This article was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated.
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 13 to 21 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 a supplement that contains a mixture of enzymes for breaking down protein, carbohydrates and fats (proteases, amylases and lipases, respectively).
Fibre: Add in a non-psyllium fibre supplement 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 soothe an upset stomach.
Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can aid in the absorption and retention of minerals in food we eat.
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. 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:
DGL: Deglycyrrhizinated licorice can be used to treat peptic ulcers and acid reflux.
Slippery elm and marshmallow: These herbs contain mucilage which, when mixed with water, form a gel which coats and heals your digestive tract wall. Many herbal companies make remedies containing a blend of these.
Glutamine: Glutamine helps protect your mucosa, the lining of your digestive tract.
3. H. pylori, it’s more common than you think
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacterium that lives in your digestive tract 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 gastritis, duodenal ulcers or gastric ulcers. If you have persistent 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:
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.
Digestive enzymes: Try enzymes like trypsin, papain, pancreatin, bromelain, or pepsin. Papain is an enzyme found in papayas which inhibits H. pylori growth in the digestive tract.
Fermented milk products: Yogurt, buttermilk, and cheese curds have lactic acid, which also prevents the bacteria from growing.
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.