By Savayda Jarone, Herbalist
We are what we eat, digest, and don't excrete. Digestive function is one of the primary foundations of health. Unfortunately, most people ignore their gut feelings and suffer all sorts of unpleasant, sometimes debilitating digestive disorders. Illnesses elsewhere in the body often originate in the digestive system. A change in what and how we eat is often the best remedy to improve digestion.
For optimal digestion:
1. Relax before meals
3. Turn off TV, radio, and other distractions
4. Have a bitter aperitif (see recipe below)
5. Avoid arguments or conflict at mealtime
6. Eat slowly and chew, chew, chew
7. Drink no or little fluids with meals so not to dilute digestive fluids
8. Don’t overeat – stop eating when you feel full
9. Avoid heavy meals, especially in the evening. “Breakfast like a prince, lunch like a king and sup like a pauper”
10. Don’t wear tight clothes around your waste and ribcage while eating
The Aperitif – also known as Bitters
Sluggish digestive function is very common and can be remedied by taking an aperitif before each meal. The bitter taste in the mouth stimulates a cascade of events that improve digestion.
My favorite way to take a bitter aperitif is to add 60 drops of tincture to a glass of sparkling water with lemon. Ready-made herbal aperitifs can be found at NSLC. The following bitter herbs can be taken, either as a tincture or tea, 15 minutes before meals:
Good gut feelings are also dependent upon the state of the gut flora, the colony of hundreds of different types of micro-organisms inhabiting the intestines, also known as the gut microbiome. Most of them are friendly and support the digestive process and are required for making certain vitamins. The microbiome can become imbalanced by taking antibiotics, eating foods loaded with pesticides, processed foods, and other factors.
To restore and maintain gut flora, a combination of bitter herbs, fermented foods, and a pro-biotic supplement is helpful.
“Let medicine be thy food and let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates
The seasonal shift into spring is a great time to assess food choices, perhaps noticing a change in dietary preferences. I am growing impatient for garden season and the return of fresh, local greens and other produce.
In the meantime, I’m compensating by home sprouting, an easy and economical way to introduce enzyme-rich, fresh food to the diet. It literally costs pennies to sprout a batch of seeds to last the week. All you need is a glass jar with a mesh covering, and seeds. Soak the seeds in water overnight, drain, then rinse daily for a week while they grow. You can add sprouts to any meal, a few tablespoons daily. https://sprouting.com/how-to-grow-sprouts/
Spring is just around the corner, the longer daylight hours are very uplifting, and encouraging me to get out my seed catalogs. More on creating a medicinal herb garden next month…