It’s really frustrating to feel bloated, have acid burps, suffer a heartburn or a gurgling stomach. Improper digestion becomes a reason for embarrassment in public places, and a consistent gut problem can also put your health at risk. On the other hand, a healthy digestive system boosts immunity, makes you proactive, improves skin health, uplifts mood, enhances nutrient absorption, etc. So no more dealing with your digestion problem, kick it away by consuming foods that will help you to digest food. Also, avoid foods that can potentially aggravate digestive issues. Here’s what you need to know.
15 Foods That Aid Digestion
Yogurt is incredibly good for your digestion as it provides the gut with good bacteria that help in digesting food. Several studies have shown that yogurt consumption can inhibit diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, improves bowel movement, and reduces the risk of colon cancer (1). You can have a small bowl of yogurt after lunch or dinner to help digest the food.
Papayas are rich in the proteolytic enzymes, chymopapain, and papain that have antimicrobial properties and aid digestion by breaking down food. Moreover, papayas are also a rich source of vitamins A, B. and C, which helps to flush out toxins (2). Austrian scientists carried out an experiment on individuals with digestion problems. One group was given papaya extract and the other was on placebo. The group that got the papaya extract, showed a considerable reduction in bloating, constipation, and heartburn (3). Have papaya after 1 hour of having lunch. You can also have papaya smoothie in the morning or add papaya to your fruit bowl.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber act by forming a gel-like substance in the large intestine thereby trapping the foods and increasing satiety while slowing glucose absorption. It also helps to promote bowel movement by adding bulk to the stool. Fiber also provides nutrition to the gut good bacteria. According to the American Dietary Guideline (2005), you should consume at least 3 ounce whole grains per day (4). Consume wheat, broken wheat, sorghum, brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc. to get the recommended amount of fiber.
Bananas are rich in fiber (a medium banana contains about 3 gm fiber) and pectin, which helps to improve bowel movement and aid carbohydrate digestion (5). Bananas are also low GI food that are easy to chew and tastes great too. Add one banana every day either in your breakfast cereal, smoothie, or pancakes. You can also have a banana with frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Fishes are an excellent source of omega-3-fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the stomach or colon wall. This, in turn, can contribute to improving your digestion and bowel movement. In fact, scientists have found evidence that consuming fatty fish that contains a good amount of omega-3-fatty acid can help reduce the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It acts by decreasing oxidative stress and proinflammatory biomolecules (6). Consume wild-caught salmon, herring, cod, tuna, and carp to get the adequate amount of omega-3-fatty acid.
Ginger root is commonly used in foods, but it also has many health benefits. For thousands of years, ginger has been used as a herbal medicine to treat cold, cough, inflammation, nausea, and improper digestion. It is believed that ginger has a positive effect on enzymes that help break down fats and proteins (7). A group of scientists from Taiwan confirmed that ginger speeds up gastric emptying and boosts antral contractions (8). You can have a small piece of ginger with a little salt and chew it in the morning or add ginger to your fruit juice or cooked food.
Cumin is extensively used in many cuisines as a flavoring agent. But cumin also possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anticancer, and antiepileptic properties. Cumin acts as an appetite stimulant and helps relieve dysentery and diarrhea. Thymol, a phytochemical present in cumin stimulates the secretion of enzymes, acids, and bile to promote proper digestion. The essential oils, sodium, and magnesium present in cumin help relieve stomach ache (9).
Fennel is a carminative (a formulation that helps reduce gas) herb and helps prevent bloating, indigestion, flatulence, stomach ache, etc. Fenchone, a bioactive compound found in fennel seeds relaxes the lining of the digestive tract, which in turn, helps cleanse the colon. Fennel seeds are also responsible for stimulating the secretion of digestive juices and improve nutrient absorption (10). Toss in sliced fennel in your favorite salad, sandwich or stew. You can add fennel seeds to enhance the flavor of grilled chicken or fish, salads, and even in desserts.
This plum red sweet vegetable has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help prevent inflammatory disorders of the digestive system and also flush out toxins. Beetroots also stimulate the production of bile, which promotes digestion (11) (12). Toss beetroots into your salad, stew or bake beetroot chips.
10. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber that aid proper bowel movement and nutrient absorption. They also stimulate the synthesis of cells in the gut that promote the activities of digestive enzymes in the colon (12). You can have mashed, baked or grilled sweet potato with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also substitute potatoes with sweet potato in curries.
Apples are packed with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They also have an antioxidant property that helps reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the digestive organs. The pectin present in apples is also believed to promote the growth of good gut bacteria, which also helps improve digestion (13) (14) (15). Have apples as a snack, with breakfast cereal, in smoothies, as juice, etc. However, if you are suffering from IBS or IBD, ulcer, etc. peel the apple before eating.
