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Foods To Eat And Avoid To Improve Digestion

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Indigestion is fairly common, especially when you have excess fried and cheesy foods or eat a heavy meal. Indigestion is a condition which nearly affects 1 in 4 people in the United States every year. And almost 3 out of 4 are diagnosed with functional dyspepsia (bad digestion). The prevalence of functional dyspepsia in India is 30.4% [1] .

Digestive problems can occur when the food isn't digested properly or due to underlying problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers or gallbladder disease.

This causes symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, feeling full after a meal, burning pain in the stomach and chest. These symptoms can be relieved when you eat foods which support digestion.

Foods To Eat To Improve Digestion

1. Apples

Eating apples can help bring relief from indigestion as they contain a rich source of soluble fibre called pectin. Pectin fights digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and as it reaches the small intestine, it is broken down by the friendly bacteria. This decreases the risk of inflammation and intestinal infections [2] .

2. Chia seeds

Chia seeds contain a good amount of calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and other essential nutrients. But chia seeds are also a good source of fibre which works like a prebiotic and feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut, thereby helping in digestion [3] .

3. Probiotic foods

Probiotic foods help lower the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, decrease bloating and ease other digestive issues [4] .

Yogurt - It contains the bacteria Lactobacillus that are beneficial for your digestive tract and helps to improve digestion. Eating a bowl of yogurt after every meal can speed up digestion and keep bloating, diarrhoea and constipation at bay [5] .

Kefir - It is a cultured dairy food made by adding kefir grains to milk. Studies have shown that this probiotic food increases the healthy gut bacteria and speeds up the digestion process [6] .

Kombucha - It is a fermented tea made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to green tea or black tea. Lots of probiotic bacteria are produced during the fermentation process which when eaten can improve your digestive health [7] .

Tempeh - It is made from fermented soybeans. During the fermentation process, phytic acid in soybeans is broken down which further helps in the absorption of nutrients and aids in digestion [8] .

Miso - Miso is another probiotic food that aids in digestion. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. Miso helps to promote digestion by increasing the healthy bacteria in the gut [9] .

Kimchi - It is made by fermenting cabbage. It contains fibre that helps in easing digestion and increasing the growth of good bacteria in the gut [10] .

Sauerkraut - It is shredded cabbage fermented with lactic acid. Research studies have shown that sauerkraut contains up to 28 bacterial strains that are good for digestive health [11] .

4. Beetroot

Beetroot is an excellent source of fibre. Fibre adds bulk to your stool and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. This improves your digestion and prevents constipation as well. You can consume beetroot in the form of a smoothie, curry or salad.

5. Whole grains

Whole grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, barley, etc., contain bran, germ and endosperm which make whole grains nutritious. These fibrous grains aid digestion in two ways - one, it bulks your stool and reduces the chances of constipation and two, they work as prebiotics and feed the good bacteria in the gut [12] .

6. Papaya

Papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain which helps in the food digestion process by breaking down protein fibres. Papain lowers the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome like bloating, gas and constipation [13] . Consume a bowl of papaya after every meal.

7. Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which are known to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances and other digestive disorders cause inflammation in the gut. So eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon will help reduce inflammation and improve digestion [14] .

8. Dark green leafy vegetables

Dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other leafy veggies are a good source of insoluble fibre. Consumption of these leafy veggies helps to feed the good gut bacteria and aid in digestion [15] .

9. Bone broth

Bone broth is the stock made by boiling bones and connective tissues of animals. Bone broth contains gelatin and the amino acids glutamine and glycine [16] . These amino acids keep your digestive tract healthy by improving leaky gut syndrome, a digestive condition and other inflammatory bowel diseases.

10. Fruits

Fruits like avocado, bananas, berries and citrus fruits contain less fructose. These are high in fibre making them easier to digest and less likely to cause gas. Eating these fruits will not only help in digestion, but will also promote regular bowel movements.

Foods To Avoid To Improve Digestion

1. Coffee with milk

Drinking coffee or tea with milk can cause digestion problems. Milk contains lactose and if lactose isn't digested properly, it causes gas and bloating in the stomach. Always opt for black tea or black coffee [17] .

2. Fatty foods

Fatty foods like red meat, cheese, margarine, etc., trigger contractions in the digestive tract which slow down the emptying of the stomach or cause diarrhoea. Fatty foods take time to digest putting a lot of pressure on your stomach during digestion. This causes gas and bloating.

