Digestion. We often take it for granted until there’s something not quite right going on. But in fact, our digestive system is vital to our overall health and wellness - for it to be working at its best, we need to give it the care and nourishment that it deserves.
Our digestive system is working around the clock and the health of that system determines how well we digest and absorb nutrients from our food, and how effectively we eliminate the waste. Furthermore, current research now shows that our gut health significantly affects other systems in our body, including our immune system, hormonal balance and our brain chemistry.
There are many factors that contribute to gut health, such as the foods we eat, the balance of gut microbes, the levels of digestive juices, liver health and some medications. Another major factor in today’s busy world is stress.
Whether you’re wanting to address digestive issues or ensure that you’re getting all the goodness out of the food you eat, traditional plant-based remedies can offer support to balance and optimise digestive function.
Here are our three top tips when it comes to supporting gut health naturally…
1. Bitters - to aid digestion and regularity
Bitters are herbs or vegetables that have a bitter taste and activate the release of digestive acids and enzymes in the stomach, liver and pancreas.
Consuming bitter herbs or vegetables before a meal helps to stimulate the release of digestive juices that we need to effectively break down nutrients and keep things moving in the bowel. Regular daily bowel motions are a key function of a healthy digestive system – any less frequent than this and you start to reabsorb some of the waste that the body is trying to eliminate. Bitters are also great to have on hand after you’ve eaten rich foods or overindulged.
An easy and effective option for activating digestive acids and enzymes is to take a tea remedy with bitter herbs 15-30 minutes before your meals. Taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, bitters can also help to gently encourage regular bowel motions.
Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), St. Mary’s thistle (Silybum marianum), Dandelion leaf and root (Taraxacum officinale), and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) are an ideal combination and are found in Artemis Liver Detox Tea to synergistically support digestion and liver detoxification at the same time.
2. Calm discomforts with carminatives
Carminatives are plant remedies that support digestion by promoting breakdown of foods and minimising gas and bloating. They also have immediate soothing properties to support an irritated gut.
Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) all have this soothing and relaxing action on the digestive system. Artemis Digestive Ease Tea combines these plants with Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) to create a sweet, soothing tea remedy, ideal for taking after meals or when needed throughout the day.
3. Address your stress
Stress is a major player in gut health.Our brains and digestive systems are closely connected and in constant communication with each other via the autonomic nervous system – often referred to as the gut-brain axis.
The autonomic nervous system has two parts. The parasympathetic nervous system is our body’s “rest and digest” mode that allows us to relax, repair and focus on immune health, reproduction and digestion. The second pathway, the sympathetic nervous system, is our “fight or flight” response that prepares us to deal with an immediate threat. Blood is pumped to your heart, brain and skeletal muscles so that you can run and make quick judgements for survival. This takes blood and energy away from your digestive organs, effectively shutting digestion down.
Which is great if you are being chased by a predator. The problems start to arise because our nervous system can’t tell the difference between different stressors – the same pathways are activated whether we are being chased by a predator, working on a tight deadline or running late for school drop-offs.And when that incident or stress trigger is over, sometimes we can remain in a heightened state of stress.
Many of us with digestive issues are in a constant state of stress, which over time impacts the balance of gut bacteria and means that digestive function isn’t as good as it could be. Plant remedies such as Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lemon balm (Melissa officinale), St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can help to calm and soothe the nervous system, ease stress and nervous tension, and support the adrenal glands. Taking these plants as a tea remedy is ideal as liquids, and their nutrients, are very quickly and effectively absorbed. Plus, the process of making and drinking a tea is very calming in itself – a little ritual of self-care, and a chance to take a deep breath. Artemis has a range of tea remedies, including Rest & Relax Tea and Stress Relief Tea, to support the nervous system during times of stress.
Adequate hydration, regular moderate exercise and a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables will also help to support healthy digestion and regular bowel motions. And, as always, look for the best quality, organic plant-based products, formulated by traditional herbalists or plant remedy experts for maximum potency and health support. Your gut works hard and is a foundational pillar for optimal health, so why not give it the care it deserves.
This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. Always read the label and use as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.
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Author: Sandra Clair, M.A., Post. Grad. Dip. Health Science, PhD Candidate, UC Alumni Ambassador, Founder Director, Artemis®
Always read the label and use as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Artemis Ltd, Dunedin.