Grandma’s remedies: 5 things Ayurved says we must do for a healthy gut and good digestion

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KEY STORY

  • Before we even turn towards the ancient and continuous health and healing system such as Ayurved, let us look at what contemporary science says about the importance of gut health.
  • Digestive system problems such as heartburn, gas, bloating, and constipation reflect what is happening throughout your body, says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Dr Gerard Mullin, MD. “As we age, the natural cycles slow down and don’t work as well,” Dr Mullin says.
  • The main drivers of gut health change are shifts in stomach acid, gut immunity, and gastrointestinal flora — the complex ecosystem of bacteria in your digestive system. When gut health is good, he says, you are less likely to experience damaging inflammation and lapses in immunity.
  • In our homes, we see the elderly members recommending Ayurvedic remedies for small maladies. A granny would hand over a bottle of churna and/or vatis to resolve digestion issues. Ayurved is a widely appreciated system because it mostly draws from nature and seeks to synchronise our body and its systems with environmental factors.
  • That is why it is widely believed that Ayurvedic medicines and methods are ‘natural’ and ‘have little or no side effects’.  Eating and digestion are daily, life-sustaining events. It’s no wonder, then, that a healthy digestive system is revered in Ayurveda as a cornerstone of well-being and that every disease is believed to arise from inefficient digestion.

    Ayurved’s 5 fixes for a healthy gut and good digestion:

    1. Balance the Jathar Agni: Jathar is the stomach, in Sanskrit. The fiery metabolic energy of digestion, known as agni, allows us to assimilate food while ridding the body of wastes and toxins (ama). It transforms dense physical matter into the subtler forms of energy the body needs to be vital, generate internal warmth, and produce a clear mind. Simply put, when agni is weak, there is not enough digestive power to metabolize food into energy. You want a balanced agni that is neither too weak nor too excessive. An easy way to support digestive agni is through the daily use of culinary herbs and spices, used to increase agni before and during meals. A simple ayurvedic practise is to consume a small piece of fresh ginger with a few drops of lemon juice prior to eating a meal. This slowly and gradually awakens the flames of agni, preparing it to digest the main course.
    2. Use spices to make food more palatable, digestible, nutritive: Aromatic spices that assist digestion include black, long, and cayenne pepper; cardamom; and liquorice. They are believed to make foods more digestible by “predigesting” the food during cooking—heat combines and awakens their aromatic qualities, making the nutrients easier to digest once eaten. These spices also stimulate the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines, and the less work agni needs to do while digesting food, the less fatigue one will experience after eating.
    3. Use post-meal digestive herbs: Undigested food is broken down by fermentation rather than digestion, and fermentation is what produces gas. The intestines can then absorb these gases, which causes the colon to become toxic and spastic. Fennel is a herb commonly consumed in Indian households as a carminative after meals to prevent gas, discomfort, and fatigue. Chew on a teaspoon of fennel seeds, then spit out the pulp after swallowing the juice. Acid reflux? Fennel seeds, holy basil, and other spices may do the trick, says a report in the Healthline. “Pop some saunf (fennel seeds), tulsi leaves (holy basil), or a spice like laung (a clove) in your mouth and chew slowly,” suggests Amrita Rana, a food blogger who conducts workshops on Ayurvedic food. “Anything that increases saliva in the mouth can help balance the stomach’s acidity,”the Healthline quotes Rana.
    4. Use Hing in cooking to remedy weak digestion: Hing powder is a resinous sap from the root of the asafoetida plant. Most Indian dishes that use spices, also use a dash of this spice as it is a potent digestive aid capable of removing impactions in the gastrointestinal tract. In the classic ayurvedic preparation hingavashtak, hing is mixed with other aromatic and carminative herbs and spices to promote deeper assimilation of nutrients. Their drying, warming, and stimulating actions awaken agni and tone the digestive system.
    5. Constipation? You have ghee, salt, and hot water to the rescue: Consume a drink made with ghee, salt, and hot water. Ghee helps lubricate the inside of the intestines and salt removes bacteria. This is a tried and tested remedy in most Indian households, where grandmas can play doctors for such small but crucial problems. Ghee contains butyrate acid, a fatty acid with anti-inflammatory effects that may help with digestion. Or eat a ripe banana two hours after dinner. Give a small gap and follow it up with a glass of hot milk or hot water. A tablespoon of castor oil — a known stimulant laxative — taken at bedtime may also provide relief. But this remedy (castor oil) is contraindicated for pregnant women. In either case, before you use the castor oil remedy, do consult a doctor as some people are extremely perturbed by this oil’s aroma and action.
    Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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