If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I really really (REALLY) love tea. I love a hot cup of earl grey on a cold and slow morning, I love a bubbly and naturally sweet iced tea in the summer time, I love collecting new flavours and I even bathe in the stuff! But the thing I love most about tea is discovering the medicinal properties of the different herbs – meaning that you can drink specific teas to help your body do its thing!
From time to time, I’d like to explore with you these medicinal properties (goodness knows I need another reason to drink more tea, don’t I?) in my Tea Fiend series. Just remember, if you are going to explore these options, best to opt for organic tea (I’d be happy to give you a guide to my favourite brands within this series – just ask!), and don’t be afraid to try a pre-made blend (it will only taste better that way) or even experiment in blending stand-alone herbs that you like (you never know what you will come up with).
Ginger Tea (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is a gorgeous herb to drink in tea form – it’s got a sweetness and heat to it that can be matched easily with a variety of other teas, but on its own, it has fantastic medicinal properties.
For starters, the natural heat within ginger makes it a perfect natural winter warmer! If you get cold hands and toes, ginger is a fantastic herbal tea to drink throughout the day as it gets the blood flowing to really warm you from your head to your toes. This action of stimulating the blood flow can also stimulate the blood flow to your organs, such as those in your digestive system, to stimulate their function. The organs need an adequate blood supply in order to function properly, so stimulating the blood flow in your body can optimise the delivery of nutrients and removal of wastes to better the performance of your organs.
Ginger also benefits the digestive system by reducing nausea, (a safe and effective treatment for nausea in pregnancy) and motion sickness, and can reduce bloating by aiding the breakdown of food due to active digestive enzymes within the ginger. Drink some ginger tea in anticipation of motion sickness if it’s something you know you’re prone to, or as symptoms arise. If you’ve over eaten or haven’t properly chewed your food, or regularly feel bloated just below your rib cage (your stomach area), sipping ginger tea may be a beneficial remedy for you. It also stimulates digestive secretions required to breakdown food and as such has been shown to reduce reflux, flatulence and colic, as well as stimulate the appetite. To stimulate your appetite, brew yourself a cup 30 minutes before meals to gently get your digestive juices flowing, not only will you have an appetite, but you will be more able to breakdown and absorb those all-important nutrients I keep bangin on about!
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory food, meaning that it can be used to reduce the pain associated with common ailments, like period pain, headache, muscle pain and migraine. These conditions are associated with an overproduction of pro-inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, which over-stimulate the natural inflammatory processes within the body, causing unnecessary damage to nearby tissues, and pain. Sipping on a brew with ginger in it throughout the day, may be of benefit.
[While ginger tea is a helpful tool for such conditions, an anti-inflammatory diet will have a more potent effect ('Ask Mira' at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/MirandasWellness if you'd like more info)]
The anti-inflammatory effect of ginger is also helpful during cold and flu, while the immune-boosting effects of ginger can help your body to fight off infections.
How to Brew
Infuse 4-6 fresh slices of ginger, or 3-9g dried ginger root in boiling water for 30 minutes and sip throughout the day. Best not to consume more than these amounts in one day.
Brew a pot of 4-6 slices ginger with 1/4-1/2 cup fresh peppermint (or 3-9g dried ginger/6-12g dried peppermint), as both herbs are great for nausea. ***If prone to reflux however, leave out the peppermint as it will exacerbate symptoms***
When feeling bloated after a meal or experiencing flatulence, a brew of 4-6 slices ginger and 1-2tsp chamomile can help the digestion of your food and to relieve the discomfort of bloating and flatulence
Brew a ginger and turmeric chai tea, such as this gorgeous one from Reece Carter Naturopathy for relief within 30 minutes
For cold & flu:
Ginger slices, lemon slices, a sprig or two of thyme and a teaspoon of the strongest manuka honey you can buy (the bigger the number, the stronger it is) is a strong brew to boost your immune system and help to kill off microbes that are making you sick in the first place. The stronger the better for this tea, and best if sipped throughout the day. It may not be the most pleasant tea you’ve brewed, but it will definitely pack the punch you are after.
Thanks to Lyndal Martin from Life Loves Me Naturopathy, who was my resident herb-nerd for this piece.
Your gut is one of the most important systems in your body (and let’s be honest, my personal favourite – you guys should know I’m nerdy enough to have a favourite system by now, surely!). Your gut (digestive system) is where your food is broken down from the delicious morsels you gobble up every day, into the nutrients that are then absorbed and used by your body to build every cell and perform every function.
