of headaches you get tends to spike at this time of year, you’re not imagining things: For every nine degrees the temperature rises, your risk of bothersome head pain increases. The next time you feel that familiar ache coming on, take a few minutes to firmly rub your fingertips in small circles along the back of your neck and base of your skull. Doing this quick mini massage can help you cut your pain in half within five minutes. That’s the news from University of Alabama at Birmingham scientists, who explain that applying gentle pressure to your neck encourages the body to release painkilling endorphins, quickly quashing a headache.
And enjoy a sundae: Sprinkle 1/2 cup of walnuts on a scoop of ice cream, and you’ll significantly reduce your headache risk, report researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Credit goes to the muscle-relaxing magnesium in nuts, which soothes scalp spasms.
Dodge dehydration by staying in bed.
Sleeping eight hours a night reduces your risk of dehydration —and the brain fog that comes with it — by 59 percent compared with logging only six hours of shut-eye. Scientists reporting in the journal Sleep say that while you snooze, your body releases a hydration-regulating hormone called vasopressin. But when you don’t get enough rest, vasopressin production is cut short, leaving you feeling parched and foggy.
And pop in a mint: Enjoying a mint activates your thirst mechanism to help you sip an extra 18 oz. of water daily, according to scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Center. The scent also boosts mental energy by 23 percent in two minutes.
Sidestep insomnia by taking a stroll.
When warm, sticky nights leave you tossing and turning, lace up your sneakers and take a short walk before you go to bed. Just 20 minutes of strolling at a leisurely pace after dinner (try walking in an air-conditioned mall or on a treadmill at the gym if it’s too hot out) encourages the brain to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, allowing you to enjoy deep, restorative sleep each night.
And have pizza for dinner: Permission to grab another slice: University of Pennsylvania scientists say the more cooked tomatoes you eat, the more deeply you’ll sleep. That’s because cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a compound that prods the brain to produce melatonin.
Relieve sunburn with coconut oil.
Caught a few too many rays while relaxing by the pool? Just smooth a thin layer of coconut oil over your sunburned skin for instant relief. The kitchen staple contains healthy fats that soak into damaged tissues to dampen inflammation, lock in moisture and encourage the growth of healthy new skin cells. According to research published in the International Journal of Dermatology, when the soothing oil is applied several times daily, it can shave three days from skin’s healing time.
Or take a green tea bath: Steep six green tea bags in a tub of lukewarm water, then soak for 15 minutes. University of Connecticut scientists say the brew’s antioxidants calm pain nerves.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.