Historically, many cultures have used spices as a treatment for health issues. And these ailments can range from simple muscle soreness or pain to more serious problems.1,2
And a major area of interest is digestion, which sort of flies in the face of common wisdom. After all, how many times have you heard about trying to focus on bland foods when your stomach is bothering you?
Turns out, that may be BAD advice. With a few changes to your diet, you may be able to work wonders for your digestive tract.
How Can Spices Help Your Digestive Tract?
When it comes to spices and your digestive system, there are two main ways in which they can help your body –
1. Boost your body’s natural anti inflammatory abilities.3
2. Provide potent doses of vital nutrients.
The nutrients of spices vary from ingredient to ingredient. But when it comes to inflammation, there happens to be a lot of similarity.
Inflammation is one of your body’s natural responses to injury. But, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can play a dangerous role in many issues. These include heart health issues as well as issues with the digestive system. In fact, it’s believed that spices could play a role in limiting inflammation, by boosting anti – inflammatory responses in your body. 5,6
5 Great Spices that Aid Digestion
Almost any spice can kick the flavor of your favorite foods up a notch. However, when it comes to supporting digestion, some stand above the rest. The five spices listed below are chock full of amazing nutrients proven to help support digestion.
Turmeric’s high antioxidant content can really help mitigate cell damage. Many popular studies have shown potential for pain relief. Also interesting are applications for heart health and other serious health-related issues.7 Some of these same beneficial abilities play a role in digestive support as well. For one, turmeric could relax the muscles of the digestive tract to help push through digested food. And it could lower instances of gas and bloating.8
Though digestive issues can manifest in a variety of ways, one of the most common ways is heartburn. Approximately 60 million Americans deal with heartburn at least once a month. But turmeric may be able to help. One study showed that people who ate a teaspoon of turmeric twice a day had improved esophagus and colon function.9
Not only is coriander tasty, its pleasant aroma means that some people even chew it to help with bad breath. It is rich in both vitamin C and essential nutrients. In fact, it’s those nutrients that play a key role in coriander’s ability to provide digestive support.
Furthermore, there are studies that note its use helping with –
- Abdominal pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Diarrhea 10
Those are just some of the reasons coriander has been considered a traditional medicinal food for centuries! And coriander can have a positive impact on the symptoms above.12,13 This may make it the ideal complement for conventional ways of handling certain bowel issues.
However, its capacity for digestive support isn’t to be ignored. Cardamom has a great deal of fiber for a spice – 2 grams per tablespoon – and you likely know that fiber is an essential part of healthy digestion.14, 15 So, consider adding this to items like beans for a fiber one-two punch.
Cumin is a favorite spice in Indian and Latin American cuisine, and there are a few nutrients of note when it comes to digestive health.
Cuminaldehyde is the main component of its essential oil. Not only does it provide a distinctive scent, but it also stimulates your salivary glands so they start digesting the food you eat.
And cumin has thymol, which stimulates the glands that secrete acids, bile, and enzymes. These are responsible for complete digestion of the food in your stomach and intestines. To cap things all off, it also helps prevent the formation of gas in your digestive tract – helping to combat flatulence.16,17
When it comes to digestive spices, ginger is king. Indigestion can have a lot of causes, but a major one is believed to be delayed emptying of the stomach. What’s interesting about ginger is not only that it can help in such situations, but some studies show a reduction in the time it takes to empty the stomach when ginger is on the menu.18, 19
Ginger can also provide gastrointestinal relief. Studies have shown that it can help support nausea relief from seasickness and even pregnancy.20, 21
So, how does this set ginger apart from the pack?
Well, it’s probably the most versatile spice on this list. Not only can you use it as a spice, but it can be used as an oil or juice – even served as a tea.
Spices and Digestion In Review
Being creative with your spices is a great way to infuse flavor into your meals, but it’s also a great way to bump up the nutrient content of your favorite dishes as well.
On top of this, they are affordable and readily available. This makes spices a great complement to vegan food favorites like lentils, quinoa, or vegetables.
So, don’t feel that you have to use spices for medicinal purposes only. There are thousands of great recipes that will help you incorporate the tastiest spices into your food.