Climbing into a bed of freshly cleaned sheets after a long day, dining by candlelight with a significant other, the smell of fresh cut grass on a Saturday morning… these are all simple pleasures.
In a world of complexities, simple can be very appealing. We love simple pleasures, simple solutions, and simple living.
Perhaps this is the reason that we love home remedies. Even problems that seem anything but simple – like indigestion – can often be addressed with products already close at hand.
Simple Solutions for Indigestion
Also known as dyspepsia, indigestion can refer to discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen. It might show itself as bloating, burning in the stomach, heartburn, nausea, and burping.
The usual suspects most often to blame for indigestion include:
- Poor eating choices (high-fat foods, eating too much, eating too fast)
- Too much alcohol
- Too many caffeinated beverages
- Taking medications that can irritate the gut (especially non-steroidal or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin.)
Here are six simple tips to help relieve indigestion. Several of these may already be in your home or at least are easy to obtain. They all involve natural ingredients.
1) Baking Soda – Power in a Little Box
Sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda, is a powerhouse of simple solutions. This home remedy can tackle bad odors, insect bites and stings, mouth hygiene, and calm an upset stomach. Interestingly, some research even indicates that it may positively affect the results of chemotherapy treatment.(1)
If you have recurring indigestion, then it would be wise to consult your doctor since it could be an indication of a more serious condition. However, if you get the occasional bout of upset stomach, baking soda can help.
Its success is in the ability to affect the pH of your stomach. Baking soda is an alkaline substance. When it mixes with the acid in your stomach, it alters the pH level, which is what causes the soothing effect.
How to use
Adults take one-half teaspoonful in a glass of water. Do not take more than 4 doses in one day. If symptoms persist longer than a week be sure to consult your doctor.(2)
As with all home remedies, it is important to not take more than the recommended amount or you could experience negative side effects. If you are on medications, be sure to take the baking soda several hours after your regular meds so it does not interfere with absorption. And always check with your doctor first.
2) Cinnamon – More Precious Than Silver
At one time (first century A.D.) this little brown spice was worth more than silver due to its high demand and low supply. Now it is a staple in most kitchens.
Derived from the inner bark of an evergreen tree, cinnamon has a long history of medicinal uses and as a common culinary ingredient.
Therapeutic properties of this sweet spice include:(3)
- Antioxidant – counteracts the damaging effects of oxidation on tissues
- Antimicrobial – inhibits the growth of microorganisms
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces certain signs of swelling, pain, tenderness, fever
- Anticancer – may play a role in inhibiting growth of cancerous tumors
- Antifungal and Antibacterial – may help with infections and colds
- Anticholesterol – beneficial to your blood lipid profile
- Antidiabetic – enhances glucose uptake
Cinnamon also helps to soothe stomachs. It is a carminative, which means it is an agent that can break up gas, relieving the uncomfortable symptoms of flatulence.
It also contains catechins, which is a compound that helps to relieve nausea. In addition, the oil from the cinnamon bark breaks down fats during the digestive process, helping to speed up digestion.
Also important to note is its ability to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori,(4) a troublesome bug that can create havoc in the gut. In fact, it is the number one cause of ulcers.
How to use
As with any spice, cinnamon is best when fresh. Try making a tea using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to one cup of water. Drink 2 – 3 times a day between meals when experiencing stomach upset. You can add a teaspoon of honey for better taste. Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal or yogurt for added flavor and health benefits.
3) Licorice – Halts H. Pylori
A dull or burning pain in the stomach, between the breastbone and belly button, could be a sign of an ulcer. As mentioned earlier, the major perpetrator of ulcers is H. pylori. A study done in 2013 found significant evidence that licorice root had a healing effect when included in the treatment of ulcers caused by the nasty bug.(5)
Sufferers of chronic indigestion and heartburn find some relief from their symptoms by taking a licorice root supplement. Although not really present in the popular candy, licorice root in the form of supplements is easily obtained from a health food store or an herb shop. They are generally low-cost, highly-tolerable, and have minimal side effects.
How to Use
Follow the directions on the bottle that you purchase. Do not take longer than 6 weeks. Consult your doctor if you take medication for high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes.
4) Basil – More Than Just a Pretty Leaf
The basil leaf can often be seen atop a delicious Italian dish known as Caprese (a tomato slice, mozzarella slice, basil, drizzled with olive oil.) However, its value goes well beyond its aesthetic and flavorful qualities.
Like cinnamon, basil is a carminative, and so it can help to alleviate gassy symptoms.
In a study that looked at herbal remedies for symptoms associated with gastrointestinal disorders, basil was found to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. In addition, it decreased acid and pepsin output in the stomach.(6)
There are possibly over one hundred species and hybrids of basil with varying flavors and medicinal properties. For digestive issues, look to holy Basil and Thai basil.
