Do you experience sluggish digestion? Wet coughing after meals? Gas and bloating? Difficulties with elimination? Something else equally unpleasant? Or maybe you’re just looking for some digestive TLC?
All of our digestive processes are driven by an inner form of fire known as “agni”. Agni can get tamped down and suppressed by stress, poor diet, physical weakness, unprocessed emotions, and many other factors. Thinking about our guts as little alchemical crucibles that transform food into energy is helpful in imagining ways in which we can strengthen our digestion.
As we approach the hot summer season, when fire is at its height, it’s a fine time to evaluate the state of our digestive system. Here are a few more tips to help you rekindle your digestive fire and get the most out of your meals.
6. Make Lemonade
By now you may have heard that drinking lemon water is one of the best things for your digestive system. Well, it’s all true. Lemon juice ‘wakes up’ the liver, which is the brain of the digestive system. Lemon juice assists the liver in its massive job of sorting, storing, and distributing nutrients, toxins, and digestive juices. If you do embark upon a lemon-juice drinking adventure, be prepared for some detox side effects. You can always scale back your intake if it gets too intense. Lime juice is a great option as well.
7. Gas-bustin’ Carminatives
Carminatives are a class of herbs that help relieve gas and cramping. These herbs are rich in essential oils that help disperse blockages and break up pockets of stagnation. Common carminatives include Fennel, Cumin, Catnip, Chamomile, Garlic, Dill, Fenugreek, and many more. Some herbalists would say that any herb with a high essential oil content could be considered carminative. Mix equal parts of Fennel seed, Cumin seed and Coriander seed for a tasty, after-supper chew. You can also steep this mixture and drink it as a tea, either preventatively or if you’re experiencing gas pain.
8. Cinnamon & You
This common household spice is a digestive superstar! Cinnamon helps the body turn fats and sugars into energy right away rather than storing them in fat deposits for later, so it’s effective for weight loss too. Cinnamon is a blood sugar balancer, and it’s often found in desserts to save you from the unpleasant, roller coaster shock of too much sugar at once. Cinnamon has a high essential oil content, and as we learned with carminatives, any herb with lots of essential oils helps disperse stagnation, feed the digestive fires, and keep things moving in the gut. Cinnamon capsules are a good ally if you struggle to eat on a regular schedule, eat a lot of sugar, or struggle to digest after a heavy meal.
9. Probiotics & You
I remember learning that there are as many, and probably more, microbes in our digestive tracts as there are cells in the body. These microbes work for us, directing our digestion, mood, neurotransmitters, and much more. So it’s important to keep these digestive helpers healthy and thriving. Many aspects of modern life end up damaging our intestinal flora– stress, processed foods, environmental toxins, and strong courses of antibiotic drugs can all wreak havoc on our gut. Probiotics help rebuild and bring balance to intestinal flora, and this can relieve many symptoms of digestive distress. If you do end up taking a probiotic supplement for at least a month, don’t be surprised if you experience some rumbling, gas, or mild discomfort as your intestinal flora duke it out and realign themselves.
10. Take a hike!
Taking a post-meal walk around the block is a great way to boost your digestive fire and give your liver a helping hand, even if you don’t regularly experience bloating after meals. Studies have shown that taking a walk after eating speeds up the rate at which food moves through the stomach. In other words, it makes your agni burn brighter. Walking also decreases blood sugar after meals; clearing glucose from the bloodstream helps the body break down food faster and move it through your system. Yet another study shows that a postprandial walk can curb your desire for desserts and lower the risk of developing diabetes. Plus you’ll be burning calories, alleviating constipation, avoiding reflux, and looking cool while you do it.