From A to Z, Dr. Oz tackles the entire alphabet of your health. He reveals the warning signs your body may be sending you. Learn how to treat your skin problems, fight colds, improve digestion, supercharge your immunity, get a good night’s sleep, and spice things up in the bedroom!
Whether it’s A for “Abdominal bloating,” H for “Hives,” or Z for needing to get more “Zzzs,” your common health issues cover the entire alphabet (and then some). Here, Dr. Oz explores it all, starting with the warning signs from A to D your body is sending you about your health.
A: Abdominal Bloating
If your abdomen feels bloated, your body may be signaling the presence of diverticulitis, or an infection of the large intestine. Your large intestine’s job is to squeeze bowel movements through the body and out. Sometimes, however, the intestine’s lining is pushed out into little pouches, creating a condition called diverticulosis, which affects about 2 out of every 3 people at some point in their lives. But if fecal matter gets waylaid in those pouches, an infection can set in, causing diverticulitis. Once an infection has begun in your intestine, there is a risk it can rupture into your abdominal cavity, leak blood and become life-threatening. If, in addition to bloating, you experience severe abdominal pain or fever, it may mean diverticulitis, and you should see your doctor.
B: Bladder Issues
Bladder issues, such as frequent urination or burning, may mean your body is signaling a spreading urinary tract infection. Many women experience UTI, or a bacterial infection of the bladder. Sometimes the bacteria can ascend to the uterus, releasing pus into the kidneys and even spreading into the blood. In a worst-case scenario, what started as a normal UTI can lead to organ failure.
How do you know if you have a typical UTI or if your body is alerting you to something more serious? If, in addition to typical bladder issues, you experience fever, a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, or back pain, see your doctor as it may be a sign your UTI is spreading and should be treated immediately with antibiotics.
C: Changes in Smell
Change, and especially loss, of smell may be your body’s way of signaling the onset of Alzheimer’s.
One of the first parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s is the olfactory cortex, which is responsible for our sense of smell. If your ability to identify scents diminishes, it may mean more than just sinus issues.
Here’s a simple test. Have a friend lay out the following 12 scent items: strawberry, smoke, soap, peppermint, clove, pineapple, natural gas, lilac, lemon, leather, rose, and cherry. If you cannot identify at least 9 of the 12 items by smell, talk to your doctor.
Dizziness may be your body’s way of signaling heart disease. Your heart’s job is to pump blood throughout the body, including distributing oxygen to brain. A weak heart, however, can’t pump sufficient blood to brain, and without enough oxygen, you may suddenly feel dizzy or light-headed.
How can you tell if your dizziness is a sign of a heart problem? If, in addition to dizziness, you also experience nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw or neck, it may be a heart attack alert and you should seek immediate medical attention.
Next, the alphabet of health continues with 5 solutions for your most annoying skin problems (plus bonus treatments for fever and achy joints).
Want to soothe the red, itchy skin associated with eczema? Try sprinkling a half-cup of baking soda into a warm bath ,and soak for 15 minutes for instant relief.
To fight off a fever, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially those loaded with vitamin C. Orange juice and other vitamin-rich drinks will help regulate your immune system and prevent dehydration so your body can heal.
If you’ve got small, fleshy, raised growths on your body, you may have skin tags. They’re genetic, often grow in body folds where friction occurs, such as the underarms and the neck, and are common among obese people. While skin tags – composed of fibers, nerve and fat – are nearly always benign, they can grow up to 5cm, causing chaffing and irritation. You can treat them at home with an acid-based wart remover applied directly on the tag, avoiding the surrounding unaffected skin. Alternately, visit your doctor, who will simply cut the tag, then use a small machine to burn the remaining portion. It only takes a few seconds to remove, and will completely heal within a couple days.
Hives are the raised, itchy red patches that appear when your body releases a chemical known as histamine in response to an allergen. Foods like shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and milk are frequent histamine-triggers, as are medications like penicillin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and blood pressure medications. Other substances that can lead to hives include pollen, animal dander, latex, and insect stings. Your body mistakes these common substances as threats and produces allergy antibodies to combat them, releasing the histamine that causes inflammation and hives.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for hives. Acute hives are those caused by stress or allergies, and can be treated with an oral antihistamine. Topical antihistamine won’t do a lot but may relieve some itching. If after 6 weeks an oral histamine hasn’t eliminated your hives, you should see your doctor. And if you experience trouble breathing at any point, see a doctor immediately.
I: Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail is a common condition in which the corner or side of one of your toenails grows into your toe’s soft flesh, causing pain, redness, swelling, and even infection. Causes include wearing shoes that crowd your toenails, cutting your toenails improperly, injury, or having unusually curved toenails. Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and lead to a serious bone infection.
