5 Ways to Use Indian Digestive Spices in Your Kitchen

Indian spices have incredible digestive benefits. Many of them have been used medicinally in India for thousands of years. Today, Indian families across the world use these spices in almost every meal. People living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome can use these spices to assist with symptom relief and prevention.

Indian Healing Spices

From sprinkling the spices on fruit to adding them into tea, it is really easy to incorporate the spices into your daily routine. Here are some easy ways to use Indian digestive spices in your kitchen. By the way, all of these spices can be found at any grocery store.

Warm Turmeric Milk 

Recipe: One glass of milk with one tablespoon of turmeric powder. I like Starwest Botanicals Organic Turmeric Root Powder. Add a cinnamon stick for taste. Drink this before bed.

Benefits: Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has powerful medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory effects.

                                                                                   Starfruit with Garam Masala 

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Recipe: Cut starfruit into half an inch pieces. Sprinkle a liberal amount of garam masala over top. I like to eat this as a snack during the day or dessert after dinner. So yummy!

Benefits: Starfruit comes from a tree native to India, but can be found in most grocery stores. It is packed with antioxidants and fiber. The fruit has a sweet taste and pairs perfectly with the sweet and spicy flavor of garam masala. This spice is commonly used in Ayurveda to improve digestive fire. It increases your body temperature which raises your metabolism and decreases constipation.

Masala Chai Tea 

Recipe: Here is my favorite recipe. It calls for the following spices: black peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. It tastes best with whole milk, so this is not the best option if you’re lactose intolerant or sensitive.

Benefits: Every spice in masala chai has individual health benefits. Overall, you are getting powerful anti-inflammatory effects, metabolism boost, natural pain relief, and bloating reduction.

A Handful of Fennel Seedsshutterstock_526104295

Recipe: Eat a handful of fennel seeds after each meal. It’s a common digestive in India. You can also try my favorite brand of fennel tea if the seeds are too strong for you.

Benefits: Fennel seeds can provide relief from constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and flatulence. Fennel also has an amino acid called histidine that can help treat anemia. The seeds taste like black licorice and help cleanse the palate and curb cravings.

Tacos with Red Chili Powder 

Recipe: Any one of your favorite taco recipes! Sprinkle a small amount of red chili powder into your taco ingredients. A small amount goes a long way!

Benefits: Red chili powder can prevent acid reflux and kill bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. It also has a large amount of fiber which helps ease digestion and prevent constipation.

As you can see, Indian spices can be used in a variety of ways. A common misconception is that you can only use these spices in Indian food. On the contrary, the spices will work well in dishes you are already making in your kitchen. Experiment with these spices and see what you discover. I know one thing- you will be doing your digestive system a big favor.

Indian spices that aid digestion

7 Indian Spices With Incredible Digestive Benefits

If you’ve eaten authentic Indian food, you know the dishes are packed with flavor. What you may not know is much of that flavor comes from spices that are beneficial to your digestion. These Indian spices can help people with digestive issues like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The spices are used in Indian households around the world. They are versatile and can be used in all kinds of dishes. Sometimes I even like to take a spoonful of one and take it like a digestive supplement.

My spice rack is actually a spice box. It was given to me by a close Indian friend. She filled the containers with spices she uses everyday in her kitchen. I labeled them for you to make it easy to understand.

Indian Healing Spices

The Digestive Benefits of 7 Indian Spices

Turmeric is what gives curry the orange color. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has powerful medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin is such a strong anti-inflammatory, it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs. Turmeric has a pungent, bitter flavor. Some common dishes where turmeric is used include curry, soup, salad dressing, vegetables, and tea. I use Starwest Botanicals Organic Turmeric Root Powder and take a daily spoonful of it with cracked pepper and honey. The cracked pepper helps with absorption and the honey makes it taste better.

