Our modern lifestyle and Western diet can sometimes cause stress to our digestive tract. Herbs and plants have been used for centuries as a culinary ingredient to support a healthy digestive tract. In this article, we will review five plants that have a substantial body of data that support digestion-enhancing activities. Keep in mind that recurrent symptoms could be a sign of an underlying condition, and you might need to address it with your doctor. The information below does not intend to substitute any medical treatment.

  1. Ginger

Ginger stimulates the flow of saliva, bile and gastric secretions. Ginger can be used for the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, abdominal gas related pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and for stimulating the appetite. Ginger is also useful for decreasing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, after chemotherapy, or after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. To get the most benefits from ginger, it should be eaten before your meal. Keep in mind that ginger has blood thinning properties and interacts with Warfarin (Coumadin), as well as with many other medications. Talk with your doctor before increasing your consumption in quantity or frequency. Ginger is commonly used to enhance both sweet and savory dishes like stir fries, sauces, cakes and cookies, and puddings.

  1. Peppermint

Mint relieves flatulence and nausea, increases gastrointestinal motility, and may relieve colonic spasms (frequently associated with IBS). In combination with caraway, it has shown to improve indigestion and some of its symptoms, including the sensation of abdominal pressure, heaviness and fullness. Peppermint is often used to flavor candy and desserts, while spearmint is often found in teas, sauces, and jellies that are served with meat as well as vegetables, like potatoes and carrots. Mint is also added to salads, stews, soups and stuffing.

  1. Hot pepper

It stimulates gastrin secretion which stimulates the secretion of gastric acid and aids in gastric motility, stimulates microcirculation and protects gastric mucosa from irritant compounds. In some studies, the intake of red pepper has caused a reduction in calorie intake, suppression of hunger and increased satiety. Hot peppers can be used in meat dishes, pasta, stews, etc.

  1. Fennel

Fennel is used for various digestive problems including indigestion, heartburn, bloating, flatulence, loss of appetite, and colic in adults and infants. Fennel has a sweet, mild licorice taste and is commonly used with meat, vegetable, grain dishes, soups, tomato sauces, cakes, pastries, breads, beverages, salads and dressings.

  1. Chamomile

Chamomile is known as a digestive relaxant and has been used to treat various gastrointestinal disturbances including flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, anorexia, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting. Chamomile tea is especially helpful in dispelling gas, soothing the stomach, and relaxing the muscles that move food through the intestines. Keep in mind that German chamomile can increase the effects of Warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the risk of bleeding. A large intake of chamomile may also interact with other medicines. Talk with your doctor before increasing your consumption in quantity or frequency.

The recipe of the week comes via the American Institute for Cancer Research

Mango Carrot Ginger Smoothie

Ingredients

1 mango, peeled, sliced into chunks (use frozen mango is fresh is not available)

1/2 orange, peeled, quartered

1 large carrot, sliced into large chunks

1 1/2 cups soy milk, plain

1 (1-inch) piece, peeled fresh ginger

6 ice cubes

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Pour into 2 glasses.

Makes 2 servings (1 1/4 cups). Per serving: 190 calories, 4 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 90 mg sodium, 28 g sugar, 0 g added sugar.