In winter, we tend to go for heavier meals… they warm us up and give us a sense of satisfaction that only feeling full and warm can give. You might have noticed though, that all this heavy food is starting to create a feeling of being over-full, all the time. You might not feel hungry as often, but eat anyway (because it’s winter – it’s what we do!) and other symptoms are starting to sneak in – the occasional burning sensation in the throat, or jeans that are too tight, even though you ate hours ago. These heavy foods can deplete the fiery energy of the stomach, so finding simple ways to support this essential organ through the heavy-food season is ideal.
Firstly, let’s highlight the key function of the stomach. Quite simply, the stomach is responsible for the chemical breakdown (using acid) and physical breakdown (by churning) of food. If there is insufficient hydrochloric acid, we can experience a whole range of symptoms:
- Undigested food particles in the stool
- Low energy
- Poor absorption of nutrients
- Sensitivities to food
To support digestion, help out the stomach so we feel light and happy while breaking down our food during the colder months, start with tea. Sounds too simple to be true doesn’t it!?
The art of tea-making has been a beautiful ritual throughout time, and ideal for the colder months, as well as a wonderful way to broaden our phytonutrient intake. Some teas are more specific for the digestive system than others.
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
The flowers are dried (or can be picked fresh from the garden) and are helpful for their relaxing constituents. Chamomile can assist normal movement of wind through the digestive tract, and support a stressed mind. If you experience an irritable bowel, chamomile can be a soothing friend. Try a tablespoon of dried flowers in a cup of water. Steep for 5 – 10 minutes. Have up to 3 x per day.
Fennel Seeds (Foeniculum vulgare)
This powerful seed is very supportive if there is trapped wind or discomfort after eating. Fennel has quite an anise flavour and can help support normal muscle action within the bowel, healthy secretions within the stomach, and discomfort after eating. Start with ½ tsp of fennel seeds per cup each day.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Often the root of the pretty dandelion is used to support the liver function. The liver’s involvement in digestion is key to the overall health of the body. Dandelion is a ‘bitter herb’. Foods that are bitter, less common for modern palates, tend to stimulate the digestive secretions. Dried dandelion roots can be run through an espresso machine just like ground coffee, and enjoyed with whichever milk you like to drink. If you’re using the dried root, a tablespoon can be used, three times per day.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger root – so well known for its broad assistance to the body. As well as supporting the normal movement of wind, ginger can also help keep our bowel motions moving. Ginger is a warming, stimulating herb, and can help circulation too. If you’re using dried, powdered ginger, about 1/5 tsp per cup of water, three times per day. If you’re using fresh root, grate it finely and use ½ tsp three times daily. Delicious when served with juice of ½ lemon.
Making chai at home creates the most amazing aroma. The spices within chai are famous for their stimulating effects on the digestive system as well as immunity.
Here’s a simple chai recipe to fire up your digestion and keep you warm this winter.
What you’ll need:
- 2 Cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds
- 2-inch piece of Fresh ginger sliced into rounds
- 1 tsp Black peppercorns
- 6 Cardamom pods
- 1 vanilla pod
- 4 bags of organic black or rooibos tea
- 6 cups water
Add spices to a saucepan and bruise with the back of a large spoon.
Add water and bring all ingredients to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 mins.
Remove from heat, add teabags and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain and serve with warm milk of choice (3/4 cup chai to ¼ cup milk) and honey for sweetening.
Leftovers can be strained and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a few days, and heated with milk when ready to drink.