Cumin is an herb that has been used in India for hundreds of years to treat indigestion. It can help relieve diarrhea, bowel spasms, gas, and stomach aches. The compounds in cumin stimulate digestive enzymes which can be beneficial to people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Cumin can be used as whole seed or ground. Some common dishes with cumin include curry, hummus, chili, meat, and fish. I like to take a handful of cumin seeds after a meal or with warm water.

Garam Masala is my favorite tasting spice in my box. It is a blend of spices native to India. A traditional recipe contains black peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, mace, and cumin. Garam masala is commonly used in Ayurveda to improve digestive fire. It increases your body temperature which raises your metabolism and decreases constipation. It is beneficial for people with slow transit constipation. I like to sprinkle it on starfruit. Trust me, it is delicious!

Ajwain and Fenugreek enhance the flavor of many Indian dishes as it tastes best when cooked. Fenugreek is commonly used in Ulcerative Colitis diet plans because of its anti-inflammatory effects. The seeds have water-soluble fiber which can help soothe an upset stomach, constipation, and inflammation in the stomach. Fenugreek can also increase your appetite which can be useful during an IBD flare-up. Ajwain can be a natural home remedy for curing gas, flatulence, acidity and indigestion. Boil water with a few scoops of ajwain seeds and drink up!

Mustard seeds are an excellent source of magnesium and dietary fiber, so it can help with constipation or irregular stools. Mustard seeds can also stimulate your appetite, soothe an upset stomach, and act as a laxative.  Be careful because too much of it can cause irritation. In Indian cooking, black mustard seeds are often fried in oil which makes them sweet and mild. The seeds are also used in Ayurveda healing.

Red chili powder is a big reason why Indian food is so spicy and why many Westerners  have to go the bathroom after eating. Even though people associate red chili powder with stomach aches, it actually can prevent acid reflux and kill bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. Red chili powder also has a large amount of fiber which helps ease digestion and prevents constipation. You can use this spice in many cuisines like Tex-Mex, Chinese, Indian, and Thai.

Sesame Seeds are derived from the oldest oilseed crop in the world and have been cultivated for more than 3,500 years. The seeds are packed with fiber which can help reduce constipation and diarrhea. There is also a lot of copper in sesame seeds which reduces inflammation and assists in the intake of iron. One of the most unique digestive benefits of sesame seeds is its oral effect. The oil in the seeds can act as an antibacterial in your mouth which helps maintain proper oral hygiene.

Not pictured in my spice box, but still included in my digestive arsenal…


Fennel seeds taste like black licorice and are one of my favorite digestive friends. The seeds can provide relief from constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and flatulence. Fennel also has an amino acid called histidine that can help treat anemia. I am frequently low on iron from having Crohn’s Disease, so that is super helpful for me. Fennel seeds are used extensively in Indian cooking and as a post-meal digestive. I like to eat a handful of seeds after dinner. I also like to drink it in tea from. My favorite brand is Heather’s Tummy Tea Organic Fennel. 

Ginger and cardamom are also essential for gastrointestinal protection. These two plants are similar to turmeric and can help relieve inflammation, nausea, and pain. Ginger tea is one of my favorite drinks before or after a meal.

COMING UP ON THE BLOG…How to use 7 Indian spices in the kitchen! My favorite Indian foods and drinks with digestive benefits.

You may also be interested in “Why i Chose a Gluten-Free Life: A Crohn’s Disease Perspective” and “So You Want to Try Tempeh, Eh?”

“I Want to Prove You Can Do Anything:” Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis Transforms Young Girl

11-year-old Katelyn Carter sits on the interview couch as she answers my questions about her Remicade infusions. Her sister, 8-year-old Alexis Carter, sits beside her.

Children with Crohn's Disease
Alexis on the right. Katelyn on the left.

“In my mind I’m screaming, ‘Get me out of school I need to be with her!’” says Alexis as she explains how she tries to accompany her sister to every infusion. Katelyn smiles down at her little sister with a grateful look in her eyes. It’s obvious these two have a special bond. They are a lot alike, too. Both girls are outgoing, confident, and well-spoken. Katelyn, Orlando native, wasn’t always this way, though. Less than two years ago, she was a different kid.

