The 19 Best Foods to Improve Digestion

If you have digestion problems, eating certain foods can help relieve symptoms. This includes fermented foods like kimchi and yoghurt and fibre-rich foods like dark green vegetables, seeds, and whole grains.

The digestive tract plays a vital role in your health, as it’s responsible for absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. Unfortunately, many people experience digestive problems like bloating, cramping, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation for various reasons.

Certain conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn’s Disease, diverticulitis, and heartburn, can put you at risk for more severe digestive issues.

However, even a healthy person can experience digestive problems due to a lack of fibre or probiotic-rich foods. Here are the 19 best foods to improve your digestion.

1. Yogurt

Yoghurt is made from milk that has been fermented, typically by lactic acid bacteria. It contains friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract and can help improve digestion, keeping your gut healthy.

While probiotics naturally occur in your gut, boosting your intake through foods like yoghurt can ease digestion. Probiotics can help with digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. They have also been shown to improve the digestion of lactose, or milk sugar.

However, not all yoghurt contains probiotics. When shopping, be sure to look for “live and active cultures” on the package.

2. Apples

Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fibre. Pectin bypasses digestion in your small intestine and is then broken down by the friendly bacteria in your colon.

Fresh and juicy apple, a rich source of pectin, a soluble fiber, known for its digestion-boosting properties. Discover the benefits of apples for your digestive health.

It increases stool volume and is therefore commonly used to resolve constipation and diarrhoea. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of intestinal infections, as well as inflammation in the colon.

3. Fennel

Fennel, a plant with a pale bulb and long green stalks, is used to add flavour to food. Its fibre content helps prevent constipation and improves regularity in your digestive tract.

Fennel also contains an antispasmodic agent that relaxes the smooth muscles in your digestive tract. This action can reduce negative digestive symptoms like bloating, flatulence, and cramping.

4. Kefir

Kefir is a cultured dairy product made by adding kefir “grains” to milk. These “grains” result from mixing yeast and bacteria with milk and appear to have digestive benefits.

Like the probiotics in yoghurt, kefir’s cultures aid the digestion of lactose, decreasing some of the negative side effects associated with lactose intolerance such as bloating, cramping and gas.

In multiple studies, kefir caused an increase in healthy, digestion-improving gut bacteria and a simultaneous drop in harmful bacteria. Kefir consumption has also been associated with decreased inflammation in your gut, further enhancing the digestion process.

5. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fibre, which causes them to form a gelatin-like substance in your stomach, once consumed. They work like a prebiotic, supporting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and therein contributing to healthy digestion.

Their fibre content also helps promote bowel regularity and healthy stools.

6. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea. It’s made by adding specific strains of bacteria, sugar and yeast to black or green tea, then undergoing fermentation for a week or more.

A glut of probiotic bacteria is produced during the fermentation process, which can improve digestive health. What’s more, some research in mice has shown that kombucha may contribute to the healing of stomach ulcers.

7. Papaya

The luscious tropical fruit papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain.

It assists during the digestive process by helping break down protein fibres. While not required in your diet, it can aid the digestion of protein. Papain may also ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as constipation and bloating.

It’s commonly used as the main enzyme in digestive supplements due to its gastrointestinal capacities.

8. Whole Grains

Grains are the seeds of grasslike plants called cereals. To be classified as a whole grain, it must contain 100% of the kernel including the bran, germ and endosperm.

Popular fibre-packed whole grains include oats, quinoa, farro and products made from whole wheat. The fibre found in these grains can help improve digestion in two ways. First, fibre helps add bulk to your stool and can reduce constipation. Second, some grain fibres act like prebiotics and help feed healthy bacteria in your gut.

9. Tempeh

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Fermentation breaks down sugars through bacteria and yeast. During the fermentation process, an antinutrient in soybeans called phytic acid is broken down. Phytic acid can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients.

Thus, the fermentation process improves the digestion and absorption of those nutrients. Fermented foods such as tempeh are a good source of probiotics. Remember that probiotics create a protective lining in your intestines to shield them from harmful bacteria.

Studies have found that probiotics help alleviate IBS symptoms, prevent diarrhoea, decrease bloating and improve regularity.

