[KitchenInsider] Feeling Down? Fix your Gut to Fix your Mood

The stomach is the epicentre of our nervous system. Take heed — a healthy gut really does lead to a sense of wellbeing!

That ‘gut feeling’ is more than just an emotional inkling or nervousness about something you’re about to do. If I asked a bunch of you what you knew about the connection between your stomach and state of mind, I would bet the majority wouldn’t be aware of one little-known but critical fact…

Your gut produces a staggering 95% of the body’s supply of the vital mood-regulating hormone — serotonin!

You don’t need to look far for the science to back this up — take a look at this piece of UCLA research ‘Your gut bacteria affects your brain function’ or this insight from the American Psychological Association. But Ayurveda has been proclaiming this for centuries. Indians also have significantly lower cases of stomach cancer than developed nations.

Our modern lifestyles predispose us to more stomach issues. Stress, eating on the go, processed food, sedentary habits… Not to mention, nearly every second person these days now suffers from IBS. But there are a whole range of items already in your kitchen — or at the most, the supermarket/nearest Asian store — that can combat many of these issues.

As an Indian naturopath, I believe in circling back to the very fundamentals of healing your body. I’d like to share some truly tried and tested home remedies from India which work wonders for seemingly complex digestive problems.

1) Ginger — This herb is great for nausea. Boil half-a-teaspoon of fresh, chopped ginger in one-and-a-half glasses of water for 10 mins. Cool and freeze in the ice tray. Suck on one ginger ice cube, every 2 hours. It cools and calms the stomach. Or you can chew a small bit of ginger with a little rock salt.

Speaking of rock salt, try…

2) Papaya — The enzymes from this power-packed fruit — papain — is excellent for digestion. Eat a slice of the ripe fruit (or chopped into bits). However, it must be eaten regularly to keep the stomach calm and soothed. Avoid the raw version of the fruit — it really doesn’t suit everyone!

3) Asafoetida — This is a resin obtained from a plant. Don’t be put off by the peculiar, pungent smell. While it is used in a lot of Asian cooking, it is available in powder form in most stores in the west today. It is very potent and effective for intestinal gas, IBS, irritable colon and stomach cramps.

4) Cardamom — This whole spice helps when the early signs of nausea begin and a stomach queasiness is felt. Chewing 2 cardamom pods every 1–2 hours will certainly help you feel better by the end of the day.

5) Psyllium Husks (also called ‘Isabgol’) — Available nearly everywhere today, this has hands-down been the most used remedy for constipation or just cleansing the stomach in most Indian homes. 1- 2 teaspoons of this powder should be taken with 1 glass of water at bedtime (helps soften stools!) Just to keep the stomach healthy and clear, take 1 tspn with either water or plain yoghurt (2 tbsp) should be had twice a week.

6) Carrom seeds (called “ajvain” in India) and Rock Salt (the blackish-pink variety) — Make a mixture of 2–3 tbsp of carrom seeds and 1 tsp of the salt, and keep handy in a small jar. This combats stomach aches and bloating with a mere half-a-teaspoon. Chew well and swallow with a little warm water to aid digestion. You won’t believe the near instant relief you get from the oils in the carrom seeds.

I’ve got 6 further tips, but in a bid to keep this snappy, I’ll be continuing this in part two of KitchenInsider …!

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