IIt’s all too common to go into defense mode only when we start to feel sick, let alone understand. That said, there are so many proactive things we can do to support our health goals, day in and day out, before discomfort even arises. The best part? Many of them are *beyond* simple.
For example, if you are snoozing on the merits of home-cooked meals, it is worth going back to the kitchen and whip up a fresh and nutritious fare, especially if you struggle with digestive problems. If you are prone to being bloated or backed up, you can also cook with ingredients that can help move things and minimize discomfort. One of the tastiest ways to do exactly that is to stock your pantry with favorable spices.
Read on to see which board-certified gastroenterologist Kenneth Brown, MD, recommends to enrich your freshly cooked meals and bypass digestive distress. (Bonus: Most of them happen to promote longevity, too).
5 spices that a gastro recommends for digestive health
Also known as the golden spice, turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices around, thanks in large part to its active ingredient, curcumin. Its benefits are wide-ranging and include everything from brain-enhancing potential to help with anxiety, arthritis and exercise recovery… but that’s not all. “Some research suggests that it may also have benefits for gut health, including reducing inflammation and improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),” Dr. Brown says. A 2022 review determined that whether taken alone or in tandem with IBS medications, curcumin and turmeric can reduce the severity of symptoms such as abdominal pain.
Tip: For the power to fight inflammation, do not forget to pair turmeric with black pepper. The latter increases the bioavailability of curcumin by a whopping 2,000 percent.
For small powers to fight inflammation, do not forget to pair turmeric with black pepper. The latter increases the bioavailability of curcumin by a whopping 2,000 percent.
It is not too surprising that ginger has earned a place in this list of gastro-approved spices. After all, ginger tea is one of the most common (and effective) home remedies for an upset stomach. “This spice is known for its digestive properties and can help reduce bloating and other digestive discomfort,” says Dr. Brown. “It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory agent.”
As a 2019 review summarizes, ginger is also powerful enough to help reduces cramping, prevents flatulence, accelerates gastric emptying and relieves nausea. Simply put, it’s worth having ginger on hand – stocked as a spice in your pantry and also fresh to cut, grate or grind for meals or to prepare as tea – especially if you’re prone to stomach problems.
Don’t know cilantro? They are the dried seeds from the Coriandrum sativum plant (the same source as coriander). “This spice is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. Brown. “It may also have digestive benefits, including reducing bloating and improving bowel movements.”
According to a 2022 review, coriander can too improves flatulence, diarrhea, indigestion and nausea “Stimulating the liver to increase the secretion of bile and other digestive enzymes that escalate the action of the digestive system, therefore shortening the time of passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract.”
In relation to cumin, dill and anise, “Phenol has a licorice flavor and is often used to aid digestion. It may help reduce swelling and improve overall digestive function,” says Dr. Brown. If you struggle with IBS, you may want to buy a dedicated jar of fennel and combine it with turmeric in a salad, soup, chicken dish, or another recipe of your choice: A 2016 randomized control trial found that the duo significantly . improve symptoms and quality of life in participants with mild to moderate IBS.
This warming spice is not only tasty; is also especially healthy given his antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “It may also have gut health benefits, and some research suggests it may help reduce bloating and improve digestion,” says Dr. Brown.
While it’s often included in baked goods – some of which won’t be so kind to your gut due to their high sugar content – you can always add an eighth or two to the likes of oats, chia pudding and sliced apples. Also, simmering a cinnamon stick in hot water can also promote digestive health.