10. Beets

Beetroot, otherwise known as beets, is a good source of fibre. One cup (136 grams) of beets contains 3.4 grams of fibre. Fibre bypasses digestion and heads to your colon, where it feeds your healthy gut bacteria or adds bulk to your stool — which both improve digestion.

A few popular ways to eat beets include roasted, mixed in a salad, pickled or blended into a smoothie.

11. Miso

Commonly consumed in miso soup, miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. Miso contains probiotics that, like other fermented foods, help improve digestion by increasing the good bacteria in your gut.

The probiotics in miso can also help reduce digestive issues and overcome intestinal illnesses like diarrhoea.

12. Ginger

Ginger is a traditional ingredient in Eastern medicine that helps improve digestion and prevent nausea. Many pregnant women use it to treat morning sickness.

From a digestion standpoint, this yellowish root has been shown to accelerate gastric emptying. By moving food from your stomach to your small intestine quicker, ginger reduces your risk of heartburn, nausea and stomach discomfort.

13. Kimchi

Kimchi, usually made from fermented cabbage, can also comprise other fermented vegetables.

It contains probiotics that help with digestion and promote the growth of good bacteria in your colon. The longer the kimchi ferments, the higher the concentration of probiotics. Kimchi also contains fibre, which can add bulk to your stool and promotes bowel health.

14. Dark Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fibre. This type of fibre adds bulk to your stool, quickening its pace through your digestive tract.

Green vegetables are also a good source of magnesium, which can help relieve constipation by improving muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract. Some of the most common dark green vegetables that provide this benefit are spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other leafy greens.

In addition, a 2016 study revealed an unusual sugar found in green leafy vegetables that feeds good bacteria in your gut. This sugar is thought to aid digestion while also impairing some of the bad bacteria that can cause illnesses.

15. Natto

Like tempeh, natto is made from fermented soybeans.

Typically eaten plain, some popular toppings for natto include kimchi, soy sauce, green onion and raw eggs. It can also be eaten with cooked rice.

Natto contains probiotics that serve as a defence mechanism against toxins and harmful bacteria, while also increasing healthy gut bacteria that improve digestion. Interestingly, one gram of natto contains almost as many probiotics as a whole serving of other probiotic-rich foods or supplements, such as six ounces (170 grams) of yoghurt.

Its fibre content also improves the regularity of stools and reduces constipation.

16. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made from shredded cabbage that is fermented with lactic acid.

Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage packed with probiotics for improved digestion and gut health.

Due to fermentation, it contains probiotics. Research suggests that a half-cup (71-gram) serving of sauerkraut may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains that help your gut by feeding good bacteria. In addition, sauerkraut’s generous helping of enzymes breaks down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules.

17. Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in your body. People with inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances and other digestive disorders often have inflammation in the gut. Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce this inflammation and thereby improve digestion.

18. Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissues of animals. The gelatin found in bone broth derives from the amino acids glutamine and glycine. This amino can bind to fluid in your digestive tract and help food pass more easily.

Glutamine protects the functioning of your intestinal wall. It has also been shown to improve the digestive condition known as leaky gut, as well as other inflammatory bowel diseases.

19. Peppermint

A common plant in many parts of the world is peppermint, which belongs to the genus Mentha. It has been demonstrated that the essential oils in peppermint leaves, which are used to make peppermint oil, can help with stomach issues. The oil includes a substance called menthol, which may help with IBS symptoms including bloating, stomach pain, and irregular bowel movements.

Your digestive system’s muscles appear to be relaxed by the oil, which may enhance digestion. Additionally, peppermint oil has the ability to relieve indigestion by hastening the digestion of meals.

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The Bottom Line

Digestive issues can be challenging, but certain foods may be helpful in easing uncomfortable symptoms. Research supports eating fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kimchi, and tempeh, to increase probiotics in your diet, which can improve digestive health.

Fibre-rich foods, such as whole grains, dark green vegetables, and chia seeds, also play a role in digestion by helping food move through your system more easily or quickly. If you’re seeking relief from your digestive woes, consider adding some of these 19 foods to your diet.

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