Your oesophagus is the tube responsible for the passage of food from your mouth to your stomach. While it seems like a pretty mundane function, the tube lies flat, behind your larynx (the tube you breathe through) and in order for the food to travel down it instead of your larynx, the complex function of swallowing has to occur.
Firstly, the tongue pushes the chewed food up and back in the mouth, while your uvula (the dongly looking thing at the back of your mouth) moves up to stop food going up the back of your nose, and the epiglottis (great word! And also a flap of cartilage) covers the entrance of the larynx to prevent you choking on it (what a handy dude, that epiglottis!). The food then moves from your oral cavity through the upper oesophageal sphincter into your oesophagus, where the smooth muscles in the wall of your oesophagus constrict in progression, pushing the food down toward the lower oesophageal sphincter – the entrance to your stomach – a muscle which relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach. If you put your hands on your throat and swallow, you will be able to feel the upper part of this in action.
Caring for Your Oesophagus
- CHEW CHEW CHEW your food! As I talked about at length in Part 1 of the Going with Your Gut series chewing is an essential part of digestion. However for the oesophagus, it is important for different reasons. Chewing your food at least 15-20 times per mouthful and being mindful and aware of the food you are eating firstly will stop you from choking! Do you rush when you eat your food? And when you do, have you noticed it getting either stuck (corn chips are probably the worst culprit for this) or that you start choking on your food? Chewing and slowing down are great and simple ways to prevent this (and I’d rather you didn’t die guys, for some strange reason) and helps your saliva to bond to the food to make it slippery enough to make a smooth journey to your stomach.
While the structure of the oesophagus is designed to withstand the regular friction of swallowing, it can be damaged when reflux allows the passage of food and stomach acid back up into the oesophagus from the stomach, which can irritate the wall of the oesophagus, resulting in a burning sensation – heartburn – and if left untreated, can permanently damage the oesophageal tissue. I have written an article on natural solutions for heart burn, which I wont repeat here, but if it is something you suffer from, be sure to take a look.
- SLIPPERY ELM is a powdered tree bark that contains fibre, vitamin C, zinc, other nutrients and tannins, and is incredibly soothing to any irritated and inflamed tissue in the digestive tract. If you suffer from reflux, drinking a large glass with 1 heaped teaspoon of slippery elm thoroughly mixed in, every day, can reduce the irritation and help the tissue to heal. The remedy was originally used by Native Americans and I’ve seen it in the health food section of supermarkets, as well as health food stores. I mean, it tastes like river water, but its a whole 5 seconds of your day to drink it, so wash the rest down with water and move on, its completely worth it!
- TURMERIC is a wonder herb that is hard not to love once you realise how powerful it is. I often use this when I have inflammation and have noticed results within 20 minutes of having it. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb, so it’s another one that is great for oesophageal inflammation (such as that from reflux, Barrett’s Oesophagitis, oesophageal ulcer), because it gets to work topically as soon as you swallow it down. My favourite way to include it is to brew a lovely chai on almond milk using freshly grated turmeric, or in curries, like chicken laksa. Make sure when you have turmeric to ensure you have it with some sort of fat (coconut oil/cream, milk, almond milk) and/or black pepper, to help it absorb.
Look out for next weeks Going with Your Gut blog, all about the stomach
I’m sure you would have heard the word ‘detox’ thrown around the health and weight loss communities at some point or another. But what exactly is a detox? And why would you do one?
— WARNING: We’re gonna talk about POO. Not in detail, but it’ll be in there —
The purpose of a true detox is to clean out your body of the myriad of toxins that accumulate through stress, food allergies, tobacco, alcohol, pesticides, food additives and preservatives, skin care, pollution, medications, drugs, radiation, bacteria, heavy metals, cleaning products, and many other things our bodies come into contact with every day. Our liver is the hard working organ that is in charge of cleaning out not only these toxins, but products of the body, like hormones and lactic acid, on a daily basis. In fact, every minute, the liver filters 2 litres of your blood to remove these chemicals for detoxification.
Detoxification occurs through many pathways within the liver that require specific nutrients in order to properly function. Many vitamins, amino acids and minerals play an important role in each detoxification pathway. If these nutrients are deficient in your diet, are not adequately absorbed, OR they have been depleted (by factors such as an overload of toxins, a disease state, excess alcohol consumption, smoking) these essential pathways do not function as efficiently as they need to, and toxins will slowly build up and cause harm and dysfunction in the body.
When the liver is overloaded with these toxins, you may experience sensitivities to bright lights or strong smells (perfume, chemicals), headaches, fatigue, acne, indigestion, reflux, steatorrhoea (oily/floating stools), or it may even interrupt the metabolism of cholesterol, blood sugar regulation or regulation of hormones in the body. Nasty stuff really.
