Young women keeping fit

Healthy Foods for Good Digestive Health

Lots of us worry about our tummies, and women in particular seem to spend a lot of time and effort trying to get them looking as flat and svelte as possible.

But whatever your tummy looks like, it’s vital to think about what’s going on inside – with the health of your digestive system.

Looking after your digestive health

The first step to good digestive health is to think about what you put into your digestive system. Too much caffeine or alcohol, eating on the go and choosing processed foods can all play havoc with our digestive system, leading to discomfort and a general feeling of not being quite yourself.

Here is a roundup of some of my favourite things you can eat, drink and take to help you look after your digestive health and put a spring back in your step.

1. Probiotic yoghurt

Most people know that probiotic drinks and yoghurts can help if you have a sensitive digestive system, as the ‘good bacteria’ they contain can help support your gut biome – the natural ecosystem of bacteria that live inside us.

Whilst probiotics are great, do watch out for high sugar content in some of the mainstream brands or you could find yourself piling on the pounds rather than soothing your digestive system.

How to use it

If you want to use a low-fat probiotic yoghurt in cooked dishes, you may find it helpful to add a paste of half a teaspoon of cornflour and a little water before adding it to your recipe to stop it breaking up.

This garlicky yoghurt dip with herb jam and toasted almonds is delicious and doesn’t involve cooking the yoghurt. and fats, making your liver work harder to rid the body of toxins. 

I also love using yoghurt to make a healthy potato salad – just add mint and garlic to baby potatoes in their skins, giving you a vitamin B and C boost into the bargain!

2. Apples

‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ according to the old adage. Fresh apples contain a host of health and beauty-boosting properties, including Pectin, a type of soluble fibre that is easy for the gut to process. You can also find it in apricots and in the peel and zest of lemons, limes and oranges.

How to eat them

Chop up a fresh apple and mix it with rolled oats, chia seeds and dried cranberries for a tasty and delicious start to the day.

Alternatively, just throw a fresh apple in your work bag to give you something healthy and tasty to munch on when the biscuits come out!

3. Mango

A study in the US in 2018* found that mangoes are more effective than other forms of fibre in treating constipation. Mangoes contain ‘bioactive polyphenols’ which help relieve inflammation and are associated with helping to improve gut health.

How to use them

Add lime juice and zest, plenty of chopped coriander and some de-seeded chilli to plenty of ripe, chopped mangoes to make a delicious salsa that goes beautifully with fish or bean-based dishes.

4. Fennel

Fennel has long been used by medical herbalists to help alleviate problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, trapped wind, stomach spasms and bloating. Some women also find it can reduce the discomfort of cramping around the time of their periods.

The Fennel bulb looks rather like a round celery plant and has a delicious aniseed-like flavour that goes perfectly with fish, or to use for an added kick in ratatouille.

How to use it

You can make Fennel tea by steeping a good pinch of dried seeds in a teapot or in a tea strainer. It makes a refreshing change from black tea with milk and may help ease cramping.

5. Ginger

I have friends who suffered from morning sickness during the first trimester and who swore by ginger to help relieve nausea.  There is more and more research being done into this powerful root, which is known to work as a carminative (helping to stop embarrassing and uncomfortable flatulence) soothing an upset gut. Some people have also reported that it can help alleviate nausea associated with chemotherapy.

How to use it

Ginger is such a versatile plant, you can use it in almost any dish. There are many teas available in supermarkets and health food stores that contain ginger, or you can make a refreshing ‘ginger juice’ by simmering fresh ginger with water and a little brown sugar and cooling it in the fridge.

You can pick up a ‘thumb’ of ginger root in any supermarket to add some zest to salads or virtually any cooked dishes. Here’s one of my favourites for a rich ginger cake from BBC Good Food.

6. Milk Thistle herb

Milk thistle is popularly used as a liver cleanser. It contains Silymarin, an effective antioxidant and is designed to reduce the damage caused when the liver metabolises toxins such as alcohol. For this reason, it has become popular as the go-to herbal remedy for a hangover!

How to use it

As the name suggests, the herb is extracted from a flowering thistle, which is not very easy to use in its natural form – unless you like dealing with prickles!

For this reason, most people choose an extract which is easy to take in tablet form, such as our HRI Milk Thistle. It’s always important to make sure you choose a herbal remedy that carries the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) mark to show that it is government-approved for the highest quality and safety.

You can take one or two tablets a day as needed to get a high dose of Milk Thistle extract.

Have you got a favourite recipe for digestion-friendly food or drinks? If so, please share it on our Facebook page so that we can all benefit! @hriherbalmedicine