Digestion Is Complex – Make It Easier With the Right Foods
Do you remember back in the day when you could eat a big meal and not worry about how you felt afterward?
You might have felt full. And you may have told yourself to cut back next time you were really hungry. But whatever digestion issues you had were short-lived.
These days, when our eyes prove too big for our stomachs and we consume a lot of food in one sitting, we feel it soon after.
Like many things, digestion becomes more difficult as we age. And it’s not always because we ate too much. Sometimes it’s the particular food we ate that messes with our body’s ability to digest it properly.
A Complex Process
Many people don’t know this, but food digestion is one of the most complex processes our bodies go through on a daily basis.
And there are a number of things that can derail this process. And cause us anything from mild to serious problems.
Because poor digestion is one of the most common ailments affecting seniors, today I’d like to address it.
Before I’m finished with this topic, I hope I will have given you some good information on what food digestion is and how it works. As well as recommendations for foods that are good – and not so good – for digestion.
It’s a Team Effort
A variety of your organs are involved in the digestion process. Their goal is to enable your body to get all of the nutrients it can out of food.
Once you have smelled, tasted, chewed and swallowed food, it travels through your esophagus and into your stomach.
The esophagus pushes food down to your stomach by contracting its muscles. It’s now the stomach’s job to use its enzymes and acid to break your food down.
Once that’s completed, your small intestine breaks down the food even more. Both the liver and pancreas are also involved.
After the food’s nutrients are absorbed into the walls of the small intestine, your body pushes what it perceives as waste into the large intestine. And then into the bowel system. I think we all know what happens next.
Figure Out the Problem
If you don’t have any issues with this process, such as heartburn or abdominal pain, you’re probably eating the right kind of food. In the right amounts.
But something is wrong if you experience bloating, cramping or gas. Or heartburn, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation.
Maybe you ate too much. Or perhaps you ate unhealthy food. Or there’s something not functioning properly in your body.
Hopefully the problem is one of those first two because they are the easiest to correct. Although it might take some willpower. If it’s the third, see your doctor sooner rather than later.
Foods Good for Digestion
Let’s discuss foods that are known to be good for the digestive system.
- Yogurt. It contains probiotics that live in the digestive tract and can help improve digestion.
- Apples. They contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which is broken down by friendly bacteria in the colon.
- Beets. The fiber in beets bypasses digestion and heads to the colon, where it feeds your healthy gut bacteria or adds bulk to stool.
- Dark green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They are a good source of magnesium, which can help relieve constipation.
- Salmon. Those with inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerances often have gut inflammation. Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation.
- Chia seeds. Once consumed, their fiber forms a gelatin-like substance in the stomach. It supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. The fiber also promotes bowel regularity.
- Ginger. This yellowish root accelerates gastric emptying. This reduces the risk of heartburn, nausea and stomach discomfort.
- Kimchi. This is usually made from fermented cabbage. It contains probiotics that help with digestion. They also promote the growth of good bacteria in the colon.
- Kombucha. As this tea is being fermented, probiotic bacteria is produced, which can improve digestive health.
- Papaya. Containing an enzyme called papain that aids in the digestion of protein, this tropical fruit is considered delicious by many.
- Peppermint. The essential oils found in peppermint leaves can improve digestive problems. It accelerates food’s movement in the digestive system.
Foods Bad for Digestion
Everyone’s body reacts in different ways to different foods. Part of that could be what you are used to eating.
Foods with a lot of carbohydrates can be difficult to break down during the digestive process.
Here are a few foods that make digestion a challenge.
- Fried foods, including French fries. Also, steak and ice cream.
- Processed foods, such as lunch meats loaded with additives and preservatives.
- Spices added to foods can cause gas, bloating and heartburn.
- Artificial sweeteners increase inflammation and can cause gas and diarrhea.
- Alcohol can cause a variety of issues, including heartburn and acid reflux.
- Coffee increases gastrointestinal tract motility, which can reduce the time food spends in the gut.
- Acidic foods including citrus fruits and tomato sauce. They irritate the stomach lining and disrupt the gut environment.
Proper digestion is essential for good health. Eat the right foods in the right quantities and you should be good to go.