While some digestive problems can be pinpointed to a certain meal you ate (or over-ate), others are a little more persistent. Here are three stubborn digestive complaints and natural remedies to solve them:
1. Frequent gas and bloating
You pass gas 10–14 times a day, however if you find yourself running for an empty room you should look at removing your trigger foods and adding a good quality probiotic for at least five days. If the problem persists, consider these natural suggestions:
Digestive enzymes: Look for one that contains a mixture of enzymes for breaking down protein, carbohydrates and fats (proteases, amylases and lipases, respectively). Take 1-2 with solid meals.
Fibre: Add in a non-psyllium fibre supplement up to two times daily to ensure that you are eliminating excess waste and avoiding constipation.
Fennel, anise or chamomile: Take in a tea or tincture form to ease the discomfort of gas or bloating, relieve esophageal irritation and sooth an upset stomach.
Apple cider vinegar: Take a tablespoon in water prior to meals. Use a straw to avoid too much acidity around your tooth enamel.
Ginger tea: This is one of the best remedies for flatulence. You can also make your own by boiling fresh ginger root or adding grated ginger to meals.
2. Heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux
Unfortunately, people with reduced acid levels frequently suffer from what they assume are symptoms of elevated stomach acid, including heartburn, bloating, nausea and frequent burping. As a result, they reach for over-the-counter acid-reducing remedies, which can actually encourage greater imbalance and increase the risk of developing peptic or duodenal ulcers and even pancreatic or gastric cancer.
Natural supplements work wonderfully to help with indigestion and heartburn. Believe it or not, excess acidity in the stomach is much less common and in my experience is usually not the cause of the digestive discomfort. Consider all options for treating low acidity, such as the HCl challenge, which will help you to determine if low acidity is a concern. Remember to take a peek at your fingernails too. Vertical ridges can indicate poor nutrient absorption related to low stomach HCl.
Natural products can often effectively reduce the symptoms of heartburn, indigestion or reflux without the risk of further decreasing stomach acid. Consider the following remedies for at least 3 to 4 months for complete restoration of healthy cells in the digestive tract wall:
DGL: Take a 500 mg capsule before or after meals.
Slippery elm, marshmallow and/or plantain: These herbs are called demulcents; they coat and heal your digestive tract wall. Many herbal companies make remedies containing a blend of these. Take 2 capsules on rising and before bed (or as directed on the label) for at least 3 to 4 months.
Aloe vera: Try adding 2 to 4 ounces to your daily protein shakes.
Liquid calcium magnesium: Take 1 tablespoon after meals and/or before bed. Make sure to take any calcium product 4 hours away from thyroid medication.
Glutamine: Empty a 500 mg capsule or purchase the powdered version and add to your smoothies or a glass of water twice daily to help heal the digestive tract lining.
3. H. pylori, it’s more common than you think
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacterium that tends to overgrow when our stomach acidity is low, and believe it or not it’s more common than you think. Overgrowth of H. pylori also tends to cause a reduction in stomach acidity, thereby allowing H. pylori to proliferate. This nasty infiltration increases the likelihood of colonization of the stomach and small intestine by other unwelcome organisms as well.
The end result is heartburn, gastritis, duodenal ulcer or gastric ulcer. If you have persistent heartburn, esophageal irritation or reflux that doesn’t seem to let up, you should ask your doctor to order a test for an overgrowth of H. pylori. Natural treatment options include:
Mastic gum: A wonderful natural agent to restore healthy bacterial balance and heal the digestive tract.
Berberine: A natural antibiotic, good for treating traveller’s diarrhea as well as H. pylori.
Oregano oil: Helpful in either a capsule or drop form.
Hydrochloric acid supplements: Take them with each meal to suppress the growth of H. pylori.
Digestive enzymes (including hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes or plant-based enzymes, papaya, bromelain or pepsin): Take with each meal to aid nutrient absorption.
Treatment should continue for eight weeks. Tests for H. pylori levels should be completed both before and after treatment. You may require additional treatment with antibiotics if your levels still do not return to normal. Be sure to follow all antibiotics with a high potency probiotic supplement to keep yeast growth under control.
Do you take any supplements to aid in digestion?
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.