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.