“I started to have stomach issues, and my stomach would start to hurt. I would have to constantly use the bathroom,” said Katelyn.

Michelle Carter, Katelyn’s mom, said her little girl was quiet and reserved. She considered getting her a counselor because she used to lie on the couch all day.

Top: Katelyn and Alexis. Bottom left: Samson the dog is a therapy dog who visits patients like Katelyn during procedures and infusions. Samson visits children at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital and pediatric GI offices in Orlando.

Doctors thought Katelyn was lactose intolerant. When a lactose-free diet didn’t improve her symptoms, doctors recommended a colonoscopy. In November 2016, just eight days after Katelyn’s 10th birthday, her life changed forever.

“The next day [after the colonoscopy] I ended up in the hospital because they said I had severe Crohn’s Disease and they needed to get fluids into me,” said Katelyn. “I had to have an MRE where you drank disgusting fluid, and so that stressed me out.”

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While Crohn’s Disease is more common in adults than children, between 5% and 25% of IBD cases are diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. Although the symptoms can be hard, many children report being grateful for the disease because it encourages personal growth.

“I now try to let people know that [Crohn’s Disease] happens, but it doesn’t stop you from anything,” said Katelyn.

“It’s almost brought her out of her shell. It’s a blessing and a curse, you know? I don’t want her to have it, but it’s made her who she is now,” said Michelle.

Katelyn has transformed into a confident and outgoing young lady. Her mission is to prove to her peers that Crohn’s Disease can be your biggest asset and your motivation to succeed; that you can use your chronic illness to make a difference. She started by planning a “Crohn’s Awareness Week” at her school last year where everyone wore purple and raised money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

crohns awareness

“Crohn’s has made me do something because I want to prove you can do [anything] even if you have it,” said Katelyn. “When you think of something that’s uncured you think of cancer, but no one knows about Crohn’s and Colitis.”

Katelyn will represent her peers as the 2018 “Youth Honored Hero” at the Orlando Take Steps Walk for Crohn’s & Colitis.


Katelyn’s ability to let go of fear and use her disease to benefit herself and others is a lesson for us all.

Back on the interview couch, I ask Katelyn if she has anything else to add. This is when she looks over at her mom.

Katelyn does CrossFit, an exercise she wouldn’t have considered before her Crohn’s Disease diagnosis.

“Hey mommy, I have to ask you a question. What’s the word you use for ‘in the clear’?”

“Remission,” Michelle answers.


“Yeah…I’m in remission!” says Katelyn with a big smile on her face. Alexis, right by her side, performs jazz hands in excitement.

Donate to Katelyn’s Warriors.




You may also be interested in: “Crohn’s Disease 101: Everything the World Should Know” and “Why I am Grateful for Crohn’s Disease.”


Why I Chose a Gluten-Free Life: A Crohn’s Disease Perspective

It’s one of the most common questions people ask me: Why do you eat a gluten-free diet? I am not allergic to gluten, I am not non-celiac gluten sensitive, and doctors haven’t told me to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Yet, last year I chose to give up gluten completely. I am here to explain why I made this lifestyle change and how I believe it has benefited my Crohn’s Disease symptoms and overall health.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

  • According to science, the only people who truly need to eat a gluten-free diet in order to avoid sickness and maintain better health are patients with Celiac Disease.
  • There are also people who are not allergic to gluten, but experience unpleasant symptoms when they consume it. These people have been lumped into a category called non-celiac gluten sensitive and they also benefit from a gluten-free diet.
  • The rest of us have either joined in on a very well-crafted fad diet or have found benefits to the diet in other ways. I am in the latter group.

I made the decision to go gluten-free based on a popular reason: If gluten causes inflammation in some people, I should avoid it because I want to keep any possible added inflammation out of my body. Whether this was true or not, I wanted to test it out. So I consulted with my doctor who gave me the OK and I embarked on the gluten-free journey.

