HERBAL TREATMENT OF THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

The digestive system includes the mouth, oesophagus (gullet), stomach, small intestine (small bowel), large intestine (large bowel) and rectum The liver and pancreas are two organs that are intimately connected to the digestive system and contribute vital secretions that enable proper digestion, but these organs are also involved in other functions. The liver is primary a detoxifier in the body and does many things: it stores quite a few nutrients, makes cholesterol, synthesises essential plasma proteins and removes worn-out red blood cells and some bacteria – to name just a few. The pancreas releases two important hormones into the bloodstream that regulate the glucose levels in your blood: insulin and glucagon. Most diseases of these two organs tend to be of a serious nature and I would advise you to seek professional help and not to attempt home treatment.

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However, the rest of the digestive system is, in my experience, the easiest system to treat with herbs. The four herbs described below can treat most of the common stomach problems, such as ordinary indigestion, heartburn or bloating. They can be combined together or with other, more specific herbs. You can view these herbs as non-specific digestive aids – they bring almost immediate relief.

NUTRITION

Herbal treatment of the digestive system is more successful if combined with a temporary change to your usual way of eating. It is beyond the scope of this blog to give detailed advice on different diets for different ailments, but the general principle in the case of any digestive problem is to eat easily digestible foods: plain white rice, simple vegetable soup, plain semolina cooked with water, plain couscous, weak black tea, steamed vegetables, poached fish or chicken. It is also advisable to avoid stimulants such as coffee, cola drinks, strong tea and alcohol. You need to maintain a plain diet only for short periods of time, sometimes a day or two, until your digestive function goes back to normal. Sometimes a day of fasting, with just water or diluted fruit juice, is a good option.

It goes without saying that a good, healthy diet is the foundation of the health of the digestive system and that an unhealthy diet will, sooner or later, cause digestive problems.

FRIENDLY BACTERIA

Many digestive problems stem from having the wrong balance of bacteria in the gut. This can be caused by having repeated courses of strong antibiotics, by ingesting unfamiliar bacteria when travelling abroad or by having an unhealthy diet. If you suspect that your bowel flora is not right, you can supplement your diet with probiotics, which is a collective name given to strands of friendly bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines, the most common being strands of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

USE HERBAL TEAS

The digestive system responds well to remedies that come into direct contact with its lining (mucous membrane). As the digestive system has a large surface area, it is logical to use remedies that come in

large volumes in order to maximise such contact. Therefore teas are preferable to tinctures for stomach or bowel problems. If you use a tincture for digestive ailments, dilute it with a full glass of lukewarm water.

MUST-HAVE HERBS

The herbs in this section are arranged in order of usefulness.

HERBAL TREATMENT OF THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

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