Natural Digestive Aids

The following post is from Dr. Sarah Axtell’s Lakeside Natural Medicine blog and includes some great tips for all the upcoming holiday eating!

Natural Solutions for a happy, healthy gut during the holidays

Maybe you’ve overindulged in a rich food or you’ve eaten something that you are intolerant to or you’ve helped yourself to seconds or thirds at a holiday party. If any of these scenarios sound all too familiar, try some of these digestive tips and aids to combat common digestive distress symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and constipation. In turn, you will not only have a happy gut but also a healthy immune system. Approximately 70% of the immune system is in your gut.

Prevention: Naturopathic medicine is consistent with Benjamin Franklin’s saying. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is much easier and more effective to prevent digestive distress than it is to treat it. Here are some preventative measures to take at holiday parties.

• Avoid your food intolerance- Dairy and gluten (a protein found in wheat) are the two most common food triggers for gastrointestinal complaints. A naturopathic doctor can help you identify and eliminate these foods from your diet.

• Apple cider vinegar- Taking 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar 15-20 minutes before a meal increases stomach acid production, and thereby improves digestion and nutrient uptake.

• Coconut oil- Dissolving 1 tbsp of coconut oil in warm water and drinking it 15-20 minutes before a meal achieves a sense of satiety and will prevent you from overeating at the cocktail party. As a bonus, coconut oil also raises HDL, or your ”good” cholesterol.

• Water- Sometimes we perceive thirst as hunger. Be sure to drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water daily. Drink water in between meals to optimize digestion.

Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Ailments:

• Digestive enzymes- enzymes are our bodies way of breaking food down. Insufficient enzyme production can lead to heartburn, gas, and bloating. Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest protein. Papain is available as a nutritional supplement. There are also enzymes to help digest gluten and dairy in case you are intolerant to these foods and have been exposed. Gluten and dairy are two common foods that commonly cause gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.

• Peppermint tea- promotes digestion in addition to decreasing inflammation thus soothing the gastrointestinal tract

• Castor oil packs- Applying a castor oil pack externally to your abdomen after a night of overeating and imbibing can help decrease the resulting inflammation caused by such indulgence. Click here for details on how to do a castor oil pack.

• Sometimes the above recommendations are simply not enough. See my “4R’s for Optimal Gut Health” approach to correcting the underlying imbalance and repairing the gut for lasting results.


Dr. Sarah Axtell is a naturopathic doctor in Milwaukee, WI, providing holistic health care for the entire family. She specializes in many different chronic health conditions such as hormonal imbalances, auto-immune diseases, gastro-intestinal disorders, cancer, anxiety and weight loss. Dr. Axtell has a private practice, Lakeside Natural Medicine, in Shorewood, WI, and offers a series of seasonal group detoxification cleanses at Invivo Wellness.