The digestive system is important for breaking down food so nutrients can be absorbed into the body. Many people suffer from a variety of digestive problems, with symptoms ranging from abdominal discomfort and pain to bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. These symptoms may be mild to severe. Conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and diverticulitis are the cause of many of these symptoms.
Nutrition can often make a significant difference in managing and improving digestion. Here are the top foods that can be helpful, and then others that can make symptoms worse.
Best foods for digestion
Fermented foods – yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso, and pickled cucumbers.
These foods contain probiotics, which help to balance healthy bacteria in the gut and protect against harmful bacteria. Adding fermented foods to your diet can provide many health benefits and help to decrease gas and bloating (1).
Whole grains – whole wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, and popcorn.
Whole grains contain prebiotics, which are the food for the healthy bacteria. High in nutrients and fiber, whole grains help to bulk the stool, which then helps to prevent constipation (2).
Fruits – apples, pears, bananas, raspberries, and papayas.
Fruits are high in fiber and are packed with vitamins and minerals that aid in digestion. Eating a wide variety of fruits will encourage regular bowel habits and ease digestive symptoms.
Tea – peppermint, ginger, dandelion, fennel, and chamomile.
Drinking hot tea after a meal may relieve many digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, nausea, stomach cramps, and heartburn. Tea also helps to breakdown dietary fats, while relaxing abdominal muscles.
Worst foods for digestion
Fried food is low in fiber and can cause diarrhea.
Processed food is stripped of nutrients, high in sugar, low in fiber, and contains preservatives. These factors can lead to constipation and other digestive problems.
Artificial sweeteners can contribute to abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Alcohol can be irritating to the digestive tract and slow it down, effecting acid production and may cause abdominal discomfort.
Supplements that help improve digestion
Taking a Digestive Enzyme supplement assists the body to breakdown food so nutrients can be more easily absorbed.
Probiotic supplements are live bacteria that are beneficial for the digestive and immune system, helping to replenish healthy bacteria in the gut.
As a dietary fiber, Apple Pectin helps to maintain intestinal health and balance glucose levels.
Ginger can be beneficial for healthy digestion and occasional upset stomach, helping to eliminate gas and reduce nausea.
Peppermint can help to calm symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, such as painful bloating and intestinal cramping.
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- Eales J, Gibson P, Whorwell P, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis: the effects of fermented milk with CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria on gastrointestinal discomfort in the general adult population. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2017;10(1):74-88.
- Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-3