The Most Commonly Overlooked Digestive Aid
When we slow down in winter (don’t quit your workout or movement routine!), often our digestion slows down with us, especially if we start to eat more sweets and bigger meals.
The holidays can also bring on added stress – be that from spending more money, hosting a party, busier at work, or seeing family members you have some challenging history with. And stress puts us in a fight or flight mode, except there is no bear to run from, so we need to find ways to release that stress (more on that in a later post!).
And one thing stress does to your system is it slows your digestion! So, with the combo of stress and eating poorly, our gut could use some help. So along with stress relieving techniques and eating better, here are a few things in your cupboard that’ll boost your digestive juices and keep things moving, if you know what I mean :)…
Did you know that herbs & spices do wonders in aiding our digestion? They can get our stomach acid moving and help to promote production of necessary enzymes. Many herbs and spices aid in digestion, but here are a few key players:
- turmeric – astringent. calms inflammation, helps maintain stomach acid balance.
- fennel – possibly the best digestive spice. calms indigestion, and can relieve constipation and gas while strengthening digestive fire and promoting lymph flow.
- cumin – stimulates digestion, so if you’re feeling a sluggish digestion or constipation, cumin can help. aids in proliferation of good microbes.
- ginger – good for nausea and relieving GI distress. antispasmodic agent to calm intestines, so it can relieve diarrhea. acts as digestive stimulant for nutrient assimilation. too much can be too heating to the system.
- cayenne – digestive stimulant. encourages healthy food flow. activates proper production stomach of acids.
- peppermint – toning for liver, intestines, and stomach. relieves gas and bloating.
- cardamom – reduces extreme acidity in foods (like coffee or caffeinated drinks!). When cooked in food, reduces excess mucus, gas and bloating.
5 Uses for Spices, so they don’t go bad!
- Sprinkle over your eggs. I love the turmeric/cumin/black pepper combo on my over easy eggs in the morning. Studies show that black pepper makes turmeric more bio-available, so grind some fresh pepper with your turmeric and you’re good to go. Experiment with spices you like!
- Spice up your oatmeal or porridge. Cardamom and cinnamon (not listed, but still a great spice to get things moving) are nice additions to sweeten things up a bit. You could also try a little cayenne if you like spice and you have poor circulation, or fennel if you like that licorice taste. Mmm, I’m getting hungry.
- Make a curry dish! Best way to do that is heat some good fat in a pot (coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, leftover bacon fat) add whole spices until they’re smelling fragrant and then add in onions and/or garlic until translucent, add in veggies and then coconut milk and your meat of choice. Season to taste (you may want more spices and some salt and pepper). Cook long enough till it’s all cooked through and there you have it!
- Create a spice mix (or few) that you’ll love so it’s easy to just add to whatever you’d like. Then place it near your stove! Good combos include: ginger, cardamom, coriander, cayenne, allspice; turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cumin, coriander; cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (to sweeten up a bread or porridge, or spice up some cookies).
- Sprinkle on baked winter squash. It’s winter, didn’t you know, so winter squash is a great seasonal veggie to take advantage of. My fav squashes include: kobocha, spaghetti squash (cause it’s a great spaghetti substitute), and turkish turban (beautiful and flavorful).
Have fun with those spices!
As a side note, remember we are all quite different in our needs- if you have more complicated digestive issues (SIBO, Crohn’s, parasites, food allergies, etc), be careful with adding too many spices. Some may be great, while others may aggravate.
From a personal experience (in handling SIBO and potential Crohn’s- what my GI doc wants to diagnose me with), I find that cayenne is a bit harsh and when I was in the throws of a flare, before figuring out a low FODmap diet was my savior, ginger would even be a little too much for my system.. I kept to milder herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, fennel..). Please seek help from a professional if you have a more complicated situation. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have or point you in the right direction if I can’t help! You are not alone, and it is possible to heal!
Last but not least, take some deep breaths as you make your way through the holiday season. Remember to honor yourself and your needs!