To prevent ingrown toenails, be sure to wear properly fitting shoes, trim your nails straight across, and don’t cut the nail too short. You can treat ingrown toenails with a warm soak in Epsom salts to keep the area clean and bacteria free while it heals. You can also try placing a band-aid on backwards and away on the affected area, so that you're pulling the nail away from the nail bed.
J: Joint Pain
Looking for a natural way to ease your achy bones? Try yoga. Yoga's fluid motion offers swollen, painful joints relief without the wear and tear of high-impact exercise.
K: Keratosis Pilaris
This rough, bumpy skin on your butt, thighs and the back of your arms may look like tiny pimples, but it's actually the build-up of dead skin around your hair follicles. Try using a gentle body scrub on a regular basis, and you'll quickly see relief.
Next up are L, M and N and the cold symptoms that start with them. Dr. Oz has the surefire treatments to help provide quick relief.
Laryngitis is an inflammation of your larynx, or voice box, that results in symptoms ranging from a tickling in your throat to a complete loss of your voice. Try treating it with Traditional Medicinals’ Throat Coat, a tea that provides a protective coating on the membranes lining your throat. It’s believed to soothe irritation because it contains the anti-inflammatory herb licorice. The tea also contains slippery elm, which clings to the back of the throat and will break up the mucus that’s making you hoarse. Available for around $5 at health food stores, take Throat Coat four times per day to remedy symptoms.
If you’re looking for a laryngitis cure that packs a punch, try a whiskey gargle. Add 1 teaspoon of whiskey to an 8 ounce glass of warm water and gargle (but be sure to spit it back out!). Laryngitis narrows your upper airway, so a whiskey gargle’s astringent properties open those airways back up, while its antiseptic nature will kill laryngitis-causing bacteria.
When we get a cold, our chests fill with mucus, causing discomfort, pain, and trouble sleeping. Here are two treatments to get rid of the gunk. Try taking NAC (N-acetylcysteine) supplement. It’s a decongestant with potent antioxidant activity that will break up mucous and thin it down to help your body get rid of it faster. Available for about $8 in drug stores, take 250 milligrams a day of NAC with or without food. If you’re already experiencing drippy nose, however, you should not take NAC supplement.
N: Nasal Congestion
If you’ve taken every over-the-counter allergy and cold medicine and still can’t treat your nasal congestion, or if you want a natural treatment, here are two alternatives. If you’ve got access to a juicer, make a fresh juice using 2 apples, 1 pineapple, and 2 teaspoons of honey. Be sure to keep the skin on the apples, as they contain bromelain and quercetin, natural antihistamines that will help reduce congestion. Juicing your own fruits releases these natural antihistamines that store-bought juices don’t contain.
If you don’t have access to a juicer, try steam inhalation to treat your congestion. Buy eucalyptus or rosemary, add two sprigs to boiling water, put a towel over your head, then lean over and breathe in the healing steam. Do it two or three times a day for at least 5 minutes to immediately relieve that stuffy feeling.
Cold Bonus Info: Most of us know chicken soup can help relieve cold symptoms, but to boost its effectiveness, add two secret ingredients to your favorite recipe: chicken bones and Asian hot chilies. Cooking the entire chicken in your stock (instead of just deboned breasts or thighs) will give you all its benefits – namely a lot of iron, calcium, fat, and protein, all of which will boost your immune system and get you over that cold and congestion. The chilies contain cold-fighting vitamin A, while their spiciness will help break up the mucus.
We’re more than mid-way through solving your health issues from A to Z, which is fitting since we’re about to focus on the midsection of the body and reveal simple solutions for your biggest digestive problems. But first, two food-related bonus tips to improve your health.
Having a problem reaching the big O? Try nibbling on asparagus. It's chockfull of folate, a B vitamin that helps boost arousal.
If you need relief from the itch and pain of psoriasis, make a cayenne pepper paste. Simply add equal parts of cayenne powder to olive oil and apply with a spoon to the affected area for instant relief.
To treat nausea, some experts recommend caraway tea; others recommend mint tea. Why not get the best of both worlds and make Dr. Oz’s secret recipe for caraway mint tea? Combine 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and 1 teaspoon dried mint, add 12 ounces boiled water, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the seeds and mint, then sweeten with 1 teaspoon of honey. Both mint and caraway seeds contain compounds that will soothe muscle tissue in the digestive tract, relieving gas.
Alternately, try taking artichoke leaf extract. This natural extract, available for around $6 at health food stores, will increase bile secretion and combat that queasy, nauseated feeling. Take one capsule twice a day with food for stomach relief.
