6 herbs and spices to boost gut health
If you wanna get good gut health, you’ve gotta get with my friends. Make it last forever, digestion never ends…” Sorry, you just caught me singing along to my favourite Spice Girls song. If you’re wondering what the digestive system and the spice girls have in common, you’re in for a wild ride.
There’s a plethora of things that affect the state of your gut microbiome such as diet, lifestyle, stress levels, physical activity, whether you smoke or drink, your weight, relationships and chemical exposure. When you first start looking after your gut, these factors can seem extremely overwhelming.
Instead of allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, I think the trick to gut health is to start slowly. With just a sprinkle of this and a dash of that, you’ll be on your way to better digestion.
This is where my love of the spice girls (but mostly, just my spice rack), comes into play.
While you can eat all of the fruit and vegetables in the world, there’s one simple thing that you can include every single day to take your gut health to the world stage. I’m talking about spice!
If you want to uplevel your spice game, this issue I’m sharing six of my favourite herbs and spices for digestive health, plus a cultured mango and ginger kvass recipe that’ll convert even the biggest soft drink fanatic you know. Please pass this recipe onto them — you are really doing them a favour!
Firstly, if you’re keen to spice up your life get hold of fennel seeds. These carminative seeds can reduce digestive cramping, gas and bloating as they have an antispasmodic effect on the smooth lining of the stomach. Fennel seeds can be effective for treating various conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease and intestinal candidiasis. They’re also antiviral, can protect the liver and are antimicrobial to prevent infections.
Zingy, bold and bound to put a spring in your step, everyone loves ginger spice. I’m sure the spice girl Ginger must’ve been named after her! The nanoparticles within ginger can protect against alcohol-induced liver damage and create beneficial microbiome bacteria. Ginger can promote tissue repair of the gut lining to reduce symptoms of colitis, an inflammatory reaction in the colon that occurs commonly in autoimmune conditions and infections. Ginger is often used to reduce nausea in pregnancy as it’s safe and has minimal side effects.
Mint is widely loved and used as a digestive aid. Not only can it help relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, it can also decrease digestive symptoms such as dyspepsia and nausea. Traditionally, mint was used to treat colic in infants, flatulence, diarrhoea, indigestion, nausea, vomiting and morning sickness.
Turmeric is an active anti-inflammatory that will help keep your beautiful gut blossoming. While turmeric has a pungent taste, it actually acts as a carminative to reduce bloating and support the liver. Terrific turmeric is great for your tummy, and wonderful for inflammation.
I don’t want to get carried away here, but let’s talk about caraway. This savoury spice can help heal the digestive system, ease stomach cramps and safely expel gas from the bowel to prevent fermentation from occurring in the stomach. Caraway has also been found to help reduce a loss of appetite, relieve constipation and kill off negative bacteria in the body due to its antimicrobial effects.
While this herb doesn’t make a big deal of itself, I think it’s the real dill. Dill is used as a sedative, reducing flatulence, cramping and the growth of negative digestive bacteria. If you want to get the kids involved in dill-eating, throw this into salmon patties and you will have them eating out of your hands.
Now it’s time to cultivate your inner ecosystem with this friendly ferment, designed to enhance your digestion and boost immunity. My Mango & Ginger Kvass from my book, Supercharge Your Gut, is a probiotic-rich drink that’s sweet and tart in all the right places. Move over Coca-Cola, this kvass is about to give you a run for your money!
Mango & Ginger Kvass
Most fruits can be left to ferment for up to seven days, but some fruits such as banana, mango and papaya can be ready in two days. It’s best not to over-ferment them as they can become very sour. The culture starter is optional if using tap water and can be purchased online or from a healthfood store.
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled & chopped
- 2.5cm knob ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- Culture starter, optional (check packet instructions for recommended quantity to use)
- Filtered water, to almost fill the jar
- Place mango and ginger in a sterilised 1L Mason jar and drizzle in honey. Add starter culture, if using.
- Pour enough filtered water into the jar to cover the mixture but leaving 2–3cm of breathing space at the top of the jar, to allow the pressure to build.
- Cover the jar with plastic wrap, then screw the lid on tightly. Leave to sit on the counter for 2 days, shaking the jar periodically.
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