Feeling heavy and uneasy after an elaborate meal? Enjoying a nice meal only to regret it later? Some of the symptoms of indigestion can be prevented naturally using our age-old Ayurvedic tradition. Post-meal digestives such as fennel and cardamom help prevent bloating, acid reflux and constipation.
While Indian food is traditionally rich, there are also several herbs and spices that are either added to food or consumed independently to aid in digestion.
Indigestion is caused when the stomach is inflamed and irritated, causing the digestive acids to flow back into the oesophagus. These could be sweet (like paanor jaggery) or salty (like churan) or even have neutral flavours (such as in the case of saunf, or Fennel seeds and elaichi, or Cardamom pods).
- The volatile oils present in both saunfand elaichi help in relieving flatulence and gas. The essential oils mildly work up the stomach lining so that the muscular contractions in the gut are increased. This helps in relieving cramping and releasing gas from the digestive tract.
- Both saunfand elaichi are not just mouth and breath fresheners, but also carminative because of the presence of anethole. Both saunf and elaichi are rich in insoluble dietary fibre. They help in increasing the bulk of the food we eat by absorbing water throughout our digestive system and therefore ease constipation.
- Elaichi or cardamom is added in various dishes in India – across regions. This is also added to desserts, the last thing we eat during a meal. This means the gastric secretions are increased by the presence of cineol, the major component of cardamom, which gives it its distinct flavour. Cineol prevents the problems of delayed digestion such as acid reflux, heartburn, and nausea because it stimulates the nerves that control the production of saliva and other gastric juices.
- Similarly, the essential oils present in fennel or saunftrigger the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes, which in turn hastens the digestive process. This helps reduce bloating, especially of the belly due to the formation of excessive gas. Fennel reduces stomach and intestinal inflammation and facilitates maximum absorption of nutrients from the digested food.
- Fennel by nature is basic. This helps it to neutralize the acidity of the stomach. Increased stomach acidity is what causes acid reflux, which is popularly known as heartburn. It is this basic property of fennel that makes it a popular ingredient in anti-acidity medications.
- The aspartic acid present in saunfmakes it carminative and helps ease out flatulence. Fennel extract is often also given to babies who suffer from colic. It is also especially beneficial for older people. The powder of fennel seeds is an excellent laxative. It helps cure constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain and other diseases related to the intestine.
Fennel and cardamom have been used since time immemorial in India as flavoring herbs. They are added to various dishes and even medicines, basis the principles of Paak Shastra (the Science of Cooking) and Ayurveda.