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Slippery Elm lozenges

For those of you that experience regular bouts of indigestion or heartburn, I have an excellent and dead-easy home remedy for you: slippery elm lozenges. Earlier in the week I posted about pregnancy heartburn, what causes it, how common it is and my top tips for reducing symptoms. These lozenges were mentioned, as they can be used safely throughout pregnancy. It should also be noted that they are great for anyone, i.e. non-pregnant folk, who experience reflux.

Firstly, let me give you a quick run down on slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), an all-round hero of herbal medicine and truly excellent remedy to have on hand in your pantry.

The bark of the slippery elm tree had been used for centuries in herbal medicine, with remedies requiring both topical application (as a healing balm for wounds) and oral ingestion (for sore throats, digestive upsets, etc).

slippery elm powder - image via pinterestSlippery elm is taken as a powder and combined with water or another liquid (sometimes also honey and/or spices) to form a gel-like drink.

If you haven’t had it before, the mucilaginous texture of slippery elm can be a little off-putting, but mixed well into fluid it’s actually very palatable, if a little ‘earthy’ tasting.

This mucilage is one of the ways in which slippery elm works its magic – coating and soothing mucous membranes (found in the digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts) on its transit through the body. For heartburn, this is ideal. The slippery elm creates a protective coating for your oesophagus, which stops the burning sensation associated with gastric reflux. It also soothes inflammation, which is particularly important for chronic conditions.

A spoonful of slippery elm mixed well into a glass of water, between meals, is the simplest way to take it and highly effective to boot. However, this isn’t always convenient, particularly during work hours, when travelling, etc; and some folks simply don’t like downing a glass of earthy elixir. No problem.

How to make your very own (dead-easy) slippery elm lozenges

Preheat your oven to 120 C.

Take 1/2 – 1 cup of slippery elm powder and combine with enough honey (start with 1 spoonful at a time and work your way up) to make a firm, but not dry, dough. If you like, and you have some on hand, you can add a couple of drops of peppermint, lemon or orange essential oil – these will add a subtle flavour and also aid digestion.

Lightly dust a cutting board with additional slippery elm and roll out your dough like a snake (two ‘snakes’ may be easier, depending on how much dough you’ve made). Cut into small sections – roughly fingernail size – and roll into balls. Flatten these onto a baking tray and then pop into the oven for around an hour.

Once cooled, pop your dusty little lozenges into an airtight container and keep in the cupboard (they’ll last for months). These can be sucked (or, if you’re like me, chewed) whenever you experience heartburn. Start with one, but you can have up to 3 or 4 if needed. Symptom relief is usually very quick, often within minutes, but may be longer.

slippery elm lozenges

Ok, I admit they don’t look so flash… BUT they do the trick! Honestly.

A couple of cautions and comments

Because slippery elm is a fibre (it’s also great for sluggish digestion BTW) ensure that you drink plenty of water whenever you take a dose. Aim for at least a glass with every 1 teaspoon / 2 lozenges. If you don’t, then things can tend to… errrm… plug up.

Again because it’s a fibre, slippery elm should not be taken at the same time as medications or mineral supplements, as it may ‘bind’ with the actives and inhibit the therapeutic action. Ideally, allow a gap of 1/2 – 1 hour before taking slippery elm.

I cannot tell you how many times women and non-herbal healthcare professionals have asked me whether slippery elm is really safe in pregnancy. I am here to tell you that, almost without exception, it is indeed safe. You may read elsewhere on the internet that slippery elm is cautioned, or even contraindicated, in pregnancy. This is based on its historical use as an abortifacient… when it was inserted vaginally. Because of this, the traditional caution is still mentioned in some texts and many chat forums. However, I want to reassure you that no harm is to be expected when using slippery elm the way I have described above. If you have further questions, I’d suggest talking to your health practitioner, who is best placed to give you individualised advice.

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Have you tried slippery elm before? How did you find the flavour and, perhaps more importantly, effect on your health?

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Top tips for swollen feet

Swollen legs and feet are an uncomfortable and common pregnancy symptom. Have you experienced unfortunate ‘fat’ feet? I certainly have, as have many of my patients. There are a number of simple measures you can take, however, that will make a world of difference. I’ve written a post all about this over at Mouths of Mums today.

Click here to find out how to manage swollen feet, naturally.

swollen feet

 

Pregnant with heartburn seeks same

Heartburn (indigestion / acid reflux / dyspepsia) affects a significant number of the population, even more so during pregnancy. Symptoms usually emerge during the second and third trimesters, but can occur at any stage. Oh, the joys!

Heartburn in pregnancy can be mediated by both hormonal and physical changes.

Hormonal changes: natural increases in hormones such as progesterone promote the relaxation of smooth muscles around the uterus, which is important as your baby grows. However, it can also affect smooth muscles elsewhere in the body, such as the lower oesophageal sphincter (the valve separating the stomach from the oesophagus). This laxity allows gastric acid to escape out of the stomach and into the oesophagus, leading to a burning sensation in the chest and throat. It can also slow the rythmic contractions of the stomach, contributing to sluggish digestion.

Physical changes: as pregnancy progresses, your baby starts taking up more and more room in your abdomen, which places strain on the surrounding organs. This also creates less space in your stomach as your diaphragm is pushed upwards, and often contributes to the reflux of gastric acid and partially digested food.

Pregnancy anatomy

See how much room that kid’s taking up!

Happily, there are a number of things you can do for heartburn, here are my top five:

  • Small meals – don’t gorge on large amounts of food in one sitting (no matter how delicious!) and try to slow down while you’re eating. This will help your stomach break down your meal, improving digestion generally and preventing reflux.
  • Sip your drinks, even more so between meals – try not to guzzle large amounts of water or herbal tea in one sitting. Instead, sip on these regularly throughout the day to will help you avoid ‘flooding’ your stomach. Also try to avoid drinking while you’re eating a meal, as this can dilute gastric acid, which will slow down your digestion further.
  • Stay upright – particularly after you’ve just eaten. I know I’m sometimes guilty of lying down almost directly after dinner, particularly in this later stage of pregnancy when I feel tired and preferentially horizontal by evening. However, if you are experiencing heartburn, this is not a good idea as gravity is going to work against you and encourage the backflow of gastric acid. Stay upright, or if you must lie down, do so with your back propped up by several pillows.
  • Recognise (and avoid) foods that trigger heartburn – for some women this will be spicy food, for others chocolate or meat-heavy meals. Not everyone is the same and as such you do not need to avoid a long list of potential triggers. However, be aware of when you react most and aim to avoid those foods as much as possible.
  • Herbal medicines – there are a number herbs that can help significantly with heartburn and are fine to use in pregnancy. As such, your naturopath or herbalist may give you liquid or tablet formulation to improve your symptoms. Alongside this, the regular consumption of herbal teas can and should be included, particularly after a meal; my picks include Peppermint, Ginger, Chamomile and Nettle.

Herbal teaAnother excellent herb for heartburn, and digestion more generally, is Slippery elm. This is a powder than can be taken in a glass of water, or made into easy-as lozenges. Slippery elm lozenges take no time to make at home and travel very well – I will share the recipe with you in my next post so you can make your own.

Have you experienced pregnancy heartburn? What’s worked best for you?

 

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