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Home Remedies for Common Ailments

Tennis champion Martina Navratilova suggests natural treatments to heal the body

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Home remedies can help heal your body. — Spencer Jones/Getty Images

Growing up in Czechoslovakia, I was treated with traditional folk remedies as well as with conventional medicine. Sometimes we'd go to a lécitelka (female healer) who dealt with various healing teas and herbs. As a result, I learned that often natural treatments work with the body to help it get well, whereas some synthetic medicines only mask symptoms and may even interfere with healing. If you get ill, by all means, see your doctor as soon as you can. With your doctor's OK, try some home remedies too, in order to support healing. Here are a few of my favorites:

Low energy and fatigue

As a pro athlete and avid exerciser, I need lots of energy! But if I feel an energy crisis coming on, I resort to nutrition. That means real food, not energy drinks, which are loaded with caffeine and create a false sense of energy. I whip up batches of "energy balls" to have on hand when I need natural pep. They're easy to make:

Energy Balls

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup nuts, finely minced
  • 4 dried figs, chopped (you may need to soak these in water until they are pliable)
  • coconut flakes

Combine honey and soy milk in a pan. Heat until boiling; boil for 1 minute. Set aside. Blend the oatmeal, sesame seeds, nuts and figs in a blender, or run these ingredients through a juicer or food processor, until finely ground. Mix together these ingredients with the honey and soy milk. Form the mixture into balls and dust with coconut flakes. Makes 14 to 16 balls.

Sleep problems

On other days, when I've run out of strength, I know one reason is lack of sleep. Sleep troubles are certainly a huge cause of fatigue. It's essential to get a good night's sleep if you want to be at your sharpest and most energetic. Sleep deprivation impairs your judgment, reaction time and other functions. It also can lower your immunity and bring on premature aging. Getting less sleep than you need creates a sleep debt in your body — like being overdrawn at the bank. Before long, your body will demand that the debt be repaid.

An important way to get a good night's sleep is to try some "sleep snacks." Before going to bed, have a healthy snack such as bananas, figs, a bit of turkey or yogurt. These foods are naturally high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which is helpful for inducing sleep.

Joint and muscle pain

As an athlete, I always try to push the envelope when it comes to increasing my performance. But like every other hard-training athlete, I tend to overdo things from time to time and succumb to joint and muscle pain.

Certainly, anti-inflammatory drugs can help, but unfortunately, these often come with side effects. One of the best natural anti-inflammatories to try might already be in your spice rack: turmeric. It is the orange-yellowish spice found in curry, as well as in yellow mustard. Its active anti-inflammatory component is curcumin, which has been used for relieving arthritis, bursitis and other joint pain.

One of the easiest (and most tasty ways) to harness the healing benefit of curcumin is to take a can of organic vegetable soup, add some turmeric and heat. Use about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of turmeric to season your soup.

Colds, sniffles, even tummy troubles

I've been "juicing" since 1981, and I try to have at least two fresh juices daily, one in the morning and one in the evening. For me, drinking fresh juices is one of the best ways to deliver a concentrated amount of quickly absorbed nutrients in order to improve my health. In addition, I use juices medicinally. For example, when I feel as if I'm coming down with a cold or feeling a little nauseous, I blend up the following juice. It contains ginger, a superstar spice that has been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, plus can help reduce nausea and relieve motion sickness. Consuming it when you're feeling crummy may help knock out whatever is ailing you.

Gingery Juice

  • 4 to 5 carrots
  • 1 large apple, cored
  • 1 slice fresh ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice the carrots, apple and ginger, and stir in lemon juice. Makes 2 servings.

I hope these remedies help you as much as they've helped me. Prevention will always be the best medicine, so be sure to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly (but don't overdo), and get the healing rest you need. Here's to your health!

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GO ORGANIC! Martina Navratilova shares four tips for buying organic produce.

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