Aloe vera contains important amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antibacterial and anti fungal properties that have great benefits for the digestive system. It helps to rid the body of toxins and food buildup. It is also a laxative, encouraging regular bowel movements.
Ingesting the clear gel from the inside of the Aloe vera leaf can help to heal the lining of the intestinal tract if it is damaged. When this gut lining is damaged, toxins can go into the bloodstream causing inflammation and triggering an immune response in the whole body. Aloe vera is a great help for constipation due to its excellent laxative properties. It increases water content in the intestine, helps to stimulate the secretion of mucus and contains enzymes that help to break down food so it can be properly absorbed.
How to add it to your diet:
1. Aloe vera comes in different forms but one of the best ways to add it to your diet is as a juice which you can buy at a health food store or online. Drink a cup of Aloe vera juice before eating a meal to help reduce acid reflux and aid digestion.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the gel to a cup of water, coconut water or fresh orange juice, blend in a blender and drink each morning on an empty stomach. (You can even make your own gel by buying an Aloe vera plant, cutting open the leaf to expose the gel and scraping it out).
Note: Ingesting Aloe vera in high doses can cause diarrhea or stomach cramps. It should not be consumed if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re on any medication, check with your doctor before using it.
Historically, we probably had plenty of probiotics in our diets because we ate food grown in good soil and many of them were fermented to stop them from going bad. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that occur naturally in our digestive systems. They keep our digestive systems in balance and help us to digest our food, control bad bacteria, make valuable nutrients, and support our immune system.
Bad bacteria can take over if we do not have enough good bacteria in our gut. The good bacteria take up space and prevent the bad bacteria from getting too much of a foothold. The way to restore digestive health lies in getting the right balance of bacteria in the gut.
Antibiotics kill the good bacteria, as well as bad and the good bacteria, needs to be replaced.
Probiotics can be used to treat the symptoms caused by the use of antibiotics. We’re exposed to so many toxins and stressors that can affect the balance in our gut, creating a breeding ground for yeast, bad bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. This has a negative effect on the digestive and immune system. Adding probiotics to the diet can help to rectify this problem.
Some people lack an enzyme needed to break down lactose and they suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea as a result. This condition is called lactose-intolerance and those suffering from it may find that probiotics help to relieve their symptoms.
How to add it to your diet:
Probiotics are found primarily in dairy and soy-based products. Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, and buttermilk are all well-known probiotic foods. Some less common ones that are gaining popularity as their benefits become evident are kimchi (Korean spicy, fermented cabbage) kefir (a cultured, creamy beverage) and miso (fermented soy bean paste).
Psyllium husk is great for anyone who does not get enough fiber in their diet. The husk of the seed contains a spongy fiber that reduces the appetite, improves digestion and helps to cleanse the system.
When the fiber is combined with water it forms a gel, adding bulk to the stool and forming a gentle, natural laxative that keeps the bowels regular and prevents constipation. A busy lifestyle is often the cause of insufficient fiber in the diet. Introducing Psyllium husk into the diet can be the answer to this. It can also help those following low carbohydrate, high protein diets where whole grains, fruits, and cereals are eliminated, leaving them deficient in dietary fiber. Psyllium husk needs to be added gradually to the diet as adding too much too quickly can cause bloating, cramps and wind.
How to add to your diet
1. Mix 2.5g of whole Psyllium husk to 300-350ml water or fruit juice and drink once or twice a day.
2. Mix half to 1 teaspoon of Psyllium husk in a glass of warm milk and drink before going to bed.
3. Psyllium husk can be used for baking. It’s often used in gluten-free recipes because it becomes a gel when added to the liquid and prevents dryness and crumbling. It can be used in cakes, bread and pancakes.
4. It can be added to a smoothie.
Peppermint is a widely cultivated herb, well-known for its refreshing, stimulating scent. The compounds in peppermint oil have antispasmodic properties that reduce spasms in the intestinal tract. They also help to balance out intestinal flora and prevent undigested food from fermenting.
Peppermint appears to improve the symptoms of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This has been confirmed by a number of studies. Lactose intolerant and celiac disease patients have also reported its usefulness in treating their symptoms. It calms and soothes the digestive system due to its anti-inflammatory and carminative properties. It helps with cramps and bloating and can help to accelerate healing in cases of inflammation.If you have indigestion, pain in your lower gut or IBS, you will benefit from adding peppermint to your diet. If your pain is higher up in the digestive tract, such as when you have heartburn, peppermint might not be such a good idea. According to some recent studies, it relaxes the muscle closing the stomach off from the esophagus, causing stomach acid to go up into the esophagus and worsening the problem.
Peppermint is very popular and it can be found in many personal care items and processed foods. Unfortunately, most of the foodstuffs containing peppermint are also full of sugar and chemicals. This is why you should consider growing peppermint in your own garden.
How to add it to your diet
1. Peppermint tea is delicious and can be made by adding 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves to a cup of hot water. Cover the cup and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out the leaves and drink once or twice a day.
2. Add the leaves as a garnish to salads.
3. Just a little drop of peppermint oil in hot water with some lemon and ginger can help an upset stomach. Remember that the oil is strong and a little goes a long way.