R: Rectal Pain
To avoid rectal pain associated with hemorrhoids, you need to soften your stool with Dr. Oz’ simple solution: dried figs. Fig skins contain a natural laxative called cellulose, which increases water content in the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. To prepare them, soak 3 dried figs in water overnight; when soaked they absorb water and act like mucus in the stool, keeping it soft. Take them the next morning on an empty stomach with the water they soaked in. Repeat before dinner and continue for a few weeks.
If you’re looking for another solution to soften your stool, try this unusual combination: chopped white radish and honey. It’s important to use white radish, which look like white carrots, as they contain a special chemical that stimulates muscles in the intestines to push the stool along. A drizzle of honey on top will add some nice flavor.
S: Soft Stool
If, on the other hand, you have soft stool, try Dr. Oz’s B & B oatmeal to harden it. Combine a half-cup of blackberries, 1 banana, and 1 cup cooked steel-cut oatmeal. Blackberries contain natural chemicals which reduce intestinal inflammation, while the banana contains pectin, which can soak up excess water and firm your stool. The steel-cut oatmeal’s fiber will also soak up excess water, and is gentle on your stomach.
Next, learn how you can supercharge your immunity with the letters U, V and W. But first, a tooth-related tip for T.
T: Teeth Whitening
Get those pearly whites bright by using an orange! Simply rub the white inside of the orange’s peel directly onto your teeth just once a day before brushing for brilliant results.
U: Ugli Fruit
Ugli fruit is a hybrid citrus fruit from Jamaica, combining the healthy antioxidant benefits of grapefruit, orange and tangerine, without the serious potential drug interactive properties known to occur with grapefruit. It’s also high in vitamin C, which helps fight infection.
V: Vitamin D-3
Vitamin D-3 is an important immunity booster, yet many of us are D-3 deficient. Also called cholecalciferol, D-3 plays a number of roles in our bodies, including:
- Promoting absorption of calcium and bone health
- Boosting immune function
- Reducing inflammation
- Healthy neuro-muscular function
- Protecting against some forms of cancer
The best sources are salmon, tuna and mackerel (especially the flesh) and fish liver oils. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks also contain small amounts. If these foods don't sound very appealing to you, there is good news: your body produces vitamin D when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike your skin. Spend about 10-15 minutes a day outside in the sun. Keep in mind that wearing sunscreen will prevent you from getting adequate vitamin D outdoors. In the summertime, an easy solution is skipping sunscreen on your legs for the first 15 minutes in the sun. Just make sure you apply in time to prevent any sunburn or damage.
To ensure you’re getting all the D-3 you need, Dr. Oz recommends you take 1000 IU in supplement form daily.
Watermelon’s red pulpy flesh contains the “mother of all antioxidants,” glutathione, which is known to help strengthen the immune system. It’s also high in vitamins C and A. As if that weren’t enough to convince you to eat more of this superfruit, among fruits and vegetables, watermelon has the highest concentration of lycopene, the powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and cancer.
Let’s finish up the alphabet by showing you how to spice things up in the bedroom, treat your nails, and catch up on your Zzzs.
If you want to turn up the heat in the bedroom, try Maca powder – a root native to Peru. Incan warriors used the root in preparation for expeditions and battles to increase stamina and energy. While hopefully your love life is more expedition than battle, adding a half-teaspoon of Maca to smoothies or hot drinks can give your libido the boost it needs.
Y: Yellow Nails
If you hide your hands because of unsightly yellow nails, combining two supplements may be the trick you need to show off those digits. Try taking 1000 mg of vitamin E with 50 mg of zinc daily to get your nails white and healthy.
Z: Getting Your ZZZs
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Here are three great ways to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and restored.
First, try a catnip bath before bed. The same herb that makes your cats go crazy actually has the opposite effect on humans. Catnip is an herb from the mint family and contains a chemical that promotes relaxation and sleep. Take a cup of dried catnip (be sure to buy catnip herb and not the catnip at your pet store, which could be mixed with other ingredients) and steep in hot water. Add the mixture to your bath and enjoy. Don’t worry – you won’t develop a sudden interest in playing with balls of twine.
Next, try a gadget called SleepPhones to fall asleep faster. It’s a fleece headband with embedded speakers, and includes music that can help induce deep sleep. SleepPhones use “binaural beat technology” which reduces brainwave frequency from beta to delta, allowing you to sleep easier. SleepPhones are available online for $39.95.
And Dr. Oz’s final tip to help you catch up on your ZZZs: Stay cool. As your body’s temperature drops, it signals your brain to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. A great way to lower your body temperature is to cool down your sheets. Take a cotton sock and fill with rice. Place it in the freezer for about 45 minutes to get it nice and cool, place it under your pillow. Then, sleep well, knowing you’ve covered the entire alphabet of your health.