10 herbs and spices to support good digestive health
Choose these 10 herbs and spices to support good digestive health
As I wrote this, it is World Digestive Health Day (29th May). It’s yet another reminder of the need to take good care of your digestive tract, since digestion, the gut barrier and its microbiome has a significant impact on your overall health.
Did you know that aside from fibre, many herbs and spices support a healthy gut? Include these ten in your weekly diet to help keep your gut and digestion working well for you.
Turmeric has many properties that are considered to be extremely helpful to the gut. From its well-researched anti-inflammatory properties to anti-oxidant properties that fight damaging free radicals. It is thought that turmeric use in cooking may be a contributory factor to lower risk of inflammatory bowel disease in India.
It is the active ingredient called curcumin that has these properties, but it is poorly absorbed. To help absorption, cook with some fat and pepper. Golden milk is a warming calming drink (use a nut milk rather than dairy milk), add to stir-fries and curries. A curcumin supplement will deliver a higher therapeutic potency.
Ginger is another helpful anti-inflammatory spice. It is commonly used to relieve nausea. Grate into a cup of hot water with lemon slices; add to smoothies and stir-fries.
Cinnamon has anti-viral and bacterial properties, and therefore helps to protect the microbiome from unwanted pathogens that can lead to “dysbiosis”- a common problem when pathogenic microbes start to expand at the expense of beneficial bacteria. It is also anti-inflammatory.
Add to porridge. Can be used in sweet and savoury cooking.
Coriander is antifungal, so can be helpful to protect against candida – a common gut yeast overgrowth. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps with digestive secretions (necessary to digest your food). Include both coriander leaves and coriander seeds in cooking.
Parsley as far more than a garnish! Never leave it on the side of your plate. It helps to relieve a build-up of gas; it relieves bad breath (it’s popular to eat some parsley when eating garlic) and it also helps to stimulate digestion. It also acts as an anti-spasmodic (to help relieve griping pain). Chop parsley over a salad, add to all types of casseroles, with fish dishes and to a pesto sauce.
Mint is overlooked as a common English garden herb, but don’t under-estimate its value to the gut. It has anti-microbial properties (protecting against those pesky pathogens) and may help relieve indigestion, bloating and gas. Make a mint tea with fresh leaves after a meal, and consider chewing the leaves if you experience digestive upset.
Rosemary is another anti-microbial, including antifungal and antibacterial (protecting the gut against unwanted pathogens). It also helps relieve indigestion, gas and bloating. Use with roasted vegetables, soups and casseroles.
Oregano is very well researched for its antiparasitic, anti-viral, antifungal and anti-bacteria properties. It can be bought as Oil of Oregano but it is so potent that it must be used cautiously in order to protect the delicate beneficial bacteria as it could have the same damaging effect as an anti-biotic if not used in a short controlled manner. As a food, it will not create a detrimental effect on the healthy gut microbiome and can help to keep it in balance.
Rocket is not strictly a herb, but I include it as a useful plant to take to help stimulate digestive secretions. Too often, the stomach is not as acidic as it needs to be to support digestion of protein foods. Rocket is known as a bitter and when eaten at the start of a meal helps to stimulate the flow of gastric secretions.
Garlic is also not strictly a herb, but it is an important plant for digestive health. It has antibacterial, fungal and viral properties and is also anti-inflammatory. Use abundantly in cooking. Take as a supplement (usually in the form of allicin) to inhibit pathogenic over-growth in the gut.
Herbs and spices are often considered as just flavouring to dishes, but they offer far more than just that. They have powerful properties including protecting the gut from pathogens, helping to calm inflammation and neutralising damaging free radicals.
Use a wide variety of herbs and spices in your cooking to take care of your digestive health.
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