Strengthen your gut with the help of turmeric and other remedies 

I’ve suffered from IBS on and off for years. Stress tends to trigger it, though I need to watch my diet too. What would you suggest?

Awareness of personal triggers is key to the management of this condition.

Along with stress management and wise dietary choices, you can opt for natural remedies to help support your gut health. One of the most popular remedies is pure aloe vera juice made from the inner gel of the aloe vera plant. Aloe juice has been used successfully in medical trials to treat IBS, and has been shown to help soothe and heal the intestinal mucous membranes.

Other natural remedies that help to heal mucous membranes include marshmallow root and slippery elm powder. Marshmallow root is from the Althaea officinalis plant and is best brewed as a cold infusion. To do this, add a tablespoon of dried marshmallow root to 500ml of cold water and steep overnight. Strain and then drink throughout the day. Marshmallow infusion has a ‘thick’ texture and soothes immediately.

Slippery elm is usually prepared as a warm or hot drink, which you make by stirring in a teaspoon of the powdered bark of the Ulmus rubra tree into a cup of warm water. Add raw honey to taste.

Ayurvedic medicine has two important remedies for treating the bowels and intestines. The first is a combination of three fruits, known as Triphala. This remedy is prescribed for toning and regulating the bowel, and is made from Amla, Haritaki, and Bibhitaki. The second is a well-known culinary spice, turmeric (Curcuma longa). Turmeric is used to strengthen the digestive system (including the gut flora) and it also has what is known as a bitter principle, so it stimulates bile flow and encourages the production of digestive juices. This makes it useful in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, appetite loss, liver problems, and intestinal inflammation.

Leaky gut is another condition often linked with IBS. A healthy gut allows essential nutrients to pass through the intestinal lining but will block toxins or allergens from passing through. Leaky gut is where the permeability of the intestinal lining is compromised and unwanted nutrients and toxins are able to pass through.

Aloe vera is also useful in treating leaky gut, as is glutamine powder (often found in health stores and sports nutrition specialists). The impaired permeability can be caused by any number of issues, from bacterial/parasitic infection to prescription medications, and unhealthy or highly processed diets.

A recent blood test revealed that my iron count is low. I started to take an over-the-counter supplement but had to stop as it caused constipation. Is there a gentle alternative?

The short answer is yes — there are three gentle alternatives that are effective and non-constipating. Floradix, Floravital, and Spatone are all highly bioavailable and gentle on the intestinal tract. These remedies are all available from supermarkets, pharmacies, and health stores, or you can find them online.

Iron deficiency is linked to low ferritin, since the body will utilise stored iron when blood levels are low. Iron levels can also be affected by a common condition called hypochlorhydria, which is simply insufficient stomach acid. The symptoms include reflux, heartburn, post-meal bloating, and flatulence.

The amino acid L-lysine, commonly recommended to help prevent cold sores, helps the body store and absorb both iron and zinc. You will need to supplement with around 1500-2000mg daily to increase your ferritin levels. It should be noted that it can take as long as six months to get iron stores well within the healthy range of 20-200ug/L.

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NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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