Eating certain types of food or making sudden changes to the diet can result in problems with digestion.
In some people, digestive problems can lead to symptoms including:
In this article, we list foods that are good for the digestive system. We also cover which ones to avoid.
Foods that help digestion
As soon as food enters the body through the mouth, the process of digestion begins.
The body gradually moves it through the digestive system, which breaks the food down into smaller, more useable parts.
Various foods can help at different stages of this process. For example, some aid digestion in the stomach, while others support the intestines.
Fiber is essential to digestive health in general. If a person is not used to eating fiber often, it is best to increase fiber intake slowly, starting with soluble fiber such as from oatmeal, apples, and bananas.
Add around one serving of fiber to the diet every 4–5 days. Increasing fiber intake too quickly can be bad for digestion.
Drinking plenty of water is also important, as it combines with fiber and adds bulk to stool.
Specific foods that are good for digestion include:
Foods containing ginger
Ginger is a plant that can reduce bloating and other digestive problems.
Dried ginger powder is an excellent spice for flavoring meals, and a person can also use slices of ginger root to make tea.
Choose a quality ginger root powder for flavoring meals. For tea, choose fresh ginger root for the best results.
This type of fat helps the body absorb vitamins. It also combines with fiber to help encourage bowel movements.
Plant oils such as olive oil are a good source of unsaturated fats.
Always consume fats in moderation. For an adult following a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, for example, fat intake should not exceed 77 grams daily.
Vegetables with skin
Vegetables are rich in fiber, which is an important nutrient for digestion. Fiber stimulates the bowels to move stool out of the body.
The skins of vegetables are often rich in fiber, and it is best to consume them whole. Some vegetables with skin rich in fiber include potatoes, beans, and legumes.
Whole-grain foods also have a high fiber content that aids digestion. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, which helps control blood sugar levels.
Many yogurt products contain probiotics. These are live bacteria and yeasts that may have benefits for the digestive system.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is filling and contains probiotics. As mentioned above, these may promote better digestion and gut health.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are packed with nutrients that are helpful for digestion.
According to an article in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, these vegetables also contain sulfoquinovose. This is a sugar that may feed healthful bacteria in the stomach, thereby promoting digestion.
What to avoid
Eating too fast may hamper digestion.
Although most foods are fine to consume in moderation, some are not as helpful for digestion.
Some foods and drinks increase the risk of bloating, heartburn, and diarrhea. Examples of these include:
- artificial sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols
- carbonated beverages or sugar sweetened drinks
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread
- milk or white chocolate
- foods high in saturated fats, such as cheese and cream
- coffee and other drinks containing caffeine
- spicy foods, such as some types of curry
- greasy foods, such as pizza
Some habits can also hamper digestion. These include eating too fast and lying down immediately after eating.
However, everyone’s digestive systems vary. For example, some people may have food intolerances and allergies, while others do not.
A doctor may recommend that people with digestive problems such as these keep a food diary. This can help identify foods and drinks that trigger digestive issues.
Most foods that enhance digestion are rich in nutrients such as fiber. Examples of fiber-rich foods include vegetables and whole grains.
Some people prone to digestive issues may benefit from eating smaller meals, as well as consuming a healthful amount of fiber and avoiding any trigger foods.
If digestive problems persist after making these changes, it is best to see a doctor for advice and treatment. An underlying medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome could be affecting digestion.