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Digest This!

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Digest This!

The next time your tummy starts gurgling, burbling, or emitting other embarrassing sounds, reach for a natural digestive remedy available at your local health food store. Unlike the vast array of over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications, natural source digestive products are specifically formulated to support the process of healthy digestion.

The next time your tummy starts gurgling, burbling, or emitting other embarrassing sounds, reach for a natural digestive remedy available at your local health food store. Unlike the vast array of over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications, natural source digestive products are specifically formulated to support the process of healthy digestion.

Most digestion problems are a result of our eating habits and can be remedied by making dietary and lifestyle changes. But for those times when we need the support of a natural digestive aid, it’s a good idea to keep a few of these tried and true tummy tamers in your medicine chest.

1. Acidophilus and other probiotics contain friendly, beneficial bacteria that are an integral part of digestive and immune health. Probiotics are highly recommended for all digestive disorders and are an absolute must for anyone with a history of antibiotic or birth control pill use. Probiotics are one of the most important factors for building and maintaining a healthy digestive system. A wide variety of potencies, dosage forms, and sources are available. Ask your qualified natural health professional to help you determine which one is best for you.

2. Bitters are the foundation of European herbal digestives. The tradition of using bitter herbs and plant foods to stimulate and tone the digestive system is also an Asian tradition. Mixtures of bitters are readily available in powdered and liquid form. Most commonly used for sluggish digestion, poor appetite, or flatulence, these mixtures often include gentian, dandelion, and artichoke. Follow the directions for use on the product label.

3. Calcium and magnesium chewable tablets. Calcium carbonate is a natural antacid that helps to neutralize stomach acidity. Magnesium can have a mild laxative effect and is essential for relaxation of smooth muscles, including the large intestine. Chew two tablets containing at least 200 mg calcium and 100 mg magnesium. Chewable cal-mag tablets provide almost instant relief from indigestion caused by overacidity.

4. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in chewable tablet or powder form is used effectively to soothe and protect the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Those with hypertension should be certain that the product is free of glycyrrhizinic acid. Start by chewing two tablets or take half a teaspoon of powder before or between meals and at bedtime. Over time, as symptoms subside, reduce the dose according to your needs.

5. Digestive enzymes are readily available at your health food store. They are derived from a wide variety of sources including animal, plant, microbial fermentations (also called plant-derived), and concentrated food or plant extracts. There are three major categories of digestive enzymes, one category for each of the three macronutrients we eatprotein, carbohydrates, and fats. Some enzymes, such as pancreatin overlap into all three categories. Choosing the most appropriate digestive enzymes depends largely on the types of foods that cause digestive difficulties, but most people find multiple enzyme formulations most helpful.

6. Fermented foods are an integral part of many cultures renowned for their good health and longevity. Regularly eating naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogourt, kefir, miso, tempeh, and pickled vegetables provides friendly lactobacilli bacteria and encourages the production of a variety of beneficial enzymes that promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the digestive tract.

7. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a remarkably simple and effective spice used worldwide for treating and preventing digestive difficulties. Finely grated and made into a tea, fresh ginger root almost instantly alleviates indigestion and nausea. Added to meals, ginger enhances the flavour and digestibility of the meal. Ginger is also available in capsule form.

8. Homeopathic remedies offer gentle, yet effective, relief for digestive difficulties. Commonly recommended remedies include: Arsenicum album for burning pain that feels better with warmth; Carbo vegatabilis for bloating and indigestion that is worse when lying down, especially with flatulence and fatigue; Lycopodium for heartburn that feels worse with eating; and Nux vomica for heartburn with cramping and constipation. Ideally, consult with a qualified homeopathic practitioner to determine your most appropriate remedies.

9. Peppermint oil in enteric-coated form has been found effective in the treatment of inflammation of the digestive tract. It calms the stomach and reduces gas and bloating. (Note that peppermint oil is not recommended for those with acid reflux, also known as gastrointestinal reflux disease or heartburn.)

10. Slippery elm powder (Ulmus rubra) is a traditional European and North American remedy. Made from the inner bark of the red elm tree, slippery elm provides an immediately soothing effect and promotes healing of irritated digestive tract tissues. The traditional method of preparation is to make a thick paste stirring together one teaspoon slippery elm powder and one teaspoon honey. Pour one to two cups of boiling water over this paste and stir until well dissolved. Drink one or two cups daily.

All natural health experts emphatically advise that we look to our diets first and foremost in our quest for better health. These ten natural digestive support products will undoubtedly offer the relief and comfort we sometimes need as we make necessary dietary changes. Whatever the source of your tummy upset, there is a natural remedy for you.

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