Whether you are a health nut or have more “cheat days” than not, we all have faced issues with digestion at some point in time. Proper digestion not only involves enzymes that already exist in the body, but those found in whole foods as well. Even if you eat pretty clean, it is useful to know which foods can assist and impede your digestion. This way, you can make sure to incorporate and combine the right foods to give you the best chances of digesting your food easily.
What Happens during Digestion?
Digestion is the process that helps us break down the food that we eat, so that we may use this fuel for energy. This system requires enzymes to collapse full proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Your body would not be able to utilize the many nutrients contained in whole foods if it were not for these critical enzymes. Each particular enzyme has a function of breaking down its respective food group. Amylase is used to break down carbohydrates while lipase, as you can guess, breaks down fats. Meanwhile, protease does the same for proteins and cellulose for fiber. What is even more fascinating is the fact that each whole food has the correct amount of specific enzyme to digest the compounds within that particular food.
What Causes Indigestion?
Aside from consuming trigger foods that your body does not agree with, there are a number of other factors that can lead you to bad digestion. Some of them include:
- Alcohol and Tobacco
- Inadequate sleep
- GERD or other medical issues (e.g., ulcers)
- Irregular meals times or too much time between meals.
Tips for easier digestion
Some people have targeted food issues that interrupt their digestion. For example, one person may be sensitive to acidic foods, while another has issues breaking down dairy. If you do have these specific triggers, just try to avoid these items and make sure to read ingredient labels carefully. Even if you do not have these triggers, there are certain foods that tend to give many people digestive problems. Generally speaking, you should attempt to increase your fiber intake, drink more fluids (WATER!), and eliminate high fat and spicy foods. Here is a list of some other foods that you also may want to incorporate into your diet for a lighter digestion:
- Well-Cooked Vegetables: Raw veggies tend to cause bloating, therefore, preparing them in a non-fat, thoroughly cooked method, is best. Some of these can include asparagus tips, carrots, green beans, lettuce and mushrooms.
- Non-citrus fruits and juices: Because of their acidity, citrus fruits may cause heartburn. In addition, some juices contain sorbitol, which is a sugar that can cause diarrhea. See some of the safer fruits for digestion below.
- Low-Fat protein: Proteins are pretty easy to digest in their natural state when they are not fatty cuts or prepared fried. Some examples include fish, lean turkey or ham, imitation crabmeat, or even low fat hot dogs.
- Low-Fiber Carbohydrates: Although fiber can help with digestion, the way it does so is by actually making the primary digestion difficult. Fiber does not break down easily, which is good for your digestive system in general, because it cleans much of the build-up out. If you are dealing with a stomachache or current digestive issue, then you want to find a low-fiber option to make the process easier. Carbs are usually easy to digest, as long as they do not contain too much fiber. Here is the time when you can indulge in the otherwise forbidden white carbs.
- Tofu: Filled with protein and vitamins, it is an easily digestible item.
- Yogurt: As long as dairy is not one of your triggers, this is another sensitive option.
- Sea Vegetables: As mentioned in a previous article, there are numerous benefits to this veggie category.
- Flaxseed oil: Helps to lubricate parts of the digestive system, making it easier to do #2.
- Garlic: This kitchen staple is actually used in Chinese culture to treat indigestion along with many other ailments.
- Basil: This is another staple in many different cuisines, which treats digestive illness among numerous others.
- Turmeric: This seasoning helps to balance parts of the digestive tract.
- Bananas: This starchy fruit contains “good bacteria” which are beneficial for the digestive process.
- Papaya: This exotic fruit has anti-bloating properties that eliminate this unpleasant feeling almost immediately.
- Rice: The starch is great for stopping diarrhea and even drinking the water that it was cooked in can help.
- Dandelion greens: If you do not commonly eat these, you should integrate them as they serve as a blood purifier as well as a digestive aid.
Aside from adding these foods into your diet, there are also a few supplements that you can try to aid in digestion. One is HCL or Hydrochloric Acid. Because it is an acid, people with an overly acidic system may not want to try this digestive enzyme. Likewise, people who have regular digestion should not take this during normal periods digestive health. Another one is the MegaFoods brand, MegaZymes from Live Superfoods. This product offers a broad spectrum of digestive enzymes to ease any problems that may exist. Try also Gastronic Dr from Native Remedies. It is a homeopathic natural remedy with herbs, digestive tract health and promote healthy levels of stomach acid.
Hopefully, you do not deal with digestive issues often, but when you do, heed some of this advice for both the short-term and long-term to prevent further bouts down the line.