5 Powerful Herbs and Foods for Healing Your Digestive Tract
By Jay Truth | The Healers Journal
In the Ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda, digestion is considered the foundation of health and for good reason. Our digestive tract is where the foods we eat are broken down into useable nutrients by our bodies — if there is a disturbance, problem or deficiency there, we don’t get all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids from our food and we begin to develop nutrient deficiencies which lead to a variety of common health problems… in fact many doctors believe all health problems stem from some type of imbalance in the digestive system.
Why Digestion is so Important
Due to the fact that our soils have been devitalized from overly intensive farming practices in the last 50-60 years, the foods we eat nowadays are not as nutritionally dense as they once were, which already makes it a challenge to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need on a daily basis. If you add dysfunctional digestion to the mix, which is alarmingly widespread, now we are not even absorbing a significant amount of the nutrients we are eating, which, as you can imagine, leads to serious problems overtime.
The Brain in Your Belly: How Your Digestive Tract Affects Your Mood
Did you know that more than 70% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut, not in the brain? It’s a pretty amazing statistic and one that instantly drives home the fact that we need to seriously focus on our digestive health. The fact is, our digestion affects much more than the nutrients we absorb from food, but also our mood. Other powerful neurotransmitters such as dopamine, GABA, and nor-epinephrine are also produced in the gut as well. For a complete understanding of how our digestion affects our mood, see the article here on the brain in your belly by Marc David.
How to Heal Your Digestive Tract: 6 Powerful Herbs and Foods
Ghee is a form of clarified butter used in Ayruvedic cooking and healing. Ghee is a butter alternative for lactose-intolerant people. Ghee is useful in balancing and aiding digestion, increases assimilation, and enhances the nutritional value of foods. It increases vital energy, mental clarity, stamina, and longevity. Butyric acid, a fatty acid found in clarified butter, has been known to have anti-viral and anti-cancer properties
In addition to ghee’s nutritional value, it is rich with antioxidants and acts as an aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods, feeding all layers of body tissue and serving to strengthen the immune system.
Ghee is most notably said to stimulate the secretion of stomach acids to help with digestion. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicinal practice to help with ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. Ghee is used in beauty creams to help soften skin, and as a topical for the treatment of burns and blisters.
Medicinal properties of ghee :
1. Heals the wounds in the mucus lining of the stomach and balances the acid level in the stomach
2. Protects body from degenerative diseases as it has antioxidants
3. Improves immunity
4. Improves mind power like better decision making, memory power, better learning capacity
5. Softens the skin and maintains the beauty of the face
source: RKG Ghee
Comfrey is one of the most soothing and healing herbs for the mucus membranes of the mouth and digestive tract. It can be used for any kind of irritation or inflammatory condition of these tissues including inflamed gums, sore throats, laryngitis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, diverticulitis and diarrhea. For bowel inflammation, such as colitis, it is best to use comfrey once per day as an enema as well, because many of its healing constituents will be absorbed further up in the digestive tract and not make it to the colon.
The primary substances in Comfrey which are responsible for its digestive healing properties are Allantoin and mucilage.
The chief healing element in comfrey is allantoin, a cell proliferant which promotes the granulation and formation of epithelial cells." A more simplified explanation is that allantoin “has the property of multiplying healthy cells and not malignant ones." Comfrey contains from 0.6 to 0.8 per cent allantoin.
Mucilage is also a very important chemical constituent in comfrey, and is found in even more abundance than in marshmallow root. “Mucilage is a slimy, moist polysaccharide…that moistens tissues. It is especially useful for mild burns and sunburns." “The fluid between your body cells is a muco-polysaccharide hydrogel. The polysaccharides help strengthen this hydrogel after damage. It is typically described as an emollient when it is used externally on irritated skin, and as a demulcent when used internally, as for soothing a sore throat." The mucilage in the comfrey plant occurs mainly in the root.
3. Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery Elm is an herb native to North America and is derived from the inner bark of the elm tree. It has long been used by Traditional Cultures in the New World for a variety of ailments, but its use as a digestive aid is probably the most popular.
