Whether your digestive irritation is slow motility (a fancy way of saying constipation), indigestion or food allergies there are a few remedies that can ease your symptoms. Here are some of my favourites, which can be taken individually or in a combination supplement.
1. Add in aloe to alleviate digestive distress
I often recommend that my patients add one ounce of aloe vera to their smoothies or a glass of water each day to keep things moving through their digestive tract and prevent constipation. It has gentle laxative properties and can sooth stomach irritation.
Bottom line: Take a 500 mg capsule before or after meals or consume 1-2 ounces per day in your smoothies. Note that this shouldn’t be taken long term, but is perfect adjunct to a detox diet, or during times that you feel your bowels are stuck in the slow lane.
2. Get in some glutamine
Although glutamine is often attributed to sports nutrition (to prevent muscle breakdown), it’s also an infamous gut-healer. It’s been shown to maintain the intestinal villi, which are the absorption surfaces of the gut. One study (though done on rats) showed substantial protection of glutamine against aspirin-induced stomach ulcers in both the active and healed stages.
A similar study found that the early administration of glutamine to severe-burn patients prevented the complication of stress ulcers that commonly develop after extreme thermal injury. Glutamine at 400 mg four times a day for four weeks completely healed stomach ulcers in more than 90 percent of the patients taking it.
Bottom line: Take 1000-5000 mg daily on an empty stomach, such as before bed or add the powder to protein shakes. Decrease the dosage if you experience constipation, or increase the dosage to treat diarrhea (up to 10-20 grams per day can be used for this reason).
3. Reduce stomach inflammation with turmeric
Turmeric (known as curcumin in Latin) is well known for reducing inflammation — even beyond just joint pain. This wonder-supplement can reduce ‘substance P’ in the body, which is the pain receptor neurotransmitter. It also stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which can improve digestion and reduce bloating and gas. One double-blind study found that patients who took curcumin for ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory condition of the colon) along with medical treatment, had a lower rate of relapse than those who received medical treatment alone. It is thought to increase mucin content of the stomach, thereby preventing ulcerations and improving symptoms of gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis.
Bottom line: While curry powder contains turmeric along with other spices, the amount of curcumin in curry powders is variable and often relatively low, so I recommend taking it in supplement form. Consume 1-3 capsules per day on an empty stomach (such as on rising or before bed) of the curcumin from AOR (I found this to be the most effective choice in clinical practice).
4. Dig up the DGL form of licorice
While childhood visions of this candy may pop into your head (and with that, whether black licorice makes you drool or cringe), the deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) version has medicinal values. This form has the ingredient that can cause high blood pressure and water retention in some individuals removed, while leaving the stomach soothing part intact. Licorice root is known to increase the production of mucin which protects your gut lining against excess stomach acid.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one study found that 100 people who consumed deglycerrized licorice extract for six weeks experienced improved stomach ulcer symptoms.
Bottom line: You can opt for a lozenge or chewable form, taking 1-2 before meals or consume 250-500 mg of the supplement form per day.
5. Tame tummy issues with triphala
Triphala is a standardized blend of three fruit extracts — terminalia chebula, terminalia belerica and emblica officinalis — in equal proportions. It is an Ayurvedic herbal blend commonly used for supporting intestinal detoxification, occasional constipation and overall colon health. Research has found that this popular herb also displays antimicrobial activity – in other words, it has the ability to fight off certain types of bacteria as nature’s own antibiotic. In India triphala is employed for everything from headaches and anti-aging to anti-inflammatory and blood sugar balancing.
One study found that triphala demonstrated anti-cancer effects. Researchers administered the supplement to cancer-afflicted mice, at a dose of 100 mg per kg of body weight, for seven days. After one week lab analysis showed significantly less growth in cancerous cells in mice who were administered triphala.
Bottom line: With a strong balancing effect at low doses (such as one gram a day) it tends to treat diarrhea, while higher doses (up to 4 grams a day) can treat constipation. Most maintenance doses are around 1-2 grams per day.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.