When you're having digestive problems, you may not feel like eating anything. Even your favorite food may seem unappetizing when you're dealing with nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive issues. Fortunately, there are easy-to-digest foods that can help you feel better while making sure you get enough nutrients and stay hydrated.
What Is the Digestive System?
Your digestive system starts with your mouth and includes the entire gastrointestinal tract plus the pancreas. When you chew, the digestive enzyme called salivary amylase begins to break down the food right away. This partly digested food passes down the esophagus to the stomach, eventually making its way through the small and large intestines, and out of the body as stool.
All the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume have to be broken down into smaller components during digestion. Proteins become amino acids, carbohydrates become simple sugars, and fats become fatty acids and glycerol. Your digestive organs process these smaller nutrients, allowing them to enter the bloodstream, circulate throughout your body, and give you energy and strength.
Just like that, your digestive system has done its job. But when you eat foods that you have trouble digesting, you may end up with uncomfortable symptoms instead of nourishment.
If you have a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), or just have a sensitive stomach, you will want to eat easy-to-digest foods. In general, the flavor of these foods is more bland than spicy or robust.
Easy-to-digest foods are typically soft and low in fiber and fat. This makes them easier on the digestive system and less likely to cause or antagonize digestive concerns. Eating easy-to-digest foods may bring relief from gas, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, or bloating — leading to a happy belly.
Nut Milk Yogurt
Most yogurt is easy to digest, low in fiber, and contains probiotic microbes. However, a large percentage of people are sensitive to dairy or lactose-intolerant, which is a major source of digestive complaints.
The solution? Try yogurt made from almond, coconut, rice, or cashew milk. Make sure to select unsweetened, plain yogurt. Fruit-containing yogurts may have extra fiber you do not need if you have digestive concerns. In addition, excess sugar makes digestive problems worse. You can even try making your own vegan probiotic yogurt!
Bananas are often recommended for people with gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, or upset stomach. Bananas contain potassium, an important electrolyte that can be depleted from your body when you have diarrhea or excessive vomiting. Eat bananas in a greener or just-ripened form. Overripe bananas with brown spots have more sugar and can have up to three grams of fiber, which can aggravate digestive problems.
Applesauce is another soft food that is easy to digest. Look for all-natural applesauce without extra sugar or preservatives. If you make your own applesauce, peel the skin off since it has more fiber. An easy way to make applesauce at home is to peel, core, and chop four large organic apples of any variety. Then, add them and water to a pan. Boil them for 20 minutes or until they're soft. Finally, take them out and mash them with a fork to make applesauce.
White potatoes have simple carbohydrates and are an easy-to-digest comfort food when needed. Make sure that you remove all skins, cook them thoroughly in water, and mash them with plain, unsweetened nut milk if desired. And the bonus? Potatoes are an excellent prebiotic food that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Vegetable Broth & Creamy Soups
The liquid in soup helps reduce dehydration from diarrhea or excessive vomiting, while the sodium can replenish lost electrolytes. The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends soup, particularly broth, for symptoms of ulcers, heartburn, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), nausea, and vomiting. There are delicious organic vegetable broths that you can buy from the store or make homemade.
There are many types of soup that are easy to swallow and digest because they are warm and don't have a lot of fiber. The US National Library of Medicine also recommends creamy-textured soups, such as those made with pumpkin or carrots. Avoid soups with milk products, which can cause digestive issues.
Creamy Peanut Butter
While most nuts are high in fiber, when you blend peanuts, they are an acceptable easy-to-digest food. There's just one caveat — pick a variety without sugar or added ingredients. Look for an organic smooth, creamy peanut butter with just two ingredients: peanuts and salt, or make your own at home.
In addition to bananas and applesauce, there are several low-fiber fruits that are a good choice when you need an easy-to-digest food. The US National Library of Medicine recommends only these raw fruits in a "very ripe" state: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, papayas, nectarines, peaches, and plums.
If you are seeking vegetables that are easy to digest, the only vegetables you should eat raw include avocado, cucumber (without seeds or skin), zucchini, and lettuce (in small quantities, at first). For cooked vegetables, you can eat spinach, carrots, beets, yellow squash (without seeds), pumpkin, green beans, asparagus, and eggplant. These are the only vegetables that are considered easy to digest, so if you are on a special low-fiber diet, avoid all other vegetables.
Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha can help digestion because they contain gut-boosting probiotics. Sometimes an imbalance of bad to good bacteria causes digestive ailments. Try eating probiotic foods to help restore the balance.
However, fermented foods don't work for everyone and aren't part of most bland diets. For example, people with IBS may want to avoid fermented foods because they can worsen symptoms. If you just want to help balance your stomach bacteria to see if it will help your digestive woes, try some fermented foods and see how your belly responds.
Foods to Avoid
When you're having nausea, gas, bloating, or other digestive problems, there are some foods to avoid. They can make you feel worse while you're trying to heal. In general, foods with a lot of fiber, fat, or sugar are harder to digest, so skip them.
Avoid these foods:
- Dairy products: Since so many people are sensitive to the milk sugar lactose or they're lactose-intolerant, I recommend avoiding dairy products altogether.
- Deli meats, hot dogs, and sausage: These are highly processed meats full of chemical additives and preservatives that are not good for sensitive stomachs.
- Whole-wheat or whole-grain products: Whole wheat contains gluten, which many people are sensitive to. But any whole-grain item will have too much fiber for people who need easy-to-digest foods, and many also contain gluten.
- Corn: Besides the fact that most corn is GMO (genetically modified) and should generally be avoided, corn is high in sugar and fiber.
- Dried fruit: The act of drying fruit concentrates the sugar. Dried fruit is also high in fiber.
- Spicy or acidic foods: Spicy and acidic foods can irritate your digestive system, causing heartburn and other uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
- Seeds and nuts: Seeds and nuts are high in fiber and can irritate sensitive GI tracts. The only exception, as stated above, is smooth, additive-free peanut butter.
- Fried foods and foods with high oil content: In general, fried foods are extremely unhealthy and you should avoid them.
- Legumes: Legumes include peas, beans, and lentils and they generally have higher fiber content and cause flatulence. The only exception to this is that you can eat cooked green beans. Although legumes are usually a solid food choice, they're not ideal if you require food that's easy to digest.
- Chocolate: Besides the fact that most chocolate comes with sugar, chocolate has caffeine and fiber that can irritate a sensitive digestive system.
- Other foods worth mentioning: You should also avoid alcohol, spices, and caffeine since these tend to upset a sensitive stomach.
Do You Need to Eat Easy-to-Digest Foods?
If you're wondering who should eat easy-to-digest foods, there are a number of situations where they may help, whether it's to ease digestive problems, a short-term bout of diarrhea, a winter flu, or a more serious condition like irritable bowel syndrome. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider before drastically changing your diet and avoiding specific foods beyond a short period of time as it's easy to miss out on important nutrients.
If You Have IBS or IBD
People with irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease may need to eat easy-to-digest foods. IBD is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine, while IBS is a much less serious disorder. Some of the symptoms of both include gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating. People with IBS and IBD may need to avoid gluten, reduce their fiber intake, and limit certain foods.
If You Have Diarrhea
If you have an occasional bout of diarrhea, whether from food poisoning or a virus, you may want to eat easy-to-digest foods for a short period of time. Some of the common symptoms include loose stools, cramps, and stomach pain. In addition to easily digestible foods, you should avoid alcohol, fatty foods, spices, dairy, and caffeine. If you completely lose your appetite, stay hydrated by drinking more water.
If You Have Heartburn
People with heartburn may also need to eat easy-to-digest foods. Two common causes of heartburn include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gastroesophageal reflux (GER); GERD is a more serious condition than GER.
These conditions happen when stomach acids come back up and irritate the esophagus. In addition to a stinging sensation in your throat or chest, you may also have nausea, vomiting, and discomfort. Try eating easy-to-digest foods, and also avoid fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, tomatoes, and chocolate. Eating smaller meals might also help.
Points to Remember
If you're having digestive problems, focus on eating easy-to-digest foods. Try to eat more nut milk yogurt, bananas, applesauce, creamy soup, vegetable broth, fermented foods, and certain fruits and cooked vegetables like spinach, beets, carrots, and pumpkins.
For digestive issues, you generally should avoid eating foods that are high in sugar, fat, or fiber because they can make you feel worse. For instance, don't eat fried foods, dried fruit, dairy, or whole-grain products.
What foods do you eat to ease digestion? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
The post A Guide for Easy-to-Digest Foods That Are Actually Healthy appeared first on Dr. Group's Healthy Living Articles.