Did you know that ninety per cent of serotonin is made in the gut ?
Serotonin is the happy hormone which helps to stabilize our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone affects your whole body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating and digestion.
By eating well and feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, the body's ability to generate serotonin is significantly increased, helping you feel more relaxed, happy, and confident.
The digestive system is now seen as fundamental to our overall health in most traditional medicine systems. Digestion has a strong influence on our nervous, hormonal and immune systems. The role of foods is now increasingly recognised in conditions not previously associated with diet: auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis; mood and behaviour problems such as autism, ADHD and depression; degenerative disorders such as Alzheimers's and arthritis; allergic conditions including asthma and eczema.
Inflammation underlies these and most chronic disease like obesity, heart disease and cancer. We can modify these destructive inflammatory responses by the kinds of food we eat and how we eat them. Common problems like heartburn, indigestion and constipation can be managed with understanding how to use foods, herbs and spices in self-care.
There are obviously other factors that affect our digestive health, such as our stress load: sleep, diet, alcohol, smoking, weight, liver function, circulation, mood, exercise, chemicals, food quality etc, but you can begin to support your digestive health by understanding the basic digestive functions and being mindful of your body.
Here are some common digestive herbs, along with their health benefits which you should experiment with in your cooking, or drink them as herbal teas:
1. Ginger: Ginger is warming and calming to the digestion, anti-nausea and anti-microbial to many common stomach bugs. Warms cold hands and feet.
2. Turmeric: Turmeric is carminative - meaning it can relieve bloating, liver supporting, an anti-microbial and a powerful anti-inflammatory.
3. Fennel: Fennel can also help relieve bloating and is stimulating to the liver. It improves appetite, increases milk production and eases colic. It expels upper respiratory catarrh, is an eyewash for conjunctivitis and has a balancing estrogenic action.
4. Caraway: Caraway is a supreme herb for the digestive system, eases stomach cramps and nausea, helps expel gas from the bowel and prevent fermentation in the stomach.
5. Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a warming stimulant to appetite and circulation. Antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Helps reduce blood sugar and ulcer causing Helicobacter pylori.
6. Garlic: Garlic is anti-microbial, and probiotic due to its inulin and other compounds, which supports cardio-vascular health. Onion, shallot and leek belong to the same Allium genus family and have similar actions.
7. Rosemary: Rosemary is a stimulating carminative that helps to clear your liver and head.
8. Peppermint: Peppermint is refreshing as well as antispasmodic, cooling and anti-microbial. It's useful in coughs and colds, supports liver function and helps stop itching when used topically.
9. Dill: Dill is calming and can be used as a sedative. It's useful to promote restful sleep, dispel colic and cramping pain. It's a key ingredient in gripe water.
10. Allspice: Allspice is warming and settling to the gut. The eugenol content promotes digestive enzymes, is analgesic and antiseptic. Most beneficial when drank as a tea after a meal.
11. Tulsi (Holy Basil). Is a herbal plant traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce fever, strengthen the immune system, calm nerves, and act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies have shown that Tulsi (Holy Basil) can lower cortisol the stress hormone and blood sugar levels to help our bodies cope with stress. Research has also shown that ursolic acid and triterpenoic acids both of which are found in Holy basil effectively improve the body’s response to stress and reduce the amount of cortisol released during stress. It’s no coincidence that Tulsi has been nicknamed “nature’s stress reliever”
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !