Restoring Your Digestive Health

By Val Silver

Restoring your digestive health with sensible strategies and effective natural indigestion remedies can help with uncomfortable, painful symptoms and recovery. You do not have to suffer with chronic gas, heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and food sensitivities. You can feel better and enjoy better gut health and general health by getting your digestive system working at its best.

restoring your digestive health

Your Digestive System

Your digestive system runs from your mouth to your anus and fills a lot of space in your torso. It is responsible for getting nutrients into your body, digesting and assimilating those nutrients, and getting waste and toxins out.

Your intestines are home to a few pounds of bacteria, helpful and harmful, and yeasts. Almost all your serotonin is made in the intestines to regulate its movements. 

Lymph tissue lining your digestive system produces over 60% of your immune cells.When this lining is compromised, so is your immune system. This increases your risk of infection, autoimmune diseases, gut flora imbalances, joint problems, skin issues and faster aging.

When something goes wrong in the digestive system, whether it's in the stomach, gallbladder, liver, intestines or elsewhere, trouble ensues. Distressing abdominal symptoms occurring after meals may mean you are poorly digesting food. When this happens, your body cannot assimilate all the nutrients you need and you experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation, pain and/or heartburn. 

Causes of Digestive Imbalances

Digestive distress can have a variety of causes. From a holistic perspective, the three main categories of gastro-intestinal imbalances include diet, dysbiosis, and stress. 


What you eat and don't eat affects your digestive health in the short and long-term. Your food and drink choices support a healthy, happy GI system (and body) or cause mild to severe symptoms and disease. 

A number one bad food offender is processed and unnatural food. These foods include junk food, refined carbohydrates, GMO food, unhealthy fats, and too much animal food including meat, eggs, dairy. Foods that irritate your gut are also problematic, even if they are healthy for someone else. They cause trouble in your digestive system, immune system, and throughout your body. 

A diet rich in bad food is also a diet lacking in nutrients. When your body does not get the vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and amino acids it needs it will not function properly or have what it needs for optimum repair and replacement of cells. 


An imbalance between less ideal pathogenic microbes and a deficit of beneficial gut bacteria is called dysbiosis.

This common condition is aggravated by poor diet, lack of fermented foods, antibiotic use, medication, avoiding soil, and keeping your house too sterile. Antibiotics kill all bacteria-good and bad-and allow yeasts and fungus to expand their numbers and territory.

If you have a lot of bloating, gas, and/diarrhea, you probably have a form of dysbiosis. 

SIBO-small intestine bacterial overgrowth- is a gut imbalance in which bacteria (good and/or bad) migrate from the colon into the small intestine and overgrow there. Generally, the small intestine is home to only a small amount of bacteria.  SIBO can cause a wide range of health issues including diarrhea, nausea, rosacea, fatigue, malabsorption, depression, and weight loss.


Mental stress causes your brain and hormones to go into “fight or flight” mode.  Survival is highest priority with blood flow going away from the digestive tract and toward your limbs instead. Digestion and nutrient absorption is at low priority in this mode. That means the release and flow of digestive juices and enzymes are inhibited. Ditto for detoxification, cell repair, food processing and nutrient absorption. Chronic stress can lead to chronic stomach and intestinal symptoms. 

Strategies for Restoring Your Digestive Health

Are digestive troubles making you miserable? Do over-the-counter remedies temporarily relieve your symptoms, only to have your symptoms return or worsen with every meal? 

There is a better way to improve your gut health. The following strategies and natural remedies for indigestion help with discomfort and  and restoring your digestive health. 

