We’re quickly approaching fall and winter holiday season, which for many of us spells overindulgence. While I could give you lots of tips on how to avoid overindulging this season, I’m not going to, mostly because I don’t plan on following that advice either. So, I’ll just share what I know about helping things along—because I care about your belly and I want you to eat a lot and share with me.
In the supplement department, we have what I call the Quadforce of digestive supplements—bitters, enzymes, probiotics, and fiber. All of these could be taken separately or in combination to aid your belly.
Just like it sounds, bitters are bitter. That’s where the magic is. While they can cause all sorts of attractive facial expressions, they also more importantly prime the digestive pump. Taking bitters stimulates your system—activating digestive juices and secretions that all make digestion go swimmingly. You can either take ’em straight, or mix with a bit of sparkling water, or make yourself a little apéritif, about 10-20 minutes before a meal. We have bitters from Urban Moonshine, Four Elements, Flora and Source Naturals.*
These little guys break down all the components of food—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While they are already present in foods, some of us could use a bit more, and that’s where supplements come to the rescue. We have single enzymes for helping you digest certain foods, e.g. dairy, gluten, etc, or we have complexes that contain many types of enzymes to help with multiple foods, thus covering your enzymatic bases. We have digestive enzymes from Enzymatica, Rainbow Light, Natural Factors, American Health, and our Willy Street Co-op brand.*
Not all bacteria are bad! There are lots of bacteria that live in our body that provide essential digestive functions. They help us break down foods, and help balance our systems to prevent illness and infections. You can definitely get them from fermented foods (enzymes too, btw), but of course supplements are here to help. The Co-op has a large variety of probiotic supplements and drinks. Most probiotics need to be refrigerated to guarantee potency. We have probiotics from companies such as Mega Foods, New Chapter, American Health, UAS Labs, Florajen, Natural Factors, Kevita, Nutrition Now, and our Willy Street Co-op brand.*
You may recall from previous articles I have written that I am a big fan of fiber. Fiber is an essential part of digestion, it literally “sweeps” your insides, moving things out that shouldn’t be there. My favorite thing about fiber is that you get to eat it! Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. It’s not always easy for some of us to meet our fiber needs (around 25 grams a day) on food alone, so you can definitely supplement to get a few extra grams in pills or shakes for an extra boost. We carry fiber supplement options and high fiber powders from companies such as Garden of Life, Vega, Yerba Prima, and our Willy Street Co-op brand.* Some folks experience gas and bloating from consuming some high-fiber containing foods such as beans. For y’all, I would suggest trying bitters or enzymes (see above), especially enzyme complexes that contain the bea- destroying enzyme alpha-galactosidase.
There you have it. Try one, or collect them all—your previously inflamed guts will thank you.
Did you just overindulge and forget to take any of these steps to prevent issues? Well, no worries, you have a few options to assist with existing digestive discomfort as well. Here’s a couple that I will highlight:
Herbs—bitters can often help, and so can herbs such as fennel, ginger, and peppermint. Try peppermint in a tincture, drip a couple drops directly on your tongue for an intense and refreshing soother, or dilute it in a small glass of water if you prefer. The tea forms of all these are also nice. You can also find some supplements that contain these kinds of herbs in combination, such as Herb Pharm’s Intestinal Soother, Enzymatic Therapy’s Peppermint Plus, and Terry Naturally’s Cool Breath Mints.
Baby wipes and witch hazel. When your discomfort reaches this level, you have got to take care of your tushy. Another option for tushy pain relief is MotherLove’s Rhoid Balm—a salve made with witch hazel and other lovely herbal ingredients that sooth and heal.
I’ll leave you with a little recipe using bitters from Jovial King at Urban Moonshine. Keep this one around for after a big meal this winter:
Holiday Bitter Digestif
1 oz organic ginger ale
1 teaspoon Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters (or the bitter of your choice)
Garnish with a cranberry on the side of the glass
Combine and enjoy.
*Keep in mind that both East and West have different options for digestive care, be sure to call ahead if you have a specific product in mind.