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Herbs and spices are commonly used around the world to add delicious flavor to any meal, but that’s not all. Many herbs are actually considered superfoods, which prove to be extremely beneficial for your health. More importantly, the regular use of the best herbs for digestion improves gut health and integrity, leading to improvements in overall health!
Hipporcrates, the Father of Medicine, once said, “All health starts in the gut.” Throughout the centuries since Hippocrates’ lifetime, we know one thing is for sure: he was spot on about the importance of gut health.
The integrity and well-being of your gut, or lack of, impacts the rest of your health, including: skin, immunity, digestion, hormones, and more. In the case of autoimmunity, the gut microbiome is an instrumental factor. For example, one study showed that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients “have gut microbial dysbiosis (altered microbiota) with the depletion of some and enrichment of other bacteria.” This imbalance in the gut microbiome has shown to have detrimental effects in those with MS, and likely those with other autoimmune diseases.
Hence, a healthy gut microbiome, containing a variety of bacteria and pathogens (yes, even pathogens), improves gut function and digestion. As a result, food is easily digested and nutrients are more available to the body for use. More so, it reduces the risk of chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity, gut infection, etc.
An imbalanced gut on the other hand, leads to leaky gut (intestinal permeability) and is actually a precursor to autoimmune disease. Leaky gut means that the tight junctions of your gut lining become loosened and break apart. This causes toxins and undigested particles to enter your bloodstream, causing inflammation. Your immune system recognizes these particles and goes on the attack. This creates the perfect breeding ground for autoimmunity.
Fortunately, through the use of functional medicine, there are ways to heal the gut microbiome and therefore reverse symptoms of autoimmunity. With the right protocol, you can seal the gut lining, repair damaged cells, and build new tissue for the gut’s protective barrier.
And the best place to start? The food you eat…
When it comes to eating for gut health, your mind may immediately jump to probiotic-rich food like sauerkraut and kimchi. While these foods are very beneficial, there are so many more ways to nourish your gut with the meals you eat:
Adding spices and herbs to your meals is a wonderful way to heighten the flavor of your food. Oftentimes for extra flavor, excess salt or sugar is added to foods. This is especially true when it comes to processed meal and snack options. This causes chronic inflammation, gut imbalance, and ravenous cravings. Because herbs and spices are so flavorful, it allows you to cut back on less healthy options like extra salt, sugar, or fat.
The food you eat should never be boring! Many people associate healthy food with flavorless meals like unseasoned grilled chicken and salad sans the dressing. It doesn’t have to be this way! By keeping your food bland, you’re actually missing out on the opportunity to actually boost nutrition and elevate the health benefits of your food. In my opinion, healthy foods have the potential to be the MOST flavorful and delicious!
Many herbs are actually considered superfoods, which are extremely beneficial and healing, as they’re packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Adding fresh herbs and spices to your meals can help you heal by reducing inflammation and reducing sugar cravings by better balancing blood sugar. Herbs come from the leaves of a plant, whereas spices are typically made from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of a plant. This is a great alternative to inflammatory salts and sugars because spices are actually concentrated antioxidants! They contain chemical compounds found in plants called phytochemicals, which reduce inflammation. Incorporating these herbs and spices in your meals add an extra kick of nutrients to each and every bite.
There are many herbs that have been used to benefit the gut for centuries. And there’s no need to hunt far and long for crazy exotic spices and herbs. Some of the most healing options are likely already in your pantry! These are the most common herbs we use around the world for a healthy gut and body:
Ginger has been used as an ancient remedy for thousands of years. It’s well-known to reduce nausea, while soothing the stomach and calming the digestive tract. This works by increasing saliva production, which improves the stomach’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Additionally, ginger is a proven anti-microbial to many common stomach bugs. So, next time your stomach feels a little off, sip on ginger tea or try chewing ginger candies.
Turmeric is a known carminative, which is an herb that expels gas from the stomach and reduces bloating. Curcumin, the main substance in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory, known to reduce overall inflammatory markers. It’s also an antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage in the body. Grate fresh turmeric and add it to meats and veggies.
Cinnamon is arguably the most enjoyable herb to support gut health. It’s sweet, yet spicy flavor stimulates appetite and reduces blood sugar levels by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates. More so, it contains antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties- all of which can reduce the incidence of a common gut infection, Helicobacter pylori. Try sprinkling ceylon cinnamon into your morning coffee or tea for an antioxidant boost.
Cayenne pepper is powerful in taste and function. It’s strong, spicy properties stimulate the nerves in the stomach and signal a need for injury protection. As a result, it reduces stomach ulcers and inhibit the overproduction of candida in the gut. While cayenne is potent in flavor, I recommend starting with just a small sprinkle and work your way up. Add a little spice to your eggs and meat with cayenne pepper.
Rosemary is an easy herb to consume for digestion and gut health. It tastes wonderful with roasted meats or veggies. Similar to turmeric, its carminative properties help to reduce bloating and ease gassiness. Bonus: it encourages liver detoxification through increased bile flow. This can be extremely helpful for anyone dealing with slow liver function or congestion. Chop fresh rosemary to add to winter stews or roasted whole chickens.
Cumin is a well-known spice in many Eastern countries and for good reason. It helps with indigestion by increasing digestive enzyme activity. When used in cooking, it provides antioxidant and antibacterial effects. Cumin makes a delicious addition to Mexican or Indian dishes.
Peppermint is an antispasmodic herb, which relieves the spasming of muscles, including those in your digestive tract. It also improves viral illnesses and coughs. Peppermint tea is a beneficial and delicious addition during the Winter months when viruses are more active.
The gut is a powerful, yet delicate organ. It’s essential that we take good care of such a vital part of our body. Through fresh herbs, natural teas, supplements, and essential oils, these potent herbs can bring healing to the gut. Make sure you are adding lots of healing organic herbs and spices to every meal throughout the day.
While consuming natural spices and herbs can provide numerous benefits to your gut and overall health, oftentimes it’s necessary to work with a functional medicine practitioner to truly heal your gut imbalances and dysfunctions. If you know me, you know gut health and autoimmunity is my passion, which is why I’ve created several programs to help you achieve the healthiest gut. Learn more about my programs, here!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
If you are ready to stop wasting precious time, get off the never-ending hamster wheel, and finally surrender trying to figure things out on your own—this is your moment.
You don’t have to settle for just getting by and hoping tomorrow is a better day. We both know you are a woman who deserves better and are made for so. much. more.