Living with poor digestion is no fun. I know, I lived it for a long time. Throughout the years of battling my sensitive and stubborn digestive system, I’ve learned what helps and what doesn’t. In a nutshell, I’ve found that processed foods and sugary foods do not help, and that eating fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other whole foods, does help a lot.
For anyone struggling with a vindictive digestive system, here are 14 foods that make your digestive system happier. Get more of these in your meals and your tummy shall thank you.
Ginger has been used for centuries for various tummy troubles. It is notorious for helping to ease nausea, and for preventing and soothing motion sickness. As ginger is anti-inflammatory, it may also help to soothe inflammatory digestive ailments. Your best bet is fresh organic ginger. Just peel, slice and steep in boiling water to make a tea. Or, you can chew on the peeled slices.
Hot peppers, including cayenne, serrano, jalapeno and habanero, contain a compound known as capsaicin. Capsaicin is great for helping your digestive system break down food more efficiently. It also aids in metabolism. On top of that, capsaicin may help to reduce the pain of peptic ulcers. Add any type of hot peppers to your meals… just don’t go spicier than you can handle!
Peppermint leaves, like ginger, have been used for centuries to help ease digestive discomforts. Peppermint is great for soothing constipation, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. It may help many other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in general. The carotenoid antioxidants found in peppermint leaves may also help to protect against the development of colorectal cancer. You can steep fresh or dried peppermint leaves to make a soothing, tummy-loving tea.
Coconut oil is a nutrient-filled, natural fat that may help to lower inflammation and aid your body in better absorbing nutrients. It may help to soothe IBS symptoms, and may be less “hard on the system” for those who simply have sensitive stomachs. When used in moderation, coconut oil may help to improve your digestive health in the long term. Try replacing your processed cooking oils with it — you may be surprised at how much better you feel.
Yogurt is a great probiotic food. Eating it on a regular basis provides healthy support for your beneficial gut bacteria. This aids in both digestion and immunity. Just make sure you get real yogurt, with live active cultures. The sugary, overprocessed kinds aren’t going to give you the probiotic effects you’re after.
Kefir is similar to yogurt, as it is also a probiotic made from fermented milk. The beneficial bacteria in kefir strains may help to balance and even rebuild your microbiome. It does have a stronger, more sour taste than yogurt. If you don’t like the taste, you could add a cup or so to a smoothie with other flavorful ingredients. You’ll get the benefits and you’ll hardly know it’s there.
Sauerkraut is also a probiotic, but one that has nothing to do with milk. It is made from fermented cabbage. It is a great way to get fiber and nutrient-filled cabbage along with probiotic benefits. You can make your own sauerkraut with just two ingredients: a head of fresh, organic cabbage and some sea salt.
Kimchi is a Korean dish that is also made with fermented cabbage, but contains much more. The main ingredients are Napa cabbage, ginger, garlic, scallions and chile pepper. Other ingredients often include daikon radish and carrot. Try making your own — it’s easier than you may think.
Bananas are a great fruit for digestion for a few reasons. They contain fiber, which is crucial for staying “regular,” and for digestive health in general. They also contain pectins, a type of fiber that may help the body to better synthesize foods. Bananas are also low on the glycemic index, so they do not lead to blood sugar spikes nearly as much as some other fruits.
The time-tested, traditional folk remedy of eating dried plums, also known as prunes, to relieve constipation has been around for so long because it works. Dried plums are high in fiber, magnesium and a number of other nutrients, and eating them on a regular basis may help prevent colon cancer along with getting things moving in your digestive tract. One way to get more of them is to chop them up and sprinkle them on salads.
Eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning (or as a healthy lunch) is a great idea for a number of reasons. Oats are rich in fiber, so oatmeal not only keeps you feeling full for longer, it may also help to stabilize your blood sugar. Consuming fiber-rich foods on a regular basis can help keep you more “regular,” and may also help to prevent digestive-related illnesses from cropping up.
These little gelatinous seeds are rich in fiber and are easy to digest because of their mucilaginous nature. Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, minerals and antioxidants, so they can help keep you nourished and combat inflammation. Just make sure you soak them before you use them — they’re great for throwing in smoothies.
Beans are a great source of fiber, and they also contain protein, healthy carbohydrates and many other nutrients. Eating them can help you to feel satiated, and a diet rich in beans may translate to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. As beans may lead to gas in some people, follow these tips to get the least flatulence per fork-full.
What’s your favorite digestion-friendly food?
— Tanya Mead