Many factors can contribute to gut problems; from our diet and lifestyle to exposure to pathogens and toxins; as well as genetics and medical history including the use of antibiotics. Gut disorders can manifest with a myriad of symptoms including bloating, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, bad breath, discomfort, pain or cramps, heartburn or reflux, poor digestion and nutrient deficiencies, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss or gain… But gut disorders can also cause other symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, fatigue, allergies, skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne and auto-immune disorders.
Dietary measures such as eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein while reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods will contribute to gut health. A diet that is high in fibre and plant polyphenols promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Polyphenols are especially high in coloured fruits and vegetables like berries (blueberries, cranberries, elderberries), red or purple grapes, pomegranate, leafy greens, eggplant, sweet potato and in some legumes (black beans, red kidney beans), herbs and tea (green & black). Fermented foods and drinks can also contribute to a healthy gut microbiome (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi, tempeh, miso are some of your fermented food friends).
There are multiple strains of probiotics which can be beneficial. Some probiotic formulas are broad spectrum for overall gut health while others have strains that are specific to different conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), Eczema, microbial infections such as gastro-enteritis, candida, urinary tract infections or for immune defence. Prebiotics (provide food for good bacteria) are also an important addition for promoting the proliferation of healthy bacteria.
Food and probiotics play a large part in gut health, but several herbs can help with digestive issues as well. Some herbs work as bitters and stimulate digestion, for example Gentian, Ginger, Angelica, St Mary’s thistle, Dandelion and Bitter melon. Other herbs work as carminatives (relieving spasms, discomfort and flatulence), these include Lemon balm, Peppermint, Chamomile, Fennel, Aniseed, Dill, Ajwain and Cinnamon. Herbs can also work as laxatives to relieve constipation, such as Aloes, Cascara, Yellowdock, Rhubarb, Dandelion, Oregon Grape, Slippery Elm and Triphala (Ayurvedic combination of herbs); or as anti-microbials for treating gastro-intestinal infections and overgrowth of bacteria, parasites and yeasts.
If you suffer from gut issues there is help available – visit our Byron or Mullum stores and talk to our friendly Naturopaths about your individual needs. At Santos we have a wide variety of herbs available both dried and as powders or tinctures (liquid extracts) along with a great range of probiotics and prebiotics. We also stock supplements with combinations of herbs and fibre to prevent constipation, which are great in conjunction with a diet high in fibre and plenty of water. Our Digestive Soother powder is a favourite and our selection of herbal tea combinations cover gut friendly options.