3. Fried and processed foods

Fried and processed foods lack fibre and consuming them lead to indigestion and constipation. This makes your stomach feel bloated and full. Also, processed foods contain artificial colours and additives which can hinder the digestion process. Avoid eating chicken wings, processed meats, soda, potato chips, etc.

4. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners contain sorbitol which is linked to many digestive problems. Sorbitol is a hard-to-digest sugar which when reaches the large intestine causes gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Sorbitol is used to sweeten diet foods and chewing gum.

Tips To Improve Digestion

  • If you tend to suffer from bloating and gas, avoid lactose, fructose and sugar alcohols.
  • If you are feeling full or having heartburn after every meal, try eating 4-5 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
View Article References
  1. [1] Ghoshal, U. C., & Singh, R. (2012). Functional dyspepsia: the Indian scenario.
  2. [2] Koutsos, A., Lima, M., Conterno, L., Gasperotti, M., Bianchi, M., Fava, F., Vrhovsek, U., Lovegrove, J. A., … Tuohy, K. M. (2017). Effects of Commercial Apple Varieties on Human Gut Microbiota Composition and Metabolic Output Using an In Vitro Colonic Model.Nutrients,9(6), 533.
  3. [3] Slavin J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.Nutrients,5(4), 1417-35.
  4. [4] Hoveyda, N., Heneghan, C., Mahtani, K. R., Perera, R., Roberts, N., & Glasziou, P. (2009). A systematic review and meta-analysis: probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.BMC gastroenterology,9, 15.
  5. [5] Guarner, F., Perdigon, G., Corthier, G., Salminen, S., Koletzko, B., & Morelli, L. (2005). Should yoghurt cultures be considered probiotic?.British Journal of Nutrition,93(6), 783-786.
  6. [6] de Oliveira Leite, A. M., Miguel, M. A., Peixoto, R. S., Rosado, A. S., Silva, J. T., & Paschoalin, V. M. (2013). Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage.Brazilian journal of microbiology : [publication of the Brazilian Society for Microbiology],44(2), 341-349.
  7. [7] Marsh, A. J., O'Sullivan, O., Hill, C., Ross, R. P., & Cotter, P. D. (2014). Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples.Food microbiology,38, 171-178.
  8. [8] Hoveyda, N., Heneghan, C., Mahtani, K. R., Perera, R., Roberts, N., & Glasziou, P. (2009). A systematic review and meta-analysis: probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.BMC gastroenterology,9, 15.
  9. [9] Lawrence, K., & Hyde, J. (2017). Microbiome restoration diet improves digestion, cognition and physical and emotional wellbeing.PloS one,12(6), e0179017.
  10. [10] Kim, M. S., Yang, H. J., Kim, S. H., Lee, H. W., & Lee, M. S. (2018). Effects of Kimchi on human health: A protocol of systematic review of controlled clinical trials.Medicine,97(13), e0163.
  11. [11] Raak, C., Ostermann, T., Boehm, K., & Molsberger, F. (2014). Regular consumption of sauerkraut and its effect on human health: a bibliometric analysis.Global advances in health and medicine,3(6), 12-18.
  12. [12] Fardet, A. (2010). New hypotheses for the health-protective mechanisms of whole-grain cereals: what is beyond fibre?.Nutrition research reviews,23(1), 65-134.
  13. [13] Muss, C., Mosgoeller, W., & Endler, T. (2013). Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders.Neuroendocrinology Letters,34(1).
  14. [14] Calder, P. C. (2006). n− 3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases.The American journal of clinical nutrition,83(6), 1505S-1519S.
  15. [15] Holscher H. D. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota.Gut microbes,8(2), 172-184.
  16. [16] Samonina, G., Lyapina, L., Kopylova, G., Pastorova, V., Bakaeva, Z., Jeliaznik, N., ... & Ashmarin, I. (2000). Protection of gastric mucosal integrity by gelatin and simple proline-containing peptides.Pathophysiology,7(1), 69-73.
  17. [17] Kim, J., Oh, S. W., Myung, S. K., Kwon, H., Lee, C., Yun, J. M., & Lee, H. K. (2014). Association between coffee intake and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a meta-analysis.Diseases of the Esophagus,27(4), 311-317.

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