The health of your digestive system is fundamentally linked to your wellbeing. A sluggish gut can result in all sorts of symptoms, such as indigestion, heartburn, bloating and constipation. Give your body a helping hand with our ultimate recipe, and find out how you can keep things moving smoothly...
View this recipe: Indian spiced chicken with squash & beans
How to eat to improve digestion...
A staple in many cultures, fermented foods are becoming hot news in the UK - be it kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or miso. They’re natural sources of beneficial bacteria, which promote good digestion, support the immune system and increase your resistance to infection. Enjoying live bio-yogurt daily also helps top up levels of friendly gut bacteria.
The beneficial bacteria in your gut need their own fuel source, and certain foods are great for this. Leeks, onions, chicory and asparagus all contain a type of fibre called inulin, which the bacteria love. This non-digestible fibre is fermented by gut bacteria, stimulating their growth, and bulking up stools making them easier to pass.
Fibre is essential for keeping the gut healthy and waste materials moving. Aim to include wholegrains, nuts and seeds, as well as plenty of fruit and veg. If you suffer from wind and bloating you might want to ease off on the foods associated with these problems, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beans and pulses. The gentler, soluble fibre is useful for those with sensitive systems – focus on legumes, oats and brown rice. When you increase fibre you also need to drink more fluids to help the fibre work more effectively.
Although high in saturated fats, coconut oil is a useful ingredient – it’s stable at high temperatures, making it ideal for roasting. Most of the saturated fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are processed by the body more efficiently, without placing strain on the gall bladder. One of the fatty acids in coconut oil, lauric acid, helps fight off unwanted bacteria, keeping the gut healthy.
Break it down
Tenderising proteins like meat and fish helps lighten the load on the digestive system. Eating these foods with lemon and lime juice works well, as do pineapple and papaya, which both contain natural enzymes, promoting breakdown.
What to avoid...
Go easy on processed carbs, that’s the white refined ones like white bread, rice and pasta – these are low in fibre and nutrients. Avoid processed meat and have no more than 70g red meat per day. Watch your sugar intake, including certain sweetners like sorbitol and xylitol, which are often found in chewing gums and diet foods as these can have a laxative effect. If you drink alcohol, stick to the government guidelines and allow yourself at least two consecutive alcohol-free days per week.
Enjoyed this? Now try...
This page was last reviewed on the 5th November 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.