Now that it’s November, the time of the year is swiftly approaching that involves eating, eating… and more eating.
I love a good holiday meal as much as the next guy, but the temptation to over indulge (turkey! stuffing! potatoes! pie! okay, one more piece of pie…) can leave you feeling bloated, nauseated, and unwell.
But before you reach for the Tums or the Pepcid, try these natural, culinary medicine-based solutions for digestive troubles. Read on learn more about these natural (and delicious!) remedies for a sour gut—and, of course, the science behind how they work!
An Asian spice well-known for its sweet and zesty zing, ginger has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and support digestion. As a digestive aid, this knobby, horn-shaped root is used to nourish and warm the digestive organs, including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Ginger stimulates production of enzymes in all digestive pathways.
Research indicates that biologically active compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract. This process seems instrumental for minimizing the sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Researchers also note that ginger plays a role in the breakdown of starches and fatty food—all good things when your tummy has gone sour.
There are many preparations of ginger that kids, as well as adults, can enjoy and use when experiencing an upset stomach. This includes ginger chews, lozenges, and fresh or dried tea infusions. Tinctures, capsules, and extracts can be prepared in varying strengths based upon individual medicinal needs, determined through consultation with a doctor.
Many foods naturally contain enzymes, which are molecules that speed up chemical reactions. Digestive enzymes, as you may have guessed, support various digestive processes. One food that contains important digestive enzymes is papaya.
A deep yellow, sweet tropical fruit, papaya is rich in papain, which contains the digestive enzyme called protease that helps breakdown protein. If the body is deficient in this enzyme (due to genetics, illness, or food allergy), then protein-rich foods cannot be properly digested; consequently, you may experience indigestion or heartburn. The protease enzymes in papaya (among other tropical fruits), have been shown to help ease symptoms associated with an upset stomach and heartburn.
To reap the benefits of the enzymes in these foods, eat them raw at their peak freshness and chew mindfully as saliva activates many enzymes. If you are taking papaya as a digestive enzyme supplement, check with your doctor about taking it individually or in combination with other enzymes, as this can make a significant difference in effectiveness for your health concerns.
Cumin is a seed-derived spice with a nutty-peppery flavor that packs a punch from the moment its aroma seeps into your senses. Immediately, Cumin activates the salivary glands which kicks-off the digestive process. Known as jeera in Ayurvedic medicine, cumin is native to the eastern Mediterranean area and is used in cuisine from many parts of the world, including Tex-Mex, Eastern, and Indian. The seeds have been used in folk medicine since antiquity to promote digestion and treat flatulence, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating and gas.
Medicinally, cumin is recognized as a carminative, which means that it soothes digestive irritation, such as gas, and thereby improves digestion. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, cumin can also provide relief for stomach ache and irritable bowels. Current research shows that cumin’s beneficial effects may be due to the spice’s ability to stimulate secretion of pancreatic enzymes, which are necessary for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. Adding to its nutritional potency, cumin also contains flavonoids and antioxidants, which are beneficial to overall health.
It’s best to cook with whole cumin seeds that you grind with a mortar and pestle. Packaged cumin powder is more convenient but it loses its flavor faster than whole seeds. Whole seeds will keep for a year, when stored in a cool, dark place, while powder should be used within six months. For enhanced flavor, roast cumin seeds before using them.