Best and Worst Foods for Digestion

As the world evolves, changes in food processing and a greater number of people living sedentary lifestyles has led to a rise of digestion problems, especially in North America. While it’s best to avoid certain foods like fatty meat to avoid stomach discomfort, nature provides us with many easily digestible foods as well. Here we are going to explore what we consider to be the best and worst foods for digestion.

Worst Foods:

Fried Foods

Fatty meats, such as fried foods can take a long while to digest. High-fat foods commonly result in acid reflux or heartburn. Jessica Anderson, a diabetes educator from the Texas A&M Health Education Center says “The body can only handle so much at one time”

Chili Peppers

Spicy foods such as chili peppers may cause irritation or heartburn due to the capsaicin content.
According to Tim McCashland, a gastroenterologist from the University of Nebraska, people with heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome should avoid chili peppers in particular.

Dairy

Dairy has become quite popular in recent times and is often recommended as a source of calcium. However, for individuals with a lactose intolerance, these may cause diarrhea, gas, or bloating.

Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in lactase, a digestive enzyme humans produce naturally.
Certain diseases such as Celiac’s, Crohn’s, or chemotherapy can damage your digestive system and lead to similar issues digesting dairy.

Alcohol

Although many people find alcohol relaxing, it can also cause muscles in your esophagus to relax, which can lead to acid-reflux and heartburn.

In addition, alcohol can inflame the stomach lining and cause inadequate digestion by blocking the production of necessary enzymes.

It’s recommended to have no more then one or two drinks a day.

Berries

Berries are generally outstanding for your health but some contain tiny seeds that may irritate the digestive tracks of people with diverticulitis. Tiny excess pockets form in the large intestine and may become inflamed if small, hard to digest material, such as seeds, become trapped.

If you find that seeds, including larger ones, irritate your intestines then it’s probably best to avoid them.

Chocolate

Chocolate is choc-full (no pun intended) of milk and caffeine, which may stimulate cramps, bloating, or diarrhea in certain individuals, especially those with a lactose intolerance.

Coffee and Soft Drinks

Caffeinated beverages may act as a diuretic and lead to diarrhea or cramping.

For people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) this can be a real problem.
People with GERD should also avoid mint tea.

Corn

Corn is quite high in fiber, and fairly nutritious, but it also contains cellulose. Humans typically lack the enzyme to digest cellulose and therefor usually have problems digesting corn, which is why it often passes through whole.

Experts say that chewing it into very small pieces may make it much more digestible and less likely to cause issues.

Best Foods:

Yogurt

Your gut contains billions of bacteria that help you digest food. Yogurt is typically made from bacteria and in some yogurts, such as Greek yogurt, the bacteria remains alive through it’s stored state. Many of these bacteria can aid in digestion and replenish the natural flora within our digestive tract.

Kimchi

Kimchi is a popular food from Korea. It’s basically spicy cabbage, with onions, radish, or other vegetables. High in soluble fiber, cabbage is quite beneficial in the maintenance of regular bowel movements. In addition, many forms of Kimchi undergo a form of fermentation and contain digestive bacteria, similar, but different to Yogurt.

However, if you find spicy foods or hot peppers irritate your stomach, then you may want to avoid Kimchi. Sauerkraut may be a good alternative in that case.

Lean Meats

If you’re a meat eater, and you find high-fat meats cause you irritation, then you may find fish or chicken a good alternative. Lean meats such as fish or chicken are much easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive problems.

In addition, these meats have not been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, unlike red meat.

Whole Grains

Whole grain foods such as wheat, oats, or rice, are a great source of fiber. Diets rich in fiber may lower cholesterol, aid in regular bowel movements, or cause a lower caloric intake.

Experts say that we need 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, and the average american gets maybe 12.

When increasing fiber intake, it’s best to take it slow or you may experience bloating.

Bananas

Bananas are high in potassium and electrolytes and  may help restore normal bowel function in individuals.

Whether you drink to much alcohol, or just suffer from general diarrhea, a runny stool can lower your potassium and electrolytes, causing the symptoms to become worse. In addition, they are high in fiber and may help with bulking.

Ginger

Ginger root (zingiber officinale) has been used for thousands of years as an herbal medicine. This medicinal root can help relieve nausea, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, and menstrual cramps. As a strong natural anti-inflammatory, ginger is a spice many people may benefit from.

It’s best to consume this herb in moderation because to much can cause heartburn.

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