To keep your digestive system humming smoothly, there are three main strategies that you can follow:

  • Detoxification
  • Adding probiotics to your diet to build healthy gut flora
  • Eat alkalinizing foods to balance your blood pH

Detoxification

Removing toxins from the digestive tract, especially the colon, can facilitate digestion, absorption, nutrient assimilation and elimination.  Detox can double up as an elimination diet (work with a health and wellness practitioner), during which you eliminate certain foods from your diet and add them back in after a week or two, one by one, to see if you are allergic to certain foods. Some of these sensitivities can irritate and damage intestinal linings, causing leaky gut syndromes or other digestive ailments.

Here are a few examples of cleansing and detox protocols: [More details can be found in Digestive Wellness by Liz Lipski, p.134 – 138]

  • Fruits and Vegetable Cleansing
  • Metabolic Cleansings
  • Vitamin C Flush

These protocols should be conducted with the supervision of a wellness professional to ensure safety and efficacy.

At home, you can try carrot and apple juice (aids colon detox), or starting your day with a cup of warm water with juice of half a lemon first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (supports liver).

Healthy Gut Flora

Add foods that are rich in probiotics into your diet, namely cultured and fermented foods, examples include:

  • Yogurt and kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkrauts
  • Natto
  • Kombucha

Alkalinizing blood pH

Create an alkaline internal environment – it is particularly great for facilitating elimination:

  • “Green juice” made from algae, spirulina, leafy greens etc. (You can get them in powder form in canisters or packets)
  • Lemon juice in warm water, most effective when taken in the morning on an empty stomach
  • Fruits and vegetables – besides the alkalinizing properties, the fiber can aid elimination while the enzyme from raw fruits and vegetables can aid digestion and absorption.

Gotta Go – Natural Ways to Facilitate Elimination

Constipation can be very uncomfortable and even painful, and studies have even found that infrequent bowel movement allows toxins to linger in the colon, increasing the risk of developing cancer.

Here are a few ways to get things moving:

  • Drink fresh juice of carrot and apple to aid colon detox (raw is best – the enzymes present also aids digestion)
  • Drink a cup of warm water with juice of half a lemon, first thing in the morning – it is very cleansing, aids liver function and moves the bile
  • Exercise regularly – movement helps peristalsis
  • Ensure adequate intake of dietary fiber – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, flaxseed, wheat bran, psyllium husk
  • Take supplements of aloe, magnesium citrate, and vitamin C
  • Use yellow dock – it doesn’t see to create dependency according to herbalist Rosemary Gladstar.

Use laxative herbs such as senna or cascara sagrada only for “emergency” and over a short period of time – they have a very cooling constitution, strong downward energy, and present the risk of creating dependency. If you do use these herbs, adding warming herbs such as ginger can help ease the discomfort that some people may experience.

Bloat-Be-Gone – Relieve Gas Safely and Effectively

There are many causes to bloating, and the most common reasons are food intolerance and too much fiber all at once. Not to mention talking and chewing at the same time (another reason to pay attention to your food!)

Here are a few ways to safely ban bloat through nutritional and holistic approach:

  • Use herbs such as basil, dill, ginger, fennel, and mint as tea or in your cooking- all of these herbs have gas-relieving properties
  • Introduce fiber-rich food gradually – fiber is great, but if you are not used to a fiber-rich diet and suddenly eat a lot of fiber-rich food, your GI tract will act up.
  • Cook beans properly – soak beans for at least 4 hours, and use spices or kombu to improve digestibility.
  • Notice how your body reacts to vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, and moderate intake if necessary.
  • Look for potential food intolerance (e.g. lactose or gluten) – if your body cannot digest and assimilate these nutrients properly, they can cause gas.
  • Yoga poses such as twisting can help relieve gas – these poses stimulate the movement of the smooth muscles of the intestinal walls and help “move things along”.
  • Chew carminative seeds such as anise, cardamom, cumin, dill and fennel at and between meals to reduce gas and bloating

No More Purple Pills – Relieve Heartburn Naturally

Heartburn is one of the most common digestive woes experienced by busy people in our society these days. Causes to heartburn include chronic stress, eating too much, a diet that is too rich and drinking too much coffee. For some people, gluten and dairy can cause heartburn.

Here are a few ways to relieve heartburn, without being dependent on pharmaceuticals:

  • Calm the digestive and nervous system with digestive nervine herbs – chamomile, hops, lemon balm. (Note: lemon balm in large quantity may interfere with thyroid function, and may not be suitable for frequent consumption by people with hypothyroidism)
  • Sooth the irritated stomach lining with mucilaginous herbs – marsh mallow, licorice, and slippery elm.
  • Eat oatmeal regularly
  • Drink baking soda dissolved in water
  • Use digestive bitter with meal
  • Try papaya enzyme
  • Relax during and after meals – do not eat when you are stressed or upset, chew slowly and thoroughly, eat mindfully
  • Refrain from drinking fluids during meals to avoid diluting gastric juice
  • Investigate the possibility of magnesium deficiency, and supplement if necessary
  • Drink apple cider vinegar mixed with water (1 tsp vinegar mixed with 8oz water)
  • Drink Aloe juice
  • Avoid caffeine

Reference:

Gladstar, R. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Storey Publishing, 2008.

Indigestion and Poor Digestion

Indigestion and poor digestion can be caused by low digestive enzymes, lack of intestinal flora, poor eating habits, poor-quality foods, and stress.

These lifestyle and dietary changes can help ease indigestion and improve digestion:

  • Slow down when you eat
  • Chew slowly and thoroughly
  • Refrain from drinking immediately before or after meal, and don’t drink during meal – this can dilute stomach acid. In particular, no cold fluid during meal.
  • Be mindful about food combination – carb and protein can result in gas and putrefaction. Certain fruits ferment quickly (e.g.melon) and should be eaten alone.
  • Drink peppermint or chamomile tea 30 min before and after meals.
  • Add ginger and cayenne to your food – use fresh-grated ginger and only a few grains of cayenne.
  • Use papaya enzyme to aid digestion, and supplement with acidophilus to restore healthy gut flora.

Reference:

Gladstar, R. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Storey Publishing, 2008.

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