Top 5 Gut-Protecting Spices that Aid Digestion and Promote Healthy Bowel Movements

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I have an ongoing joke with my friend who has IBS. We text each other a movie poster of the fictional South Park universe film Terrence and Phillip – Asses of Fire whenever one of us (I won’t say who) enjoys an exotic spice-filled meal.

When I visited Butt-Con last month, I thought of that joke and asked functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman MD about the perceived connection between spicy foods and my digestive problems. Since I am sick of being burned by my love for spicy food.

I found out that spicy foods can be good for digestion, but they can also cause digestive problems in people with IBS. “Spices are good for your gut, because they protect your gut flora,” says Dr. Hyman. They help to fertilize the good bacteria; they kill the harmful bugs.

Niket Sonpal MD, gastroentologist, agrees: “I love spicy foods for their taste, but also for its effect on the GI system.” One of the most common misconceptions about spicy food is that it causes reflux or ulcers. It doesn’t matter if it burns on the way into your mouth.

It’s not just that. I also learned that certain herbs and spices are more effective in promoting gut health, and healthy and regular BMs. Find out which spices make you poop in a positive way.

Spices that can make you poop

  1. Cayenne pepper
    Dr. Sonpal suggests cayenne pepper to his patients who suffer from indigestion. Dr. Sonpal explains that cayenne pepper stimulates taste buds which stimulate saliva production. Then, as we move down the digestive system, cayenne stimulates bile and liver secretion, hydrochloric acids in the stomach and pancreatic enzymes released from the pancreas. The three chemicals work together to aid digestion and reduce bloating after eating.
  2. Ginger
    Brigitte Timelin, RD and owner of BZ Nutrition, NYC, says that ginger is good for the gut because it promotes motility in your digestive system, which helps you to go to the toilet more easily, preventing constipation. It also helps to soothe gut irritation. Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition in NYC, says that you can add ginger to smoothies or ask for double ginger with your sushi.

Ginger’s health benefits are numerous.

  1. Cumin seeds
    Zeitlin says that cumin can aid in bile production. Bile is needed by your body to digest and absorb fat. When your body is having a difficult time breaking down fats, you may feel sluggish or bloated. Read more: Constipated Af. Cumin is commonly found in curries, taco seasoning and other foods. If you want to try a combination of sweet and spicy, you should give cumin honey a go.
  2. Fennel seeds
    Zeitlin promotes healthier BMs. “Fennel seed has been linked to promoting a health gut by fighting the bad bacteria which can build up and cause indigestion or discomfort,” she says. She recommends adding some to your soups and stir-fry.
  3. Turmeric
    You know everything about turmeric, girl! Dr. Sonpal says, “I personally take it daily–both as a cooking ingredient and as a nutritional supplement.” Turmeric is not only praised for its anti-inflammatory properties but also as a laxative. In a [small] Japanese study, volunteers who consumed food with turmeric had a quicker bowel transit time. This in turn meant less constipation.

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