  • Listen to your body. If you draw a connection between a certain food, beverage or lifestyle habit that upsets your digestion or elimination, avoid it. Something as simple as drinking too much tea or coffee can cause constipation because of drying tannins and caffeine. 
  • Do not overeat during meals and in general. Leave room in your stomach for your foods to churn and mix with the acids and enzymes. Chew well. Digestion starts when you break down foods and mix them with the salivary enzymes in your mouth. Too much belly fat pressing on your organs can cause heartburn and other digestive issues. 
  • Eat your biggest meal in the afternoon. Take a walk afterwards. A 15-minute walk after eating aids digestion and improves post-meal blood sugar levels. Stop eating by 7 pm or only have a light healthy snack in the evening if you have to eat. 
  • Reduce sugar consumption. The average American downs over 100 pounds a year. Intestinal yeast and bad bacteria feed on sugar. When their population overgrows, good bacteria are crowded out. Balanced gut ecology is a key factor in restoring your digestive health.
  • Eliminate aggravating foods.  When your gut is imbalanced, food does not break down efficiently. Try an elimination diet for 21 days of the following foods: added sugar, peanuts, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and glutenous grains. If you feel better at the end of the trial, add back one offender every few days until you find the culprits. Keep those out of your diet. If you have reflux or heartburn also experiment with eliminating citrus, chocolate, spices, peppermint, alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee and non-herbal teas. If symptoms flare, stop eating that food. Blood tests are available to identify food sensitivities.
  • Eat less meat, cheese,  fried food, unsoaked grains and beans that are more difficult to digest. Experiment with reducing high-lectin foods including rye, oats, wheat, beans (unless soaked with baking soda and pressure cooked), quinoa, the nightshades, peanuts and cashews. Lectins are a plant protein that can cause inflammation and gut troubles in sensitive people.
  • Reduce inflammation. Commonly diagnosed digestive troubles are due to inflammation caused by problematic foods. Experiment with the elimination diet. Cut out trans-fats permanently and keep animal foods to less than 15% of your diet. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger, turmeric, and boswellia, and Omega 3 rich foods help reduce inflammation. 
  • Drink nourishing infusions when digestive problems keep you from eating enough healthy food. Herbal infusions (not teas) are rich in vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds and can help you fill the nutritional gap while you are restoring your digestive health.
  • Reduce stressAn important part of restoring your digestive health is being mindful of the connection between body and mind. Too much stress wreaks havoc on your ability to absorb and assimilate food. Excess cortisol inhibits blood flow to the digestive system and may lead to constipation. Do not eat when your stressed. Calm down first. If you do not get chronic mental distress under control then you will have a difficult time restoring your digestive health even if you incorporate better food and remedies.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods. Most Americans do not get enough fiber. Freshly ground flax seeds, chia seeds, whole grains, berries, beans, and vegetables are all good choices. Ground flax and chia seeds can be incorporated into many recipes or stirred into a big glass of water. An added benefit of flax is that the oil lubricates the intestines, making it easier to eliminate feces after a few days of use. Fiber slows digestion so you feel full longer, traps toxins and makes feces easier to pass. Be sure to drink plenty of water with fiber or you can get plugged up.
  • Support natural detoxification. Limit toxic exposure as much as possible. Good bacteria, fiber, water, and super green foods such as spirulina and chlorella promote healthy detoxification in your intestines. If they are not eliminated there, toxins are reabsorbed into your bloodstream. 
  • Always take probiotics and/or eat probiotic-rich food such as kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables while on antibiotics and for a few months afterwards.  Take two hours after each dose to replenish necessary bacteria and to keep bad bacteria and yeasts in check. Bifidus longum is especially susceptible to antibiotics.
  • An occasional fast with only water and organic bone broth, tea  and coffee may help you heal your gut lining and restore digestive health If you fast for more than a day or two, start back eating soup followed by whole foods. Don't eat too much too soon. 

Natural Indigestion Remedies

Many people swear by antacids. It may feel like antacids are restoring your digestive health because symptoms temporarily go away, but they are usually problematic. Antacids neutralize  neutralize stomach acid needed for digestion and nutrient assimilation. 

When you feel like you need an antacid, try caraway seeds. They help relieve indigestion, constipation, and heartburn. Caraway seeds pair well with sauerkraut, white beans, and cabbage dishes. They are a favorite in rye breads.

The real problem with indigestion is often too little stomach acid, not too much. This causes the reflux. Unless you have been tested and proven to have too much stomach acid, regularly taking these remedies can do more harm than good. Your GI symptoms can worsen because malabsorption and improper digestion increase your chances of getting dysbiosis and SIBO.

Healthful natural remedies for indigestion and gut health can ease symptoms in the short-term and help heal your gut over time.  

Experiment with the following digestive remedies. Give them at least a few weeks trial and see if they help.

Food and supplements for restoring your digestive health

Chemicals in our food, medications, foods you are sensitive to, and chlorine all take their toll on healthy gut bacteria. When there is an imbalance between the trillions of positive bacteria, unhelpful or unhealthy bacteria and yeast in the intestines, proper digestion, assimilation, detoxification and wellness are all compromised.  

Probiotics rich in beneficial bacteria are essential for restoring your digestive health. They are major players in having a healthy gut, detoxification, and strong immunity. Fermented food and beverages are excellent sources of multiple strains of probiotics. Supplements are also good if you prefer, but are more expensive and may have fewer strains and number of live cultures.

natural indigestion remedies, kefir, sauerkraut, fermented foods
  • Enjoy a few spoonfuls of probiotic-rich cultured vegetables, raw sauerkraut, tempeh or miso with daily meals to maintain and restore digestive health. Drink a few ounces of kefir or eat live culture yogurt if you tolerate dairy. Avoid sugary varieties.
  • Take high quality multi-strain probiotic supplements processed to survive stomach acid. Look for supplements with Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. brevis, L. plantarum, Bifidus longum, B. lactis and Bacillus coagulans.  
  • B. coagulans limits growth of unwanted bacteria. Studies show it reduces chronic constipation and diarrhea and IBS. Aim for 300-750 million spores per day for 10 days. (Alt Med Rev 2002)

Betaine HCL or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with your meal will boost stomach acidity and aid digestion. Here is how to find your dose of betaine HCL. At each meal, increase your dose by one tablet until you feel a burning sensation. That is too much so cut back by one tablet next time. You may need less for smaller meals. Experiment until you find the amount that is right for you.

Broad spectrum digestive enzymes are important for restoring your digestive health. They are needed to break down food. Raw food contains live enzymes, but cooked food does not. As humans age, our enzyme production dwindles, resulting in poor absorption and abdominal discomfort. 