Cucumbers are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Due to the high fiber and water content, cucumbers help prevent constipation by softening the stool and aiding smooth bowel movements. Antioxidants also help prevent toxic buildup that can lead to indigestion and stomach infections (16). Have cucumbers for snack or add them to your smoothies, juices, or salads.
Avocado is the best food to consume if you are suffering from stomach inflammation. It helps to soothe the inflamed stomach and duodenum wall. Avocado also helps to change the microorganisms present in the gut and thereby helps treat colitis, autointoxication, and biliousness (17). Include avocado in your breakfast, in smoothies, and in salads to help heal your gut and improve digestion.
Kimchi is a Korean fermented food, made of spiced cabbage or carrots. It is a great source of dietary fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and C. Since it is fermented, like yogurt, it also rich in good gut bacteria. Good gut bacteria help in digestion by secreting enzymes that aid digestion (18). Have kimchi as a condiment with your grilled or baked chicken/fish, or add kimchi to your food to spice it up and bolster your gut health.
Prunes are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. It acts as a laxative, which stimulates the peristaltic movement of the digestive tract and colon. Prunes also help reduce inflammation and boosts immunity (19). Have prune juice in the morning before breakfast or after lunch.
So, these were the 15 foods to alleviate your digestive issues. But you should also know the foods that you need to avoid in order to have a better digestion. Here’s a list of those foods, take a look.
10 Foods To Avoid To Prevent Digestion Problems
1. Oily/Fatty & Spicy food
Completely avoid oily and spicy food when you are batting problems of the gut. Oily or fatty foods can either slow down the stomach emptying, leading to constipation and bloating or hasten the stomach emptying leading to diarrhea. Deep fried foods can lead to acidity and bloat. Spicy foods can irritate your digestive organs leading to stomach ache and discomfort while passing stool.
2. Processed food
Processed foods are a big no-no for you if you have digestive issues. Processed foods lack fiber and contain artificial sugar, artificial color, and too much of salt and preservatives. All these ingredients can cause inflammation and aggravate your digestion problems. Plus, without fiber, your digestive tract has to work extra hard to move the food through the tract.
Though legumes are rich in fiber, it is better not to consume legumes for a few days if you are having trouble with your digestion. Legumes tend to cause bloating, acidity, and can potentially irritate the digestive tract. Stay away from kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, black beans, lentils, soybeans, and edamame.
Yogurt is undoubtedly the most natural prebiotic food in its purest form. Unfortunately, we hear of cows being injected with antibiotics, hormones and fed GM corn. Moreover, pasteurization and processing remove all the healthy fats and beneficial vitamins in the milk. Plus, if you are lactose intolerant you should avoid dairy altogether. You can have organic dairy products, but I suggest you stay away from milk, cheese, butter, ghee, etc. for a while when you are battling digestive issues.
Stay away from the irresistible parties and free alcohol for a while get your digestion back to normal. Alcohol causes dehydration that can lead to constipation and bloat. It is also toxic to the stomach and digestive tract and can change liver metabolism. Also, when your gut problems seem to have improved do not jump right into drinking too much alcohol. Stick to moderation.
Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks, baked foods, and even ice cream. Caffeine stimulates the bowel movement, speeding up the stomach emptying. This can lead to diarrhea and stomach ache. So stay away from caffeine-containing foods till you get better.
Consuming too much sugar or sugary foods can aggravate your digestive problems. That’s because sugar encourages the growth of bad bacteria in your gut. The bad bacteria can cause inflammation and weaken your immunity. So, avoid consuming sugar in beverages or packaged fruit and vegetable juices, doughnuts, pastries, cakes, etc. if you are fighting indigestion.
8. Aerated Drinks
The gas bubbles in aerated or fizzy drinks can cause bloating and also irritate the stomach and digestive tract lining. Plus, these drinks contain a humongous amount of sugar that can also worsen your digestion problems. So, avoid consuming soda or any fizzy drinks for a while till your digestive organs heal and start functioning normally.
Berries are nutritious but avoid them if you are suffering from diverticulitis, ulcer, or IBS and IBD. The fiber and the small seeds (such as in strawberries) can scrape the lining of the stomach and colon thereby causing inflammation, irritation, and bleeding. Therefore, avoid consuming berries or foods that may contain berries like cakes, pastries, jams, etc. for a while.
10. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are not an ideal option if you have an upset stomach or have any other digestion problems. Roughage in nuts can aggravate your digestion problems by irritating the walls of the stomach. So stay away from the otherwise healthy nuts till you get better. You could eventually reintroduce nuts into your diet.
So, these were the 10 foods that you should avoid if you have a problem digesting food. Now that you have got a list for reference, I am sure you will recover sooner than you think. If you have any question, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section below. Take care!
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