4. Add a tiny drop of peppermint oil to a green smoothie for a refreshing taste.
Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s usually used in curries. Studies have suggested that it can help to treat a range of digestive problems. It can relieve common problems like heartburn and wind. It can also help with peptic ulcers and conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Turmeric contains minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, all of which help to keep the digestive system functioning properly. Its active compound, Curcumin, helps to fight inflammation, bacteria and viruses. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and studies suggest that it may be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel diseases such as IBS.
Studies have also shown that turmeric helps to stimulate the gallbladder. The gallbladder releases bile which enables the breaking down of food and absorption of nutrients.
How to add it to the diet:
• Stir a tablespoon of turmeric into an eight-ounce glass of juice and drink this when you are suffering from flatulence.
• Add a tablespoon of the spice to your food every day to find some relief from IBS.
• Add this versatile spice to foods such as soups, vegetables, and curries.
• Eating a teaspoon of powdered turmeric up to three times a day, together with drinking more fluids, can bring relief from a bout of diarrhea which may be triggered by anything from medications, allergies, and viruses to food intolerance or food poisoning.
Fennel seeds have been used since ancient times as an effective aid to digestion. They form part of the famous Indian ‘Paan’ which is usually chewed after dinner. The fruit of the flowering plant is dried to form the seeds which are made up of various volatile oil compounds. These volatile oils stimulate the production of gastric juices, helping with the digestive process.
Fennel has antispasmodic properties, relaxing the smooth muscle cells lining the stomach and intestines. This helps to reduce cramping and bloating. It also helps with gastric ulcers, stimulates bile flow and reduces constipation, all contributing to digestive health. Anytime you have a stomach ache, bloating or gas, chew thoroughly on some fennel seeds and swallow for relief.
You may not know that fennel is one of the main ingredients in “gripe water”, a traditional remedy for colic. Recent studies have supported the use of a fennel-based essential oil to help infants with colic.
How to add to your diet
1. Chew a teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal. The chewing process releases an anise-flavored juice that is slightly bitter in taste. The juice helps to reduce digestive problems.
2. Make a fennel tea by adding a teaspoon of crushed seeds to a cup of hot water and allowing it to steep for 5 minutes. Fennel tea can also be purchased at health stores.
3. Half a teaspoon of fennel seed powder can be added to a glass of water for indigestion.
Oatmeal is good for your whole digestive system, including your colon. It contains a good amount of fiber which helps to keep bowel movements regular and prevent constipation. It is easy to digest and can even reduce some symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and nausea. The high fiber content also helps you to feel full. This fiber is soluble, creating a gel when it absorbs water in the digestive system. This gel helps to slow down the absorption of nutrients in the intestine.
If your diet does not include enough fiber, your colon may be susceptible to certain diseases. The high fiber content of oats may be really helpful if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. These diseases attack the lower digestive system, causing diarrhea and damaging the intestines. People who suffer from these diseases need a bland diet during flare-ups and oatmeal provides a gentle way to start reintroducing roughage.
Eating oatmeal may also help to prevent colon diseases because it keeps the colon naturally clean. It is better to start eating a small amount and work your way up to a full serving of oatmeal can also give you digestive problems if you start eating too much too quickly.
How to add it to your diet:
1. Start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal. Add fresh fruit or nuts for added flavor and nutritional value.
2. Oatmeal cookies or rusks will also help with the digestive process.
A banana has great benefits for digestion because it contains plenty of fiber as well as easily digested carbohydrates. It is gentle enough to be eaten when suffering from diarrhea or vomiting and it helps to restore lost electrolytes.
A large banana provides about 500mg of potassium, an important mineral for smooth muscle function. This smooth muscle contracts in a wavelike pattern to move food through the digestive tract. It also contains about 30% of soluble fiber which helps to slow down the absorption of fats and carbohydrates and makes sure nutrients are absorbed. A banana also has probiotic qualities due to the fructooligosaccharides it contains. These help to promote the growth of good bacteria, helping to restore balance in the gut.
How to include it in your diet:
1. The health benefits of eating a banana a day far outweigh any side effects. You can make a good dent in your daily nutritional requirements simply by eating a banana.
2. There are many other healthy ways to add bananas into the diet, such as adding it to yogurt or a smoothie. Dipping it in chocolate and adding it to ice cream may be delicious but it does not count as a healthy way!
Note: Not long ago, people would avoid eating a banana because its starch content was thought to spike blood sugar. In fact, a ripe banana has a glycemic index score of 51-52 according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Any food with a score less than 55 does not raise blood sugar significantly.)
Some additional tips for good digestion
• Good digestion starts in the mind, so make sure that you always eat in a relaxed location. Stress and anxiety interfere with digestion.
• Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly. Saliva is a vital digestive enzyme and if you chew properly, by the time your food reaches your stomach, the starch and cellulose are already being broken down and the rest of the process is easier.
• Keep a diary of what you eat and when you feel discomfort – it is surprising how often patterns emerge and this can help you to find your personal digestive triggers and try to avoid them.
• Don’t skip breakfast and try to have healthy snacks at mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
• Drink water throughout the day as it helps with digestion and prevents constipation.
• Physical exercise helps blood circulation and stimulates muscles in the digestive tract, thus aiding digestion.