Take enzyme supplements with the first bites of food. Some enzyme formulas also contain betaine HCL. Look for a supplement with amylase to break down starch, protease for protein digestion, lipase to break down fats, cellulase for indigestible polysaccharide in dietary cellulose, and lactase for digesting milk sugar.

Prunes are a  wonderful constipation natural remedy. Eat two prunes twice a day or drink an eight-ounce glass of juice and see if that helps. Or try a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in the morning to quiet your stomach and get your intestines moving. Lemon juice is another popular digestive remedy. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into warm water and drink first thing in the morning. The Vitamin C and acid detoxify the body and break up intestinal blockages and ease bloating. 

Bone Broth made from organic grass-fed beef or pastured chicken is a go-to food remedy for restoring your digestive health because the broth is rich in minerals and healing compounds including collagen and amino acids. The collagen reduces intestinal inflammation and heals the gut lining. If making the broth with chicken, add in a few collagen-rich feet. You may want to stick to bone broth as a mono-diet for a few days to heal the gut lining before adding in other foods. If you are not fasting, you may gain additional benefits by sipping the broth by itself during the day on an empty stomach, but even with food, it is helpful and healthy for you.

Herbs and Spices for Restoring Your Digestive Health

In addition to a healthy whole food diet, herbs and spices can be very helpful for easing symptoms of indigestion and restoring your digestive health. Many of them are tasty and can be used to flavor your food and beverages.  Use your favorites at each meal to keep indigestion at bay, aid nutrient absorption, and keep your digestive system working optimally. 

Demulcent herbs

Demulcent or mucilaginous herbs can be helpful allies in restoring your digestive health. They get slimy when mixed with water. This may sound gross, but it is a good thing. The slime coats the mucosal lining and acts as a moist, soothing protective barrier against irritants. 

If you suffer from ulcers, gastritis, leaky gut, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or reflux, give demulcent herbs a try. 

  • Marshmallow is good as a tea. You can also mix the powder into a smoothie, creamy soup, or oatmeal. 
  • Licorice root is good for short-term use for healing the gut and regenerating the mucosal lining. Chewable DGL licorice tablets are convenient and best if you have high blood pressure and need to avoid regular licorice root.
  • Aloe vera gel is cooling and healing to the GI tract.
  • Turmeric is not a demulcent, but it is especially helpful for IBS. Add a dash of black pepper to increase absorption. 

Bitter herbs

Bitter herbs are good for almost everyone to get the digestive juices and enzymes flowing. They tend to be cooling to the digestive system and stimulate saliva, stomach acid production, enzyme production, and peristalsis (the wave-like motion that moves food through your digestive tract). A positive side effect of these actions is healthy, regular elimination. Bitters also help reduce cravings for sugar and reduce the glycemic effect of food. 

Many of us do not have enough of the detoxifying bitter herbs and foods in our daily diets.  If you find bitters irritating, make them more dilute or take smaller portions. Or start with mucilaginous herbs for a few months and then try again. 

Bitter foods and herbs include arugula, kale, bitter melon, coffee, Jerusalem artichoke, turmeric, saffron, grapefruit, dill, chamomile, and sesame seeds. Include at least a small amount of bitter foods or spices at most meals.

  • Chamomile, fennel, dandelion root, and peppermint are popular herbal indigestion remedies. They are often enjoyed as teas, but may also be taken in tincture form. Fennel seeds and root or anise seeds are a tasty addition to meals. Fennel goes well with ginger, cardamom, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. You can chew a seed after dinner for post-digestive support. You can even chew on a fennel seed after dinner to aid digestion.Gentian, artichoke root, and citrus peel are common in tinctures. For best results, take a dose of bitter herb tincture a few minutes before your meal. Enjoy the teas before or after meals.
  • Use spices that kindle the digestive fire: ginger, cumin, and black pepper. Cumin calms the digestive tract. It is a popular addition to bean, vegetable, curry, and chili dishes. Mult-purpose ginger eases heartburn, gas, bloating, and nausea. Grind fresh ginger and steep in hot water with honey to make a delicious tea. Ginger is tasty in a stir-fry. 

Carminative herbs and spices

Many carminatives warm the gut, although some, like chamomile and the mints are cooling. These tasty herbs and spices are helpful for gas, nausea, bloating, and feeling like food is sitting in your stomach. Compounds in carminatives called volatile oils are largely responsible for relieving cramps and gas by increasing gastric emptying. 

Examples of carminative herbs and spices include: anise, fennel, black pepper, cardamom, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, ginger, cinnamon, and rosemary. 

If your GI symptoms persist after incorporating these healthful foods and remedies, see your doctor. You may have a serious health issue causing your digestive distress. Medications may also be a problem.

Restoring your digestive health is possible. The rewards include optimized nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and neurotransmitter creation as well as improved energy, immune function and overall well-being. 

Restoring Your Digestive Health page updated 12/2020

Related Pages

7 Gut Healing Spices 7 Reasons to Use Carminative Herbs

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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