Text by Jennie Epland. Photo by Jae Song.
I think its safe to say that all of us get some form of indigestion in our lives. Some of us are plagued with it. From heartburn to bloating, to the things that do (or do not) move down under, there are ways to support your digestion naturally. And in my opinion, the best way to do this is with food. The following are some of my favorite tummy smoothers so, lets get into digestion!
Top of the list for me is definitely ginger. This amazing medicinal spicy root, native to southeast Asia has long been valued for its gastrointestinal benefits. Ranging from relieving bloating and nausea to its anti-spasmodic effects, ginger is a wonder. It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune boosting and cancer fighting qualities. Win-win- win-win. There are many different ways to enjoy ginger.
I think it’s always best to get it fresh instead of the dried, powdered, pickled or candied versions. I love to grate on top of stir fried veggies or boil to make a tea, with lemon and honey. The latter being the best alternative to soothing an aching belly.
Next up on the list is mint and it is definitely an upper. Most often used dried in teas, peppermint and spearmint are great herbs to tame indigestion. They are in the same family as basil. Even the smelling fresh mint can have positive effects on digestion. The aroma stimulates salivary glands which secrete digestive enzymes promoting a smooth ride through your GI tract. The cooling properties sooth nausea and belly aches as well as cleanse your palate pre-meal. Along with ginger, there are so many other benefits to mint than just the belly stuff. It has cooling effects which will not only help on a warm day but also with alertness, anxiety, bad breath and breathing in general. Helps to open up your airways. There are some wonderful organic loose leaf teas, but I also like to buy the herb fresh and add to salads or a pitcher of cool lemon water. I most frequently use peppermint in essential oil form. Rubbing it on the back of my neck or my abdomen feels so nice, as well as cupping my hands over my face and inhaling. Depending on your sensitivity and the purity of the oil, use a carrier oil along with peppermint if using topically. Cool!
Fennel is rounding out my top three as far as fresh foods on this list. This white bulb-like vegetable, native to the Mediterranean, with green Sideshow Bob fronds and licorice aroma and flavor, which differentiate it from other bulby veggies. History says, Roman soldiers would consume fennel on their long journeys to promote strength. This is the most well rounded on the list with qualities such as eliminating bad breath, anti- spasmodic, anti-flatulence, pms reliever, laxative, as well as helping bacterial diarrhea.
Use fresh fennel in a green salad with a little goat cheese (or that vegan mozz from BFC I’ve been getting, delicious) and balsamic. My preferred recipe is roasting the fennel and adding black olives. Those two flavors work really well together. I have to give credit to a small Italian eatery, named ‘ino for those recipes (sadly, ‘ino is now closed). Using the fronds are also an option in salads or sprinkling on a desired dish like an herb.
Finally I’d love to finish with fermented foods and probiotics. This is such a vast and popular topic these days (and at BFC we have a whole fridge dedicated to it) that I will write a separate piece about these delicious and medicinal edibles. But here’s a teaser: A natural way to get probiotics in your diet is to eat fermented foods. Historically, cultures would pickle or ferment their foods (veggies mostly), for longevity. They were not aware of the specificities of their digestive benefits.
Probiotics win the battle over bad bacteria that can overrun our intestines. When the bacteria is out of balance it leads to bloating on the small scale and complete inflammatory disarray on the large scale. Inflammation in your digestive tract can screw up everything from your skin, energy levels, allergic reactions to emotional well being and cellular health. Like I said this is a big topic and one that is near and dear to my heart, so there will definitely be a part two (and I haven’t even mentioned PREbiotics). Foods that include probiotics are: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir, miso, soft cheeses, and tempeh.
Here’s to happy tummies!