one green planet
one green planet

If your digestive system has been giving you a hard time lately, you’ve probably already considered your diet. Or maybe you’ve written it off as something else. Perhaps one of the most overlooked problems with digestion is how our diets affect our stress and our gut function, which can also impair our digestion and send it to a halt. The brain and the gut are directly connected. What you eat affects not just your stomach and hunger levels, but also your mood, energy, and your mental focus. If a food makes you anxious, tired, or even moody, it can also affect the way your digestion works. Some foods also contain certain properties that the body simply doesn’t prefer to have to digest. The more work your body has to do to filter out something it doesn’t like, the worse your digestion will feel, and the more your mood and focus will even suffer.

Here are some common dietary culprits that are thought to impair digestion for many people:

1. Dairy


Hands down, one of the biggest causes of poor digestion is dairy. Even for those not lactose intolerant, dairy’s protein casein is very hard to digest and also very slow to digest. The more work your body has to do to digest a protein like casein, the more possible side effects that can occur. Gas, bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea, and even constipation can all occur. Milk’s natural sugar lactose can also cause those symptoms, even for those that don’t have a diagnosed allergy. If you eat dairy, try going a day without it and see how you feel. Notice how your digestion works, and focus on tasty, healthy foods you can use to replace dairy that might be easier on your stomach. See our ideas for replacing dairy if you’re having a hard time making the switch.

2. Overdoing Fruit at Meal Times

Petite Family 93/Flickr
Petite Family 93/Flickr

Fruit is one of nature’s most perfect foods. It’s full of natural enzymes, healthy fiber that slows down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, and jam-packed with antioxidants. But not everyone’s bodies do well with lots of fruit at meal times. Fruit digests faster than any other food you eat, so when you eat it with or after a meal that’s full of beans, legumes, grains, or even cooked veggies, then it will take longer to digest. Some people do fine with this, but too much fruit at meal time can also send others into a massive stomach ache or a bloat spell with gas, diarrhea, and even constipation. The sugars from fruit end up fermenting with the other foods and the bacteria in your gut, which causes the issues at hand.  If you eat a lot of fruit with your meals, try switching to having fruit on an empty stomach, or just first thing in the morning before your first meal. See the improvements and make the changes that work for you.

3. Bean Overdosing


Hey, we’ve all been there – so excited about how healthy beans are, and whoops! Massive pains for hours..not fun, right? Don’t overdo the beans unless you’re incredibly used to eating them and know they don’t cause an issue for you. Beans are so full of nutrients like antioxidants, fiber, and even protein and iron, but they’re a combined source of starch, protein, and sugars, which can complicate digestion for some. Beans also contain lots of fermentable sugars, which can benefit digestion in assisting in building good bacteria, but also cause some uncomfortable side effects. Back off on the beans, and emphasize easy-to-digest legumes like chickpeas or green peas, or go for seeds like hemp or pumpkin to get your protein instead. Try these recipes that are fairly easy-to-digest and still very filling: Sweet Potato and Carrot Leek Soup, Chile-Garlic Potatoes and Cauliflower and Turmeric, a chickpea-based veggie burger, Hearty Barley Soup With Lentil Soup and Potatoes, and The Easy Veggie Fix Sandwich.

Be sure you’re also not overdoing raw nuts and sprouts at each meal. While those can be healthy, it takes time to adapt to larger amounts of them. Always emphasize vegetables, leafy greens, root vegetables, whole grains (gluten-free if needed), and some nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, along with a couple servings of fruit a day. All in all, make meal combinations simple so you don’t stress out your system.

For more digestive tips, see Simple, Healthy Foods That Are Easy to Digest and Improve Your Digestive Health in Just One Week With These Eating Tips. 

Lead Image Source: Kim Piper Werker/Flickr

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