A true detox looks after your liver, and ensures not only that the body is provided with a super load of the nutrients it needs to process toxins through juices and broths, but encourages the removal of these toxins by waste excretion through urine and bowel movements. Those “detoxes” you can get at supermarkets, pharmacies, on the TV and internet, including the skinny teas, are essentially just laxatives that cause your body to go into starvation mode and lose weight quickly, but also set you up to put it right back on again. They are also pretty dangerous and aren’t aimed at helping the function of your liver at all.
I’d like to say it now, before I delve in, that if you would like to do a detox, DO NOT just buy a kit from a shop. If you want to do what is best for your body, consult a health professional, such as a nutritionist or naturopath, who has the knowledge, experience and understanding of the function of your individual body to prescribe a detox specific to your needs. I believe it is unethical to give advice on the internet to nameless, faceless people, whose bodies I have no idea about, for a detox plan. This was an incredibly difficult program that I did, under the advisement of a naturopath, and with my own nutritional knowledge, and I just personally feel uncomfortable about giving specific advice, as I feel doing so could be dangerous.
MY DETOX EXPERIENCE
While I had my own personal symptoms of a toxic liver, and reasons for which I would prefer not to share, I also embarked on this detox, so that one day, when I am a nutritionist, and I have a patient who would like to complete a detox, I can give them a genuine understanding with the knowledge that I’ve gained through my course.
I originally aimed to complete 12 days of this detox, but I cut it down to 10 days because I don’t deal well without protein (ie. I get really grumpy!!).
The detox started with a basic diet and worked it’s way down to just juice and broth, then back up again to the original basic diet. I completed 3 1/2 days of juices before I decided to cut my detox down.
Despite the fact that I don’t drink much, I rarely drink coffee or eat sugar, I did experience the expected symptoms of intense headache, fatigue, acne, cold extremities and general hunger. I did not, however, experience the surge of energy I had been told that you normally get during a detox, and the hunger was pretty constant. I did lose weight while on the detox, but I don’t expect that to stay off for very long, as it’s not a sustainable form of weight loss.
My skin felt GORGEOUS from about Day 3 onwards, and still feels incredibly smooth. My acne has improved, but isn’t gone completely (it can take up to 3 weeks for it to properly resolve). I have noticed I don’t want to eat as many carbs, instead I prefer vegetables and now eat fruit regularly now, which I’ve always struggled with, even though I love fruit. I’m not entirely sure why. I also feel better and better about myself every day and just cannot believe what I achieved in those 10 days.
While I am so proud of myself for having a red hot go at this detox, I have learnt that it’s not suited to everyone, and those with mental health fragility might be better served by a long term detox that includes the protein that is needed for neurotransmitter production, rather than this one. However, I can see the benefits of this detox, and I’ve really learnt to appreciate every nutrient and every food that I put into my body just that little bit more. After all, food, in general, is my vice.
Did you follow my detox on Instagram?
Have you completed a detox? What were your reasons? How did you go?
What do you feel about detoxes? Would you ever complete one?
Today’s ‘Ask Mira’ is a question from the lovely Georgia, who posted a question on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MirandasWellness);
Hey Miranda! I think this page is a great idea, so many cool recipes I want to try! I was wondering if you have any foods or recipes that would help acid reflux? I’m looking at your delicious food but I can’t really eat much and it’s making me hungry!
Thanks Georgia – this is a great question! Reflux and heartburn are incredibly common, so I’d like to answer this question in 3 parts:
- What is reflux and heartburn?
- What causes reflux and heartburn?
- How can I reduce and relieve reflux and heartburn?
I’d like to explain it all to you so that I know you understand what is happening to you and why. This way you will understand how the remedies will help you and be more likely to try them (well, that’s my theory, anyway!).
WHAT IS REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?
Reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) occurs when stomach contents, including stomach acid and partially digested food from the stomach is forced into the oesophagus, and sometimes into the mouth and oral cavity. This causes pain, burning in the chest, and regurgitation, and if left untreated, may damage the lining of the oesophagus or lead to oesophageal cancer. Heartburn is a symptom of this reflux, and occurs when stomach acid repeatedly passes through the sphincter at the base of the oesophagus. Stomach acid burns the lining of your oesophagus, because unlike the stomach, it does not have a layer of mucous over the tissue to protect it from the highly acidic fluid.
WHAT CAUSES REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?
There are a few different reasons why you may be experiencing reflux and heartburn, but by figuring out which reason it is, it will be easier to know what treatment will work for you.
