If you're struggling to find foods you can easily digest, you're not alone. Digestive health is one of the most popular food-related topics among consumers, according to New Nutrition Business. Indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances and gastritis and other gut-related conditions are rampant in Americans' bellies. While eating may not sound particularly pleasing when your abdomen is swollen, cramped or nauseated, food can help manage your symptoms. For severe or long-lasting symptoms, seek medical guidance.
It is harder for the body to digest fatty, red meats, says Jessica Anderson, a registered dietitian with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center. Foods such as beef, lamb and dark-meat poultry can increase inflammation and interfere with digestion. The body tolerates fish much better. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, halibut and albacore tuna, provide valuable nutrients, including protein and healthy, unsaturated fats. The omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation, which can help ease symptoms of gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. For best results, prepare fish using low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, broiling and poaching.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables, such as apples, celery, cranberries and garlic, contain natural substances called flavonoids. Flavonoids may slow the growth of H. pylori, says the University of Maryland Medical Center, a common bacteria that underlies gastritis and most ulcers. Antioxidant-rich varieties, such as berries, tomatoes, winter squash and bell pepper, enhance your body's ability to resist and heal from digestive conditions. If raw fruits and vegetables trigger discomfort, which can happen during a colitis or diarrhea flareup, cooked and canned fruits and vegetables may be better tolerated. Bananas can help restore normal bowel function, particularly if you have diarrhea.
Whole grains are valuable providers of antioxidants, such as selenium, and fiber. Most people fall short of the daily recommended 20 to 30 grams of fiber, says Anderson, which can cause poor digestion and digestive conditions, such as constipation and diverticulitis. Unless you're experiencing diarrhea, fiber-rich foods can also help minimize symptoms of IBS. One cup of cooked whole wheat pasta or barley provides about 6 grams of fiber. Oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice and popcorn are also fiber-rich. If you don't tolerate gluten, avoid wheat, barley and rye. To minimize gas and bloating, choose rice, the one starch that does not trigger gas production during digestion.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir, a yogurt-like drink, contain probiotics, or healthy bacteria that help restore and maintain the balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract. They may also help manage H. pylori infections, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Probiotics are also used to reduce the effects of indigestion, IBS and food intolerances. To ensure that your yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, look for mention of live active cultures, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, on product packaging. Plain yogurt is a useful option if you're healing from gastritis or diarrhea, as it isn't likely to exacerbate your symptoms.
- New Nutrition Business; 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health
- Fox News: The Best and Worst Foods for Digestion
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gastritis
- MayoClinic.com: Ulcerative Colitis: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Mayo Clinic: High-Fiber Foods
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gas in the Digestive Tract
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com