It is important to note that a gluten-free diet can prevent you from getting important nutrients your body needs. I eat alternative whole grain foods and take certain daily vitamins to maintain proper nutritional health. Make sure to consult with a doctor before trying any diet.

A gluten-free diet for me meant…

No more donuts, Oreo cookies, Goldfish crackers, Fruit Roll-Ups, pizza, and Chinese food. Oh yes, you read that correctly. Only a year ago this health blogger, yoga student, and Crohn’s Disease advocate was still eating all of those foods and I felt the negative effects. I would get stomach aches, joint pain, headaches, diarrhea, urging, heightened anxiety, depression, and low energy. And, I would react to these symptoms like so many other people do: shocked and confused. I was completely oblivious to the power that food had on my body.

What happened when I went gluten-free?

I was forced to avoid most all processed foods and junk food. I switched out the donut in the morning with a banana and Think Thin protein bar. Instead of snacks like Oreo cookies, Goldfish crackers, and Fruit Roll-Ups I began eating sesame crackers, vegetable chips, hummus, guacamole, oranges, and honey. Instead of pizza and Chinese food, I began cooking Buddha Bowls and Indian food at home while experimenting with tofu, tempeh, ginger, and turmeric. I stopped drinking mocha lattes and switched to black coffee and tea instead. And, I never had a cheat day. I didn’t eat healthy all week and give myself one day to splurge. I stuck to the diet 100% knowing that I had to rid my body of gluten completely to feel any effect.

I began to notice a shift in my body and Crohn’s Disease symptoms. After just one month of going gluten-free, I stopped having post-meal nausea and stomach aches, headaches, join pain, post-meal diarrhea, and urging. I had more energy, less anxiety, less post-meal depression, and more confidence in my health. These positive feelings encouraged me to start lifting weights and begin my yoga teacher journey.

Without a doubt, eating more whole foods and less processed foods is having a positive impact on my colon health.

Now that I am one year into the lifestyle, without being too dramatic or cheesy, I feel like a new person. Of course, I still have the occasional stomach ache and abdominal pain (I have Crohn’s Disease, after all) and I still struggle with PMS-induced anxiety and depression, but eating gluten-free forces me to make good health choices. These good choices trickle into making positive choices in other aspects of my life like exercise and personal development. So, my original hypothesis that the gluten-free diet could help ease inflammation in my body isn’t as important anymore. Whether it is actually having that effect or not, I feel great and that’s what matters.

Recently, I decided to test to see if I was actually gluten-intolerant.

Doctors will tell you that a simple way to test this it to get rid of gluten completely and then see how your body reacts by bringing it back. Through my test, I found out that gluten causes me no obvious symptoms. I probably could go back to eating gluten foods and be just fine. However, I will not.

Even though I am not gluten sensitive, the gluten-free diet works for me. It holds me accountable to make healthy food choices. It gets rid of temptations like junk food and processed food. It allows me to control a huge part of my health that Crohn’s Disease has taken away for so long.

This is why I live a gluten-free life.

P.S. Just because you see gluten-free on the label, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Always look at the ingredients before you buy a prepackaged food item.

You may also be interested in “So You Want to Try Tempeh, Eh?” and Happy Belly, Happy Mind: Buddha Bowls for Crohn’s Disease.”

Preparing for a colonoscopy

How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy and What to Expect

Colonoscopies are much less intimidating if you know how to prepare and what to expect. If you’ve heard the prep is uncomfortable and the fasting is difficult, you’re correct. If you’ve heard the procedure is quick and easy, you’re also correct. Colonoscopies are bittersweet. You’re taking a powerful bowel-clearing substance which makes you go diarrhea until your system is cleared. You’re also getting the best procedure to spot polyps, colon cancer, and other abnormalities that can help diagnose a myriad of  health issues. Let’s get prepared.

