We are well into the festive season, and the parties have begun! With that comes an abundance of rich food, chocolate, treats, and alcohol.
My last blog talked about how to stay healthy during the holidays. Another downside of overeating and indulging in the wrong type of food is it plays havoc with our gut health!
Eating the wrong foods and too much sugar can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can cause further damage. Signs of an unhealthy gut can include sugar cravings, upset stomach, fatigue, weight gain, sleep problems, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases and depression.
I have mentioned many times of the importance of looking after your digestive system. The gut is where nearly 80% of your immune system lives and where up to 95% of your serotonin is produced, the primary neurotransmitter responsible for your mood. So, when things are out of balance in your gut, your whole body suffers.
Your gut is your second brain!
Your brain and gut are in constant communication. They are connected by an information highway known as the vagus nerve. Serotonin acts like both a neurotransmitter and a hormone in the body. Low mood, anxiety and depression are all linked to altered serotonin levels.
In order to keep a healthy immune system and better mood looking after your digestive system is essential.
This comes down to a balanced diet with all of the right minerals and vitamins. However, there are other things you can do to improve and maintain good gut health.
Herbs for gut health
Humans have always used herbs for healing and maintaining good health. They are the mainstay of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine and are used in many cultures around the world.
Herbs are great for digestive health, the digestive system and have many other health benefits. In this blog I will mention a few that I work with that have improved gut health for myself and my clients.
We break down food in the mouth, but the stomach is where the real action happens. The digestive juices, hydrochloric acid, pancreatic juice and bile, are mixed with the food mass. If they are in short supply, then problems can start.
Bitter herbs speed up digestion as they promote these digestive secretions and speed up digestion. In addition, they reduce bloating and are also superb for the liver.
Bitter herbs include: dandelion root, gentian, barberry bark and artichoke.
There are trillions of bacteria living in our gut, both good and bad. We want to promote the good bacteria and eliminate the bad. As I have mentioned, the state of our gut can have a major impact on our health and mood.
Pro-biotic herbs help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. They contain soluble fibre and are best taken in a powdered form.
These herbs will keep your cells in your digestive tract healthy and will also improve bowel movements.
Probiotic herbs include: dandelion root, chicory root, burdock root and plantain.
If you are getting bloating, cramps, or wind, then it’s likely your gut is out of balance. Carminative herbs have a calming effect and soothe the digestive tract.
Carminative herbs include: chamomile, fennel, peppermint, ginger, dill and angelica.
Poor digestive health can lead to inflammation which can affect our immune system. These herbs are fantastic for treating ulcerative colitis, colitis, IBS and Crohn’s Disease.
Anti-inflammatory herbs include: chamomile, turmeric, liquorice root, and frankincense.
Mucilaginous herbs have a slippery, mild taste and swell in water, producing a gel-like mass that can be used to soothe and protect irritated tissues in the body, such as inflamed mucous membranes.
They help to sooth the gut wall and are especially beneficial if taken before consuming a rich meal. They also enable a softer and easier bowel movement.
Mucilaginous herbs include: slippery elm bark and marshmallow.
Constipation is another sign that things are out of balance. You want to be having regular bowel movements to eliminate the toxins from the body. These herbs act as a natural laxative.
Anthraquinone herbs include: linseeds and psyllium husks (make sure you consume lots of water when taking these).
Mild laxatives include: dandelion and chickweed.
There are many other herbs which can benefit your gut health and digestive system and it’s useful to talk through your symptoms with a trained herbalist so they can prescribe the right herbs for you.
A word of caution:
Herbs can be powerful. There are certain herbs that should not be used when on certain medications, breastfeeding or pregnant so if you are concerned then consult your GP before taking any herbs and go to a trained herbalist.
I specialize in gut health. If you would like to improve your gut health with a tailored plan just for you, or have questions then get in touch.