Perhaps not surprisingly one of the most common topics I discuss with my clients is digestion – ways to improve it, to make it more efficient, to decrease bloating, to have regular bowel movements, and, of course, what foods will help get them on their way to no longer wishing they were wearing a comfy pair of maternity pants instead of their regular old jeans by mid afternoon!
So why is treating poor digestion so important? Besides the obvious physical discomfort, poor digestion can lead to a whole host of problems – including fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, food sensitivities and systemic inflammation – all of which can lead to the onset of chronic disease and illness.
Unfortunately, most of us feed our taste buds before thinking about how it affects our digestive health, not realizing that that mysterious 30-foot tube called the GI tract holds more solutions for your health than you could ever imagine!
Luckily Mother Nature is a genius when it comes to making sure our bodies, and more specifically our tummies, are humming happily along – which is why a whole food, organic diet is our best path to good digestion. But if you’ve let things slide and gotten a little backed up, don’t worry – we can get you back on track with a few superfoods that have helped hundreds of my clients de-bloat, de-gas and reset their digestive power. Spoiler alert: some of them my surprise you!
Here are my top 5 surprising foods for better digestion to help banish the bloat and get your digestion working as it should:
Hard to pronounce – easy on the tummy (and tastes delicious)! Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that has been around for centuries in many different cultures and is used for a multitude of health benefits – including improved digestion. Practically speaking, it is a sweetened tea that is fermented with a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to become a nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverage that is rich in gut-friendly probiotics – the good bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in your gut in check and promote smooth digestive function.
On top of that, Kombucha is also great for increasing energy, weight loss, liver detoxification and improved mood. You can make your own at home or choose from the many store bought varieties. Just make sure you choose one without a lot of added sugar (my personal favourite is GTs Raw Organic brand since it has no added sugar).
Feeling that dreaded bloat after a protein-rich meal? Grab a kiwi! These mighty little green fruits have been found to contain a unique compound called actinidin which helps to digest proteins found in red meat, dairy and fish. Studies have also shown them to be an effective natural laxative to get things moving, thus preventing gas, bloating and the fermentation of food in the gut that can feed bad bacteria and seriously mess with your digestion. Plus, kiwi fruit has more immune boosting vitamin C than the equivalent amount of orange! Kiwi-based fruit salad, anyone?
Cod Liver Oil
It may sound like something your grandmother would have used, but cod liver oil is honestly one of the best additions to your supplement team. It is one of the most reliable and concentrated food sources of four nutrients that are essential to human health: DHA, EPA, vitamin A, and vitamin D – also making it one of the best foods for improving digestive health.
High in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids along with fat-soluble vitamins A and D, cod liver oil helps fight inflammation and build the immune system, which in turn restores digestive health. These anti-inflammatory properties also mean that cod liver oil is highly effective for those with inflammatory bowel disease. Also, the presence of these
nutrients prevents various digestive problems from developing in the GI tract. Consuming even a small amount of cod liver oil, less than a teaspoon, on a daily basis can make a huge difference in your digestive system’s health. If you just can’t stomach the taste of a liquid form (which is the easiest for your body to utilize), try a capsule instead.
Yes – that funky cabbage stuff you associate with your Oktoberfest sausage is actually a digestive aiding powerhouse! That’s because sauerkraut is another fermented food that contains those wonderful probiotics we discussed earlier. On top of that, sauerkraut also has strong detoxifying abilities, and also produces isothiocyanates, which can prevent cancer growth, particularly in the colon. Some other lesser known fermented fare you may want to try are kefir (made from fermented milk), kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), and miso (a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans).
Beautifully purple and packed with nutrients, beetroots are excellent for overall digestive health. Beetroots are rich in betaine, which helps increase stomach acidity to control bacteria and yeast in the system, thus preventing food intolerances and reducing bloating. They’re also rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium, all of which help maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent problems like constipation and stomach aches. Not sure how to get them into your diet? Try them roasted in a salad or in a root veggie side dish; or for a super dose of digestive aiding nutrients – juice them!
Other Strategies to Improve Digestion
Getting all of these amazing foods into your diet is a great place to start when it comes to healing your gut and getting your digestion back on track – but when it comes to good digestion it’s not just about what you put in your body. Stress management plays a huge role in maintaining good digestion. In fact, the digestive system is one of the biological processes most affected when the body is tense and anxious.
When in stress mode, our body no longer focuses on everyday functions like digestion since everything becomes secondary to our body’s “fight or flight” survival response. This can wreak havoc on the gut, causing inflammation, acid reflux, ulcers, and even food allergies.
Two great ways to manage stress that I consistently recommend to my clients are meditation and yoga. Both focus on calming the mind and body, which takes us out of stress mode, allowing a deep level of relaxation so that our bodies can focus on functioning normally, including digesting our food better. Both also focus on breathing deeply, which improves digestion by increasing blood oxygen levels and circulation, making digestion easier. On top of that, your digestive system’s efficiency will build session after session, providing not only immediate relief but also a long term solution to keep you digestive health on track.
So there you have it – some easy (and delicious) ways to heal your gut, get your digestion back on track and banish that bloated belly for good!