Your digestive tract is crucial to your overall well-being because it is responsible for absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste from the body. If you suffer from digestive issues like abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, eating gut-friendly foods like apples and chia seeds can help relieve your painful symptoms.
Other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can increase your risk of developing more severe digestive issues. Even if you are in good physical condition, you can suffer from digestive issues if you don’t consume enough fiber or foods that contain probiotics (“friendly” bacteria).
- Apples – Apples contain a soluble fiber called pectin. This soluble fiber bypasses digestion in the small intestine and is broken down by “good” bacteria in the colon. Pectin from apples helps increase stool volume, so the fruit is often used to treat constipation and diarrhea.
- Beets (beetroots) – Beets are also rich in fiber that bypasses digestion and heads straight to your colon. The fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria or adds bulk to your stool, improving digestion.
- Chia seeds – Chia seeds are also full of fiber. Once you consume chia seeds, they turn into a gelatin-like substance in your stomach. The seeds function as a prebiotic that encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and supports healthy digestion. The fiber in chia seeds also promotes regular bowel movements.
- Dark green vegetables – Dark green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach are rich in insoluble fiber. This type of fiber adds bulk to stools, which helps them move faster through the digestive tract. Dark green vegetables are also full of magnesium, which helps ease constipation by improving muscle contractions in the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, leafy greens like kale contain sulfoquinovose, a type of sugar that beneficial gut bacteria use as an energy source.
- Fennel – Fennel is a plant with a pale bulb and long green stalks. It is used to add flavor to food. Fennel contains fiber that helps prevent constipation and improves bowel regularity. The plant also contains an antispasmodic agent that relaxes the smooth muscles in the digestive tract, relieving symptoms like bloating, cramping, and flatulence.
- Ginger – In Eastern medicine, ginger is traditionally used to improve digestion and prevent nausea. Ginger helps accelerate gastric emptying, which can lower your risk of developing conditions like heartburn, nausea, and stomach discomfort.
- Miso – Miso is a Japanese seasoning used to make miso soup. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. Like other fermented foods that contain probiotics, miso boosts digestion by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The probiotics in miso also help ease digestive issues and diarrhea. (Related: Reduce inflammation and improve your mood with these healthy, fermented foods.)
- Papaya – Papaya is a tropical fruit that contains papain. This digestive enzyme aids digestion by helping break down protein fibers. Papain can also address symptoms of IBS, like bloating and constipation.
- Salmon – Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help minimize inflammation in the body. Certain individuals, like those with food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, and other digestive disorders, suffer from inflammation in the gut. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce this inflammation and boost digestion.
- Whole grains – Whole grains like oats and quinoa are rich in fiber that improves digestion in two ways. Fiber from whole grains adds bulk to stools while certain kinds of grain fibers act as prebiotics and nourish beneficial gut bacteria.
- Yogurt – Yogurt comes from milk that has been fermented by live bacteria. The probiotics in yogurt can also be found in the digestive tract and they help improve digestive health. Although probiotics naturally occur in the gut, consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can help ease digestion. Probiotics also help with digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Before purchasing yogurt, check the label to see if it contains live and active cultures.
Regardless of the cause, digestive problems cause many painful symptoms. To boost your digestive health and address these symptoms, consume superfoods rich in fiber or probiotics like apples, chia seeds, miso, and yogurt.