Digestion issues? Good news. There are a variety of tools that can help smooth out indigestion and other intestinal issues. Here, Kate Brainard, naturopathic doctor, gives some suggestions for natural digestive aids that can make everyday meals more pleasant.
If you need long-term digestive support
"There's not anyone out there that shouldn't be on a probiotic," says Kate. "Especially if you have regular bouts of indigestion, like constipation or diarrhea, probiotics are crucial."
For travel-ready probiotics that don't need refrigeration, turn to Dr. Ohhira's or Jarrow Formulas' Jarro-Dophilus EPS. But Kate's favorite is Bio-K: "It's a life-changing product. They're in a live culture, so once it goes into the digestive tract it immediately starts colonizing," says Kate. "I've had people say 'this product has saved my life'."
If you're about to eat something you know doesn't agree with you
"If you're eating a big meal, or something that you know will cause heartburn," says Kate, "that's a great time to take enzymes to help break down the food." As we age, especially, our natural production of enzymes decreases and can leave behind big food molecules that enter the bloodstream and throw our immune system out of whack.
That's why Kate suggests taking enzymes right at the beginning of a big meal. "It's going in and supplementing what your body is already making," she says. For a simple approach, chew papaya enzymes like Zand Herbals' Quick Digest. You can also try MegaZymes by MegaFood, a formula that combines powerful enzymes with probiotics, as well as carminative (or gas-fighting) herbs like ginger and marshmallow. For more chronic digestive issues, try Enzymedica's Digest Gold.
If you tend to get heartburn
Heartburn can come from a number of issues, including dysfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter caused by low stomach acid, hiatal hernia or even certain foods (acidic or fatty foods are often culprits).
If you're worried about heartburn, take some preventive measures-Kate recommends Natural Factors' Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) , which goes in and coats the lining of the esophagus to promote healing. "It doesn't necessarily treat the heartburn, but will definitely make the meal experience more pleasant," she says.
Kate also suggests a customer favorite called Heartburn Free, from Enzymatic Therapy. Formulated from orange peel extract, the capsules only need to be taken every other day until you get more permanent relief.
If you overeat
Those carminative herbs--like fennel, ginger and other spices--can be a great post-meal digestive as well. Try a cup of hot tea like Traditional Medicinals' Eater's Digest, which combines digestion-enhancing herbs with the benefits of warmth, which Kate says will naturally help move digestion along. Or simply take a few of Gaia Herbs' Gas & Bloating capsules.
Ultimately, Kate recommends simply slowing down and enjoying your holiday meals. "We all know that this is the time we're going to indulge," she says. "But you're going to walk away feeling a lot better if you can take breaks between eating."
Bring your specific digestion questions to a Pharmaca practitioner.