How to Use
The Whole Foods market carries a variety of basil and may occasionally carry the holy and Thai versions. Look to find the plant and/or seeds sold so that you can grow your own and have it fresh.
Drying out the leaves and boiling in water can make a soothing tea. Serving the leaves in a salad or putting them in a soup adds flavor and health benefits.
5) Cumin – Comes to the Rescue for IBS
Not a stranger in most kitchens, cumin is another safe, natural, and inexpensive way to treat periodic indigestion. The whole seed can help your body digest food, and it also aids in relieving gas buildup.
Therapeutic effects of cumin were evaluated in a study of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms such as bloating, nausea, frequency of bowel movements, and pain while eliminating were significantly decreased after a 4-week treatment of cumin seeds.(7)
How to Use
Bring a quart of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds. Allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes, then strain it and drink throughout the day. The seeds also can be used in baking or added to pasta and salads.
6) Probiotics – Preventative Maintenance
The health benefits of good bacteria – otherwise known as probiotics – have become common household knowledge. Food manufacturers have made us very aware of the need to get a daily dose of these helpful friends. Active cultures of a variety of strains are added to and/or come naturally in foods such as:
- Miso soup
- Tempeh (a grain made from soybeans)
- Kimchi (Asian form of pickled sauerkraut)
- Kombucha Tea (Fermented tea)
Certain probiotic strains help in particular with digestive discomfort. One such strain is Lactobacillus helveticus LAFTI L10. In one study, it was clinically shown to promote digestive discomfort.(8)
For those who have trouble eating some of the probiotic-rich foods on the list or are taking medications that generally upset the gut, adding a probiotic supplement is a simple solution.
How to Use
A quality probiotic supplement is not only good for digestive upset but also is a great preventative measure for maintaining overall health. Read the label to be sure that it contains these two strains that help with the digestive process:
- Lactobacillus Helveticus (L. helveticus) LAFTI L10
- Bifidobacterium Longum (B. longum) BB536
Final Thoughts on Simple Solutions
When using a home remedy, always do your research. Be clear on the recommendations and stick to them. “More” is not usually the answer and can sometimes pose a threat to your health.
Consult your doctor if you fit into any of these scenarios:
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Your condition is chronic
- You have a medical condition or are on other medications
- You have a compromised immune system
Indigestion is very often a result of daily choices. Making small, positive adjustments to your normal routines can often be the simple solution you are looking for. If it is possible, natural and uncomplicated approaches should be tried first.
(1) Robey, Ian F. and Baggett, Brenda K. and Kirkpatrick, Nathaniel D. and Roe, Denise J. and Dosecu, Julie and Sloane, Bonnie F. and Hashim, Arig Ibrahim and Morse, David L. and Raghunand, Natarajan and Gatenby, Robert A. and Gillies, Robert J. (2009) Bicarbonate Increases Tumor pH and Inhibits Spontaneous Metastases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2834485/
(2) Truven Health Analytics (2017) Sodium Bicarbonate (Oral route, Intravenous route, Subcutaneous route) Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0012146/?report=details
(3) Hamidpour, Rafie and Hamidpour, Mohsen and Hamidpour, Soheila and Shahlari, Mina (2015) Cinnamon from the selection of traditional applications to its novel effects on the inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer cells and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, and a series of functions such as antioxidant, anti cholesterol, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, nematicidal, acaricidal, and repellent activities. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488098/
(4) Tabak, M and Armon, R and Neeman, I (1999) Cinnamon extracts’ inhibitory effect on Helicobacter pylori. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10617061
(5) Rahnama, Marjan and Mehrabani, Davood and Japoni, Sara and Edjtehadi, Majid adn Firoozi, Mehdi Saberi (2013) The healing effect of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) on Helicobacter pylori infected peptic ulcers. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3818629/
(6) Babaeian, Mahmoud and Naseri, Mohsen and Kamalinejad, Mohammad and Ghaffari, Farzaneh and Emadi, Fatemeh and Feizi, Awat and Yekta, Nafiseh Hosseini and Adibi, Peyman (2015) Herbal Remedies for Functional Dyspepsia and Traditional Iranian Medicine Perspective. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698144/#A20741R17
(7) Agah, Shahram and Taleb, Amir Mehdi and Moeini, Reyhane and Gorji, Narjes and Nikbakht, Hajar (2013)Cumin Extract for Symptom Control in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Case Series. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990147/
(8) Welin A, Henriksson A. Survival of L. acidophilus and L. casei in the human GI tract. Perceived effects on health. Nutrafoods. 2005;4(2/3):9-14.