Firstly, reflux can be caused by both an excess of stomach acid, or, a lack of stomach acid. While an excess of stomach acid can occur, and causes reflux because it can’t be contained in the stomach, it is a lot more likely to not have enough stomach acid. There are a couple of ways to test this.
- When you experience heartburn, take a large drink of water. If the heartburn subsides, it is likely you have too much stomach acid, as the water helps to neutralise the acid. However, if it makes it worse, it is likely you don’t have enough stomach acid, as the neutralising effects of the water make it even harder for your food to break down.
- You could also try 1 tbl organic apple cider vinegar in warm water as it has an alkalising effect.
Reflux can also be caused by the food you are eating;
- Do you experience reflux after specific foods? Such as, coffee, chilli, tomato, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, high fat meals, bread, pasta
- Do you eat past the point of being full for most meals?
- When you eat your food, do you relate to Fat Bastard from Austin Powers? As in, you see food, and your first though is ‘GET IN MA BELLEH!!!” before you wolf it all down in three minutes?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, dietary intervention is going to be a very powerful healing tool for you, but we’ll discuss particular remedies in the next section.
Your reflux may also be caused by a dysfunction in the emptying of the contents of your stomach into your small intestine, or by reduced function of the lower oesophageal sphincter, making it unable to keep the stomach contents in the stomach.
Reflux and heartburn can also be aggravated by smoking, stress, weight gain, some medications, pregnancy and hiatus hernia.
HOW CAN I REDUCE AND RELIEVE MY REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?
- Avoid the foods in your diet that aggravate your symptoms; tomato, chilli, coffee, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, high fat foods, breads, pasta, etc. This will be hard, but it is achievable, temporary and essential for reducing your symptoms
- Start your day with a glass of warm water and either the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 grapefruit or 1 tbl organic apple cider vinegar, before breakfast. This drink not only stimulates your digestion, but helps your body detoxify, due to the bitter flavour.
- Quit smoking. This is a big aggravator of reflux and will aggravate the inflammation caused by oesophageal erosion by stomach acid (try the Quit Buddy app https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/quit-now-my-quitbuddy/id527485761?mt=8)
- Slow down when you eat and chew your food! This will stop you from filling your stomach too much and make it easier to digest your food. It will also stimulate digestive secretions, such as stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile that are essential for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from your food. There are two ways to achieve this; either put down your fork between mouthfuls and don’t pick it up until ALL the food is chewed and swallowed; OR make sure you chew each mouthful a MINIMUM of 20 times.
- Drink water away from meals. This puts lets pressure on your oesophageal sphincter and also means you will absorb more nutrients from each meal, because they aren’t being washed away.
- Regular exercise (every day). This reduces stress, and aids weight loss which may be aggravating your symptoms
- Elevate the head of your bed with pillows. Utilise gravity if you get reflux at night, by elevating your head, allowing the contents of your oesophagus to slowly empty back into your stomach.
- Avoid peppermint tea, as it relaxes your lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing the contents of your stomach to empty into your oesophagus easily.
If you find that these remedies do not help, please consult your doctor.
Thanks again for your question Georgia, I hope that this was easy to understand and helps you out.
If you would like to ask me a question, either leave a comment below, or go to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MirandasRecipes).
MORE INFO – WEBSITES
Heartburn information Australia – http://www.heartburn.com.au/
ABC Health & Wellbeing – http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2006/09/25/1831764.htm
Iwai, W, Abe, Y, Iijima, K, Koike, T, Uno, K, Asano, N, Imatani, A & Shimosegawa, T 2012, ‘Gastric Hypochlorhydria is Associated with an Exacerbation of Dyspeptic Symptoms in Female Patients’, Journal of Gastroenterology
Kaltenbach, T, Crockett, S & Gerson, L 2006, ‘Are Lifestyle Measures Effective in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: An Evidence Based Approach’, Archives of Internal Medicine, vol.166, no.9, pp.965-971
Kumar, P & Clark, M 2009, ‘Kumar & Clark’s Clinical Medicine’, 7th edn, Saunders Elsevier, Sydney, pp.249-252
Mahan, L, Escott-Stump, S & Raymond, J 2012, ‘Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process’, 13th edn, Elsevier, USA, pp.8
Sarris, J & Wardle, J 2012, ‘Clinical Naturopathy: An Evidence-Based Guide to Practice’, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Australia, pp.75-80
Tortora, G & Derrickson, B 2009, ‘Principles of Anatomy and Physiology’, 12th edn, John Wiley & Sons Inc, USA, pp.936-938