Good digestion is important for our overall health and wellbeing. To help improve digestion we need to eat the right foods.
The three main functions of the digestive system are to:
- Break down food
- Absorb Nutrients
- Eliminate Waste
A healthy diet and regular exercise are important to help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Common foods, that may help to improve digestion, contain more fibre, so introduce them into your diet gradually to avoid constipation, bloating and abdominal pain.
1) Wholewheat Unrefined Carbs
Wholewheat pasta and bread are unrefined, and this means that they contain fibre from the bran layer and vitamins and minerals from the germ.
Although fibre is great for helping to eliminate waste, high fibre food should not be consumed in large quantities if you have a sensitive stomach, as it could make matters worse. It’s always best to check with a doctor if you have any problems, before starting a new healthy eating regime.
Unrefined carbs stay in the stomach longer and food will digest slower and act like a broom through your stomach, getting rid of any bad stuff.
When buying wholewheat bread always read the label. It must say “100% wholewheat flour or wholemeal flour” to be truly wholewheat bread.
2) Brown Rice
When brown rice is milled it only has the husk removed. The bran layer remains. This means the rice contains more vitamins, minerals and fibre than white rice. It takes longer to cook than white rice, but that’s a small price to pay for the extra nutrition you get from it.
Although oats are great for digestion, as they contain fibre, they need to be prepared properly to improve digestion. They contain phytic acid, which may prevent some vitamins and minerals being absorbed. This needs to be broken down by Phytase. Phytase is any type of phosphatase enzyme. Soaking the oats stimulates Phytase. Cooked oats, in the form of porridge, have less nutrients than the soaked oats but, they will pass through your digestive system faster than soaked.
Their fibre content is great for helping improve digestion.
Beans may make some people more windy than normal. Some are worse than others (beans, not people)
Beans contain carbohydrates called oligosaccharides (not easy to say after a few beers!) Enzymes in your stomach have trouble breaking these down and, instead, they are broken down by bacterial fermentation in the intestines, which may lead to embarrassing trumpeting from somewhere you don’t wish to trumpet from!
A method which may remove these carbohydrates before eating them is to cook the beans in an alkaline solution. This could be done by mixing a pinch of baking soda into a cup of water and mixing thoroughly before adding it to the cooking liquid. I have not tried this method, as I don’t suffer with post bean trumpeting (lucky, I know, as are others around me) so feel free to let me know if it works.
Beans need to be cooked properly. Tinned ones are fine and are handy store cupboard staples that last for ages. Try to get the ones in water and give them a rinse in a sieve before using.
The best fruit to help improve digestion are:
They all have good levels of fibre, but some have extra superpowers.
Pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain, papaya has an enzyme called papain and kiwi has an enzyme called actinidin. These enzymes all help to break down protein, which may be hard to digest.
Banana has potassium, which is good for muscle function, so this helps food to move smoothly through the digestive tract.
The best are:
- Sweet potatoes
Carrots and sweet potatoes contain Vitamin A. This helps the mucosal tissues in the lining of your digestive tract function properly.
Courgette contains a lot of water, which will help to soften stools. It also may help to feed the good bacteria living in your gut.
7) Ground Flaxseeds
Milled flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. This helps with lubricating stools to help them pass more easily.
This tones intestinal muscles and helps move food quickly through the digestive system. It can also help with metabolising fat and relieving wind.
Avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids, which allow the easy transition of food through the digestive tract.
10) Probiotic Yoghurt
This yoghurt has live cultures added to it to help improve the good bacteria in the gut.
When buying probiotic yoghurt, you should check that the ingredients list says it only contains milk and live cultures, no added ingredients and no added sugars
Hopefully, you can gradually introduce some of these into your diet to try to treat your digestive system to the tender loving care it deserves. It works hard for you, make its job easier.