Opinion

Boost Gut Bacteria: 5 Essential Oils For Digestion Problems

Essential oils
Jojoba oil is good for the skin, heals wounds and can helps prevent hair breakage. Photo courtesy of susan, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Certain studies have said the fitness level of this generation pales in comparison to previous ones. According to a study presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in 2013, children’s mile times were up to 90 seconds slower than their parents'. While this may come as a surprise to some, the writing has been on the wall for a long time now. Our lives have become a lot easier because of technology and automation, meaning we have everything we need right at our fingertips. It seems counterintuitive, but this makes maintaining a healthy lifestyle all the more difficult — most of all our digestive systems.

We know that it plays an important role in the body's functioning, but not many have a clear understanding of the way digestion works. With higher amounts of junk food, sedentary lifestyles, and stress seen in today’s society, our digestive systems may have taken a hit. With food specifically, the high fat and sugar content in the plentiful rich, unhealthy foods is what crashes the system; not to mention it takes longer to digest. And when the digestive system isn’t functioning properly, the body is lethargic and less efficient — and open to a host of potential health problems.

Keeping your digestive system in top condition is thus more important than you realize. It is responsible for absorbing the nutrition from the food you eat, as well as keeping your immune system in bacteria-fighting shape. For pregnant women, studies have shown that the effectiveness of the digestive system can even make a big difference in fetal development.

So how do you do that? By maintaining the balance of gut microbiota, commonly known as gut bacteria. It contains more than three million microbial genes, which is 150 times more than the human genome itself. Good bacteria help break foods down in the digestive tract, as well as help to produce some B vitamins and fight off harmful bacteria.

This bacteria can be source in certain foods, namely those rich in probiotics. But if you can’t stomach yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi, there may be another way: aromatherapy. Recent studies have shown that this ancient therapy — the use of essential oils as medicine — can be effective in facilitating the digestion of food.

The oils used for this have also been used to treat serious gut problems: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, and bacterial overgrowth. Below, a list of the popular fragrant armors used to help keep digestion and your gut working in top condition.

1. Peppermint

Peppermint has been prescribed for people with IBS, an intestinal disorder marked by stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation; it can help with regular digestion, too. Combine this potent oil with coriander and lemon balm to give your immune system an added boost.

2. Lavender

Lavender regularly appears in fragrances, deodorants, and perfumes available around the world. While plenty of people take a whiff to get peaceful sleep, others use it to soothe anxiety symptoms. And when it comes to your digestive system, lavender protects against dysbiosis, the technical term for impaired microbiota. It has healing properties and is anti-inflammatory in nature.

3. Frankincense

In the Bible, Frankincense is mentioned as one of the gifts that the three wise men presented to Jesus. The fact that it is depicted as a gift fit for the king should tell you all you need to know about this oil's heritage. A Korean study successfully used this oil as a treatment for pain and depression, and another used it as a natural disinfectant. It helps with the functioning of the immune system by boosting digestive performance. Combine with lavender for the best experience.

4. Cumin

Cumin is another essential oil that was found to be extremely effective in treating IBS.  In a study conducted on 57 patients over four weeks, all the major symptoms of the syndrome, such as pain and bloating, were significantly reduced. That tells you all you need to know about the effectiveness of cumin on the digestive system.

5. Thyme

Thyme is an evergreen herb famous for its various applications in cooking. Thyme is a natural antimicrobial and is extremely effective in managing your gut's bacteria. It has been used to treat SIBO, thymol, and geraniol, common digestive diseases. Thyme suppresses pathogens in the small intestine, thus combating symptoms of these diseases. However, it's not very sweet smelling.

You can find these at your local full-service spa, health, or whole foods store. And you may not have to dish out for the essential oil diffuser too: Organic Spa Magazine suggests using the oils for a massage or adding drops to skin and hair care products can be equally beneficial.

The bottom line: If you've been looking to help improve your digestion, there are a lot of options that you would have come across. While improving digestion through smell may be a new concept to you, there's no denying its effectiveness.

Vineetha Reddy is a regular practitioner and adviser of everything related to health, fitness, and yoga. She has also begun to write and contribute to this knowledge ecosystem, and believes the organic food you find in your pantry provide the best benefits for good health. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for her best ideas and solutions.

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