Slippery Elm is very soothing to the entire digestive tract as it forms a soothing film over any mucous membrane it comes into contact with. Not that this matters much (to me at least), but the FDA has even approved Slippery Elm as a safe, demulcent substance, which means that it relieves minor pain and inflammation in mucous membranes such as what lines the digestive system.
Slippery elm bark may ease gastrointestinal symptoms of conditions such as Crohn’s disease. Slippery elm’s soothing mucilage effect is also used for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Mucilage is a complex mixture of polysaccharides that form a soothing gelatinous fiber when water is added. The viscous fiber has several beneficial effects on digestion:
(1) it reduces the amount of time digestives remain in the bowel;
(2) it absorbs toxins from the bowel;
(3) it increases the bulk of stools and dilutes stool materials thereby reducing stool contact with the intestinal mucosa; and
(4) it enhances helpful bacteria processes in the intestines. The mucilage resists hydrolysis and digestion by stomachs acids and enzymes, meaning that it maintains it’s soothing action throughout the entire digestive system. The discomforts of heartburn or an ulcer may respond to slippery elm bark.
Slippery elm bark contains, as its primary ingredient, the mucilage, but also contains gallic acid, phenols, starches, sugars, the vitamins A, B complex, C, K, and P. It contains large amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sodium, as well as smaller amounts of chromium, selenium, iron, phosphorous, silicon and zinc.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera has natural healing and detoxifying powers and works gently within the intestinal tract to help break down impacted food residues and thoroughly cleanse the bowel. It can help ease constipation and prevent continuing diarrhoea, setting a regularity to the bowel. All this helps to reduce discomfort and bloating. Naturally, as these symptoms are eased, so the stress associated with the discomfort is also reduced.
The juice is said to be one of the finest body cleansers, cleaning morbid matter from the stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder, and is considered the finest, known colon cleanser. Studies have shown that it is healing and soothing in the relief of indigestion, stomach distress and ulcers. People claim relief from arthritis, bladder and kidney infections; leg cramps, constipation, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and for vaginitis, it is said to be an excellent vaginal douche. An excellent internal tonic for energy and well being Aloe juice may add greatly to the strength of the food fed, digestive tract, skin, and overall good health and happiness.
It is also used to ease heartburn, ulcers, diverticular disorders, and other types of digestive upset. It is used as an anti-inflammatory and may be taken internally as a remedy for certain digestive complaints. European folk medicine calls for using the juice to relieve heartburn and ulcers. Preliminary research has shown promising results. Clinical trials in Japan indicate that certain compounds in the herb reduce the secretion of stomach juices and the formation of lesions.
Cabbage has long been used as a folk remedy for ulcers as well as generally restoring the lining of the stomach and intestines. A traditional naturopathic remedy for stomach flu and ulcers is to chop up cabbage, cover it with water in the blender, blend it and let it sit for a couple of days before drinking. This may not sound like the yummiest of concoctions, but it works well enough to look into why it is effective.
The first reason cabbage is so useful for healing the digestion is its high glutamine content. Glutamine is an amino acid; our body makes glutamine but it becomes an essential amino acid during times of illness or high stress. While most of our body, such as our brain and muscles, use glucose, a sugar, the lining of our digestive tract prefers glutamine as an energy source. So when you eat cabbage, you are giving your stomach and intestines the food it prefers to replace and heal itself. Studies utilizing extracts of cabbage have found them to be protective against and healing to ulcers; it is hypothesized that glutamine is at least part of the reason for this. Glutamine content tends to be higher in raw cabbage, though, so the cabbage juice described above would be preferable to cooked cabbage.
The other medicinal element to our blended cabbage has to do with letting it sit for a couple days before eating. Fermented cabbage tends to develop strains of acidophilus and other bacteria that have been shown to function as probiotics; this means they promote the healthy growth of all the bacteria necessary for healthy functioning of the large intestine. Studies on kimchi, a traditional fermented cabbage product from Asia, have been shown not only to function as a probiotic, but also to inhibit the growth of h. pylori, the bacteria that has been associated with stomach ulcers.