Bloated belly? Bad breath? Don’t worry. We found simple, natural fixes for these and more blush-worthy health hassles, so you can say goodbye to embarrassing moments and go about your day with calm confidence.
Banish belly bloat with a dry brush.
Everyone loves fall’s hearty stews and chunky chilies, but not so much the uncomfortable belly bloat that often follows. The good news is there’s an easy fix to looking and feeling better fast: Use a body brush to make short, brisk strokes on your arms, legs, and abdomen, brushing toward your heart. Stanford scientists say doing this spa-inspired technique, called “dry brushing,” for just two minutes a day improves lymphatic drainage to release trapped fluids, eliminating a “muffin top” caused by bloat within a week.
Erase funky breath with a cinnamon gargle.
Though the holiday season may look a little different this year, the last thing anyone wants to worry about when spending time with loved ones with is funky breath. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy a pricey mouthwash to eliminate embarrassing odors. Simply gargling with cinnamon water twice daily cuts risk of bad breath by 85 percent. Microbiologist Lucas Rosa, Ph.D., says the warm fall spice kills the oral bacteria that produce odor-causing sulfur compounds. To do: Steep a teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Then strain the mixture, let cool, and gargle.
After brushing, use a tongue scraper to remove sticky sulfur compounds from the tongue. Doing so cuts the level of odor-causing bacteria by 75 percent, say NYU scientists. (One to try: Basic Concepts Tongue Scraper — Buy on Amazon, $8.79)
Sidestep forgetfulness with solitaire.
Here’s a fun way to dodge cringe-inducing moments like blanking on someone’s name or losing your train of thought mid-sentence: Play a game! A round of cards, chess, or bingo acts as a workout for your mind, tapping into your ability to plan ahead and prioritize. British investigators found that when folks enjoyed a few games a week, their memory, problem-solving, and thinking skills were equal to those 10 years younger who rarely played.
Another way to keep your gray matter sharp? Go for a walk! Research in the academic journal Gerontology found that having more leg power can help your brain act up to three years younger, since walking stimulates the release of a hormone that encourages the growth and repair of brain cells.
Halt hot flashes with ‘paced’ breathing.
Cooler weather can make a flushed face and sudden sweating all the more noticeable — and embarrassing! Fortunately, pacing your breathing (taking a deep breath in, then exhaling longer than your inhale) cuts hot flashes in half when done for 15 minutes twice a day, Harvard scientists say. Regulating your breathing induces a relaxation response that offsets the surge of heat you get from a hot flash.
Or try sniffing some lavender! Research in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association found that lavender’s herbal scent reduces both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by 53 percent by activating the brain’s temperature-control center.
Outsmart bladder leaks with stretching.
If a sneezing fit causes a little leaking, spend a few minutes every day reaching for the sky or touching your toes. Yoga strengthens muscles that support the bladder and ends leak-causing anxiety. In fact, University of California at San Francisco researchers say women with urinary incontinence who did yoga regularly cut leaks by 70 percent in six weeks.
Visualization can help, too. Gotta go? Picture a string of light between your brain and bladder. This mind/body visualization retrains the brain to allow the bladder to go only when you want, curbing leaks by 68 percent, Loyola scientists say.
Prevent gassiness with candied ginger.
While carb-heavy comfort foods can trigger intestinal gas, candied ginger contains compounds that ease intestinal inflammation and enhance digestion. Two slices offer fast relief, and if you make it a daily treat, researchers at University Hospitals in Cleveland say you’ll lower the risk of gassiness by 40 percent.
Sipping mint tea can help soothe a gassy belly, too. Excess sugar fuels the growth of gas-inducing (and embarrassing!) intestinal bacteria, UCLA scientists say, but peppermint tea helps prevent this “bad” bacteria from forming in the GI tract.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.