The digestion process is quite intricately managed – starting off with the food in our mouth, the food is chewed and through the esophagus, passed across to the stomach where it is mixed with a digestive juice. The processed food then moves through the small intestine by a process called peristalsis, passing the pancreas and liver, towards the large intestine, after which it is pushed out during a bowel movement. Our body performs the many steps needed to process and break down the food we eat, into a substance suitable for absorption and assimilation into the body while getting rid of the excess.
Theoretically speaking, the human body digests all kinds of foods that are taken in. However, our digestive health is impacted by the foods that we eat and the lifestyle we live. Unfortunately, our stomachs do not react well to everything we ingest. Therefore, we should proactively take steps to avoid problems with digestion.
Here is a list of suggestions you may follow, for proper digestion:
Fill up on fiber
We must incorporate fiber-rich foods in our diet since they absorb water in the intestines, ease bowel movements, and promote the healthy gut bacteria. Not only does it help with digestion, but also prevents constipation. According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the daily fiber intake of an adult woman should be of 25 grams and 38 grams for men. This can be done by decreasing your intake of foods high in fat and sugar, and increasing your consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. A plant-based diet aids in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improving blood sugar control.
High-fiber foods include:
- Apple or Pear with skin
- Baked, Black, Green or Lima beans
- Bran flakes
- Green or Split peas
- Turnip greens
- Whole wheat spaghetti
Water is as essential as the fiber in your diet, to keep the digestive system running systematically. Drinking too little water slows down your digestive system. Fiber acts like a sponge, absorbing water. Without fluid, the fiber can’t do its job and builds a path to chronic constipation.
It is recommended to drink half your body weight (in ounces) of water each day as it helps counter the fluids that fiber absorbs. If you weigh 120 pounds, for example, you should aim to drink 60 ounces (1.8 liters) of water a day.
Drink plenty of fluids to aid digestion
It’s important to keep drinking, especially water, but almost any fluid will do. Be careful with caffeinated beverages and sodas if you have reflux — they can be triggers for heartburn, and caffeine also acts as a diuretic, causing fluid loss.
Known widely as a low-calorie tea with metabolism-stimulating characteristics, Raspberry Leaf Tea is popular with people who are trying to improve digestive functions and thereby lose weight. This tea can help make you feel full while delivering key nutrients and boosting your energy levels.
Know the foods that are good for you
Limit foods that are high in fat since they slow down the digestive process and can actually make you more prone to constipation. It is best to avoid high fat foods altogether, but if they are consumed, try pairing them with foods that are high in fiber to ease the digestive process.
Meats that are high in fat hinder digestion. Lean cuts such as pork loin and skinless poultry help dodging this problem. Healthy fats like butter, coconut oil and fats from pastured animals also help restore the digestive function.
Try tummy-friendly yoghurt
Incorporating probiotics, the so called “friendly bacteria” – into your diet positively benefit you. They improve the health and functioning of your gastrointestinal tract and may help boost your immune system. They help with irritable bowel syndrome and traveler’s diarrhoea.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, as well as in supplement form. However, you will need to take them every day for at least four weeks to see any beneficial effect.
Skip the bad habits: stress, smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol
Too much stress or anxiety can cause your digestive system to go into overdrive. When stress hormones are flooding our body, our digestive system effectively shuts down, causing our digestive muscles to contract more or less frequently, our gastric secretions and stomach acid levels to increase or decrease and our healthy gut bacteria to change composition. Find stress-reducing activities that you enjoy and practice them on a regular basis to aid digestion.
One of the best ways to manage stress and maintain healthy digestion is moderate exercise. It helps in keeping foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation.
Moreover, Liquor, coffee, and cigarettes should be avoided, as they can interfere with the functioning of your digestive system, and lead to problems like stomach ulcers and heartburn.
We all experience digestive problems at one time or another. Some digestive issues are harder than others to fix, but many of them can be fixed with some simple adjustments to how you eat, when you eat and what you eat. Knowing about the best and worst foods for digestion, and how to adjust lifestyle accordingly can also help eliminate tummy troubles for good.