Four Spices That Will Improve Digestion—And Heal Your Brain
It is said that health begins in the gut and, as a result, poor digestion is at the root of most health conditions—including those affecting many aging adults. In fact, experts have confirmed the gut-brain connection, which refers to the fact that what’s going on in the intestines (including any stages of illness or disease) can have a direct impact on the mind. Researchers have found that those suffering with digestive disorders like constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel disease are also more likely to have anxiety or depression, while others have noted the relationship between Alzheimer’s and gut health. The four spices we cover can help.
With 90% of the body’s serotonin produced in the gut and up to 80% of the immune system located in the gut, it is important that gut health and the microbiome—which refers to the trillions of bacteria living in the gut—be optimized in order to combat or prevent many brain-related condition affecting senior citizens. And this begins with digestion. When digestion is poor, undigested food particles and toxic sludge begin to build up in the intestines, throwing off the balance of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut, and eventually passing through the intestinal wall where they can wreak havoc throughout the body.
So what’s one of the easiest ways to improve digestion without adding even more drugs to the full pharmaceutical regimen that many older adults are taking?
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of holistic medicine founded thousands of years ago. In Ayurveda, the word “agni” is known as the “digestive fire,” and when agni is weak, the body has a difficult time digesting food, thus leading to illness. And while there are many Ayurvedic practices to increase digestion, one of the easiest is to simply use traditional Indian spices to season food before it’s eaten. You know all those wonderfully aromatic spices that give Indian food its distinctive flavor? Well, it turns out that many of them can do wonders for your digestion—and your brain health. Take a look:
Aside from adding a sweet spice to everything from pumpkin pie to applesauce, cinnamon has numerous health benefits, including a long history as a digestive aid. It has antimicrobial properties, which makes it an effective antidote for people fighting intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It also acts as a carminative, which means it can help break up intestinal gas and relieve flatulence and any gas-related pains.
Drinking a simple ginger tea throughout the day (just steep one teaspoon of sliced or grated fresh ginger in a cup of hot water) is one of the easiest ways to rev up your digestion and keep it going strong. Ginger stimulates the release of enzymes to help effectively break down food, while also acting as an anti-inflammatory and relaxing the muscles in the intestines to help food move along more easily. Additionally, numerous studies have reported on ginger’s ability to relieve nausea, oftentimes proving more effective than pharmaceuticals.
Cumin is a common household spice and one that is versatile enough to be used in southwestern-style chilis, Mexican enchiladas and Indian curries. In the ancient Sanskrit language, cumin literally means “that which helps digestion,” and consuming it regularly is one of the best ways to eliminate toxins, thanks to its anti-fungal properties. Cumin also contains natural enzymes that help break food down while also increasing the rate of absorption for nutrients.
There’s a reason why cultures around the world enjoy fennel after an especially heavy meal. Fennel is great for digestion while also reducing stomach pain and gas after eating. It is packed with vitamin C, which helps keeps bowels regular, and it has anti-spasmodic and carminative properties. Finally, the volatile oils fennel contains are incredibly effective at fighting bloat.
Kayla Harris considers her grandmom to be one of her best friends. Some of her fondest memories come from the time she has spent (and spends!) with her. Kayla wants her grandmom to have the best possible quality of life and that is what drew her to volunteer with ElderImpact.org. By working as a researcher and writer for the site, Kayla hopes to educate people, young and old alike, about the dangers of ageism and to provide advice on how to help today’s seniors continue living fulfilling, happy lives.