Prepare For The Colonoscopy Early

Your doctor will give you colonoscopy prep instructions at least one week before your procedure date. My paperwork usually comes in the mail. As soon as you get the instructions, read through them completely. This gives you time to call your doctor with any questions. You will also want to buy the bowel prep your doctor prescribed. You can find the most common bowel prep substances at your local pharmacy. Also, plan ahead who is going to accompany you to the procedure. This person will drive you to the medical center, stay during the procedure, and drive you home.


  1. Medicated wipes. I like Equate Flushable Wipes with aloe or TUCKS medicated cooling pads. Trust me, toilet paper will get uncomfortable.
  2. Skin soothing product. I like Vaseline and Desitin. This will help with any irritation from the constant diarrhea and wiping.
  3. Clear liquid diet. Shop for your prep day menu early. You will want to make Jell-O and other foods ahead of time.
  4. Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, or Gatorade. Buy your favorite clear liquid drink to help mask the taste of the prep. Buy nothing with red, blue, or purple dye.

Colonoscopy Diet

Colonoscopies are not the most convenient procedures. It takes 48 hours of preparation for about 3 hours you’ll spend at the medical center on procedure day.

Two days (or more) before the colonoscopy: Low-fiber diet. No whole grains, seeds, nuts, raw fruits or vegetables. The more you prepare your digestive system for prep day, the better. You could start this diet several days ahead of time.

The day before the colonoscopy: Clear liquid diet. This is the hardest day because you will also be drinking the prep. Some options for the clear liquid diet include broth, black tea or coffee, clear juice, Jell-O, and Popsicles. Avoid any liquids with red, blue, orange, and purple dyes. That leaves you with green and yellow. My go-to menu includes clear chicken broth, lemon Italian ice, lime or lemon Jell-O, Apple Juice and Sprite.

Prepare for a Colonoscopy
This is my favorite Italian Ice. I buy it every time I prep for a colonoscopy.

The day of the colonoscopy : No food or drink. The good news is most likely your procedure will be first-thing in the morning.

Colonoscopy Prep Day

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  1. Clear your schedule. You’ll want to be home when you start the prep. You’ll also want privacy. If you have children, consider having someone watch them.
  2. Get cozy. You’ll be going to the bathroom a dozen or more times. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that’s easy to slip on and off. Put on your favorite TV show or movie for some distraction.
  3. Be mentally prepared. You’re going to be experiencing high-volume, high-velocity diarrhea. Once the prep starts working, the urge will hit and it’s hard to hold back. You may find yourself setting up shop in the bathroom for a few hours. Bring music, your laptop, or a good book.
  4. Get creative with consumption. The prep can taste bad, even if it comes flavored. You could add Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder to the mixture. Also, consider adding some ginger or lime; drink it chilled; hold your noes when you chug; suck on a lemon slice after you finish each glass; suck on a hard candy after each glass. Be sure to drink extra liquids before, during, and after bowel prep.
  5. Know when to stop. Once you are releasing yellow or clear liquid, you can stop the prep. I have never drank the entire prep.

Colonoscopy Procedure Day

You will be feeling weak and tired from the bowel clearing and from a not-so-great night of sleep. The worst is over, though. This is the easiest day in my opinion.

  1. Expect to spend about 3 hours at the medical center.
  2. After you’re all checked in, you’ll get an IV. Once you’re in the procedure room, the doctor will tell you to lie on your left side in the fetal position. You’ll be put to sleep and wake up as if no time has passed.
  3. Your caregiver will be come into the post-procedure room. It is important for this person to be present when the doctor tells you the results. You may not remember everything clearly because of the anesthesia.
  4. You will leave knowing your results.
  5. Expect to be gassy for the rest of the day. During the procedure, the scope blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the doctor see more clearly.

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Breath. You now know your results. Whatever news you receive, be grateful that you have answers. Now you can take proactive steps to improve your health.

You may also be interested in “Crohn’s Disease 101: Everything the World Should Know.”

When Someone Judges You Based on Your Health, Thank Them and Then Help Them.

