Many people have digestive problems that lead to poor digestion of essential nutrients and symptoms of poor digestion, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, excess gas, and constipation.
The stomach is important to good digestive health. It contains powerful enzymes and hydrochloric acid that break down proteins and starches that are then more easily digested. If you don’t have enough of these important substances in your gut, your digestion will be poor and you won’t absorb nutrients properly.
Herbs that Help Digestion
There are many herbs you can take that can help ease digestion so you can get the proper nutrients you need in your diet. Some of these herbs include the following:
- Gentiana lutea. This is a bitter herb that is extremely popular among Westernized herbalists. It is used quite often in Europe, where a supplement of this bitter herb is taken just before eating in order to stimulate digestion and allow for the passage of food quickly through the digestive tract. These types of herbs can reduce indigestion, food allergies, bloating, and gas. Other similar herbs that taste bitter include dandelion, barberry root, and artichokes.
- Fennel, Cardamom, Dill, Cumin, lemon balm, and caraway seeds. These are called “carminative herbs” that keep the digestive tract warm, so that digestion is speeded up and digestion is more thorough. It can also reduce the amount of gas in the GI tract.
- Senna leaf, aloe leaf, and cascara. These are natural stimulant laxatives that promote digestion and help food pass through the GI tract more quickly. They are especially recommended for cases of acute constipation and aren’t recommended for long-term use as the gut can become dependent upon them.
- Flaxseeds, oat bran, and chia seeds. These contain fiber that absorb the moisture in the gut and increase the size of the stools so that you have less constipation and easier passage of stools. You can also increase your fiber intake by eating lots of dried legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
- Psyllium seeds. These make for a good bulk fiber laxative that relieves the pain of irritable bowel syndrome and helps to balance the function of the bowels. Psyllium seeds are also good for diarrhea as they absorb fluids in the lower colon. Psyllium creates a mucilage that soothes the GI tract and relieves abdominal cramping.
- Marshmallow root, mullein leaf, and slippery elm bark. These are mucilage-creating herbs that soothe the lining of the GI tract and allows for greater slipperiness of the stool so that it passes more quickly through the intestinal tract. Try taking a tablespoon of any of these herbs and mixing it with a bite of food at each meal.
- Turmeric root. This is a spice found in curry. It helps with inflammation of the digestive tract and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also decreases the amount of substance P in the body so you experience less pain.
- Licorice root. This root helps the mucous membranes of the digestive tract by causing an increase in the amount of mucin in the gut, protecting the lining of the gut from digestive juices and the high pH of the stomach acid.
- Peppermint. This is a common digestive herb that helps relieve a variety of stomach problems. You can eat peppermint or take a peppermint oil extract in order to stave off dyspepsia. Peppermint oil also relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract, preventing diarrhea.
Therapies for Nutritional Absorption
There are certain therapies that help improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients. These include the natural mineral, magnesium, which draws moisture from the large colon and helps to soften the stool try taking in about 1200 milligrams of magnesium daily.
Probiotics involve the healthy bacteria in the lower colon. They help improve gut metabolism and improve the absorption of nutrients. You can take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt containing live cultures in order to replace bad bacteria with good bacteria that improve the absorption of nutrients.
Exercise can also improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Research has shown that people with a sedentary lifestyle have an increased risk of getting colon cancer. Therefore, along with eating healthy herbs, you should try to get in at least 150 minutes of exercise per day. Much of this should be aerobic exercise that increases the transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract and helps the gut absorb nutrients better.