I have been getting stomach aches recently, maybe for two or three months, every time after a meal. The ache comes on about 30 minutes after I’ve eaten and I can’t seem to tolerate any spicy food lately. Are there foods I should stay away from, and which herbs may be beneficial?
It sounds like you might be suffering from inflammation of the stomach mucosa lining, which means that when stomach acids and other digestive juices and enzymes are released on the introduction of food into the stomach, the resulting relative acidic environment is irritating the sensitive stomach lining even more. Spicy foods and their associated energetically heating quality would also further aggravate any inflammation.
Stress is usually behind the origin of most illnesses (and tends to make any symptoms of conditions we might have worse). The primary thing to consider is what might have been happening to you prior to the onset of the stomach ache symptoms – perhaps a recent change in lifestyle, an acute illness, a major life event, e.g. moving house? If you can make an association with something which has challenged you on a psychological/emotional/ spiritual level, then you can start to understand how you have manifested these stress- related symptoms physically.
In the meantime, while you are finding ways to accept and process any life events, you can help yourself by favouring cooling, moistening foods like cucumber, avocado, yoghurt, salads, fruits and fresh herbs, such as coriander, parsley and mint.
FOODS TO AVOID
Foods to avoid would be those which cause acidity in the body including animal products, processed foods and spicy foods containing chilli and garlic. Fermented foods might also be aggravating, such as pickles, chutneys and vinegars. Also avoid strawberries, rhubarb and oranges as they are all heating foods.
There is an amazing herbal tea blend of chamomile (Chamomilla recutita), peppermint (Mentha piperita) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) which works wonders for healing the stomach; these three herbs work synergistically together to be more beneficial than when used individually.
Other useful herbs for tea would be marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale), marshmallow (Althea officinalis) and liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root (although this last herb should be avoided if you have high blood pressure). Marigold would be particularly well indicated being a major anti-inflammatory herb as well as being a supreme healer of any sensitive or acid/heat-damaged mucosa. It is important to use teas and not tinctures as the alcohol in these extracts would be heating. It might be possible to use boiling water to dilute a tincture of any of these herbs (to allow the alcohol to be burned off,) but with herb teas that taste as good as the ones mentioned, why would you want to miss out on using them in this form?
Chewing fennel seeds, coriander, caraway, cumin, aniseed or making tea of these would also help with resetting indigestion and can help with any trapped wind causing cramps, due to their carminative action. For acute episodes, which may still occur, you can make a gruel out of slippery elm powder and some warm rice milk for immediate symptomatic relief and soothing of inflamed mucous membranes.
It is important that you are mindful of addressing this issue you are experiencing, as leaving the condition to continue untreated could lead to a stomach ulcer (which could lead to digestive bleeding) as the worst case scenario.
A really good website which lists the types of foods that would cool a fiery condition is: ayurveda.com which offers a useful online resource of all the foods, herbs and drinks that can benefit a high pitta condition like stomach inflammation.
It is also useful to include a small amount of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in the diet which can help reset stomach energetic digestive fire (agni in Ayurveda).
Maureen Robertson has been leading Contemplative Plant study and developing an energetic approach to Attuning with Herbs for over 20 years. Her passion of sharing deep encounters with healing plants culminates in The Herbal Path course and Plant studies in Algarve, Portugal and the Herbal Apprenticeship programme she runs in Scotland.
She was co-founder of the world renowned Scottish School of Herbal Medicine until 2010.