Recently someone in my life judged me based on my health. This person didn’t mean any harm, but it still hurt. If anyone ever judges you based on a health issue, step back and realize this: Being labeled can be a blessing in disguise. In fact, the next time someone marks you “the sick person,” thank them and then help them. Here’s why.

Three Important Reminders the Next Time Someone Labels You Based On Your Health

Answers are powerful. First and foremost, if you have a health issue, this means you also have answers. You are one of the lucky ones who knows what’s going on inside your body. A doctor has given you a diagnosis, a reason why you have your symptoms. Too many people are still searching for their health answers. Some people are too scared to start the search. Be grateful that you have answers.

Living a proactive life. Because you have answers, you can take steps towards a healthier life. You have the clarity to take charge of your body. Whether it’s finding the right medicine, considering surgery, changing your diet, managing stress levels, or seeing a therapist, you have the power to make positive changes to your well-being. Be grateful that you have made your health a priority.

Your strength is addictive. Let’s face it. You’ve already dealt with enough health issues for a lifetime. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are stronger and braver than most of the people in your life. You should be incredibly grateful for this. Whether you know it or not, people in your life see your strength and are empowered by your health journey. Now, it is your time to give back. For those who don’t have answers and aren’t ready to live a proactive life, you can help them by sharing your experiences.

Remember that everyone is on their own journey. Maybe the person who judges you has unresolved health concerns, and it’s easier to judge you instead of assessing their self. The health concerns don’t even have to be physical. Maybe they are dealing with self-doubt or self-confidence issues. Whatever it is, now I see that I need to be there for them. So, when someone judges me based on my health, I am going to thank them and then help them. I’ve been on the journey of self-introspection, something that is scary for people. I have come out on the other end a more self-aware, confident, and compassionate person who knows her label. Now it’s my turn to help my loved ones find their label.

You may also be intersted in “Why I am Graetful For Crohn’s Disease” and “Fearing a Crohn’s Disease Flareup Clouds Our Reality.”


So You Want to Try Tempeh, Eh?

I have several friends who are trying to eat less meat, but they’re intimidated by other protein sources. My recent post about Buddha Bowls  offers recipes for chickpeas and tofu, both of which are protein packed foods. But, what about tempeh?

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is naturally fermented soybeans that are binded together into a patty. The Indonesian food is a complete protein. One patty can have 18 grams of protein. That’s equivalent to a chicken tigh and a half. Tempeh is also a probitoic food and has digestive enzymes.

Where Do I Find It and What Do I Do With It?

Tempeh can be found at most major grocery stores and health food stores. You will find them tightly packaged in the refrigerator or health food aisle. I buy tempeh at Trader Joe’s. Tempeh is versatile and can be used in many dishes including tacos, burgers, sandwhices, and salads. It can be marinated, breaded, baked, and fried.

tempeh for crohn's disease

Tempeh and Crohn’s Disease

Tempeh can be a good source of protein for people living with Crohn’s Disease. For me, I have trouble digesting red meat, beans, and dairy. This takes away a lot of protein sources. Tempeh has been a reliable protein food. The soybeans are easy to digest and have not caused any unpleasant symptoms. As always, diet is different for everyone. If you have questions about certain foods, ask your doctor.

My Favorite Tempeh Recipe: Balsamic Maple Glazed

1 package tempeh, **cut into 1 inch cubes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs tamari
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp arrowroot starch
Brown Rice, as much as needed

Mix together the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, garlic, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl.
Add the tempeh to the mixture and make sure it is equally coated.
Put the tempeh in the fridge and let it marinate for 2-24 hours, flipping the pattys halfway.
Preheat oven to 350.
Put tempeh and sauce in a glass dish and cook covered for 20 minutes.
Take out of the oven, stir it up, and bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove tempeh cubes from sauce.
Place remaining sauce in a pan over medium heat.
Add arrowroot startch or corn starch and stir to thicken.
Place tempeh over cooked brown rice and scoop marinade over top as a sauce.


You may also be interested in “Crohn’s Disease 101: Everything the World Should Know.”