The digestive tract plays an important role in overall health, and is responsible for everything from absorbing nutrients to getting rid of waste. Additionally, the digestive tract is related directly to gut health, which effects everything from the immune system to stress response, sleep patterns, energy levels, and so much more. Unfortunately, many people suffer from digestive problems and an unhealthy gut microbiome. People with an unhealthy gut microbiome can experience constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and tons other digestive concerns. Fortunately, digestive superfoods can help.
Luckily, there are certain foods that can help heal the digestive system. Any superfood that has a high nutrient density can improve gut health, but there are a few that are especially beneficial. Those that help keep things moving, provide probiotics, and alleviate blockages can are all helpful. Below, we’ll discuss the three superfoods that can help repair the digestive system.
1. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha can help strengthen digestion due to their high probiotic content. Probiotics can help repair the gut microbiome and improve digestion. In fact, the gut microbiome is made up of about four trillion bacteria. Some of these are beneficial bacteria, which help break down food into vitamins, minerals, and energy. There are also unhealthy bacteria that feed off of processed sugar. When kept in balance, these two types of bacteria can co-exist, but if the unhealthy bacteria become overpopulated from eating too much unhealthy, sugary foods, it can affect the entire digestive tract.
Some types of probiotics found in yogurt, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, help populate the gut with healthy bacteria, which can help fight off the unhealthy bacteria and restore balance to the digestive tract. In fact, a 2010 study found that these bacteria improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which is a common digestive disorder. These specific bacteria have been found to reduce bloating, diarrhea, and constipation even in those who did not have a diagnosed condition.
Kombucha is a drink made by adding bacteria, yeast, and sugar to tea and allowing the mixture to ferment for a week or more. It contains several species of lactic acid bacteria which also contain beneficial probiotics. These probiotics provide the gut with healthy bacteria that can improve many aspects of health, including digestion, inflammation, and even weight loss.
Sauerkraut and kimchi are two other types of foods that contain lactic acid bacteria. They are made from fermenting cabbage. Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine and is slightly spicy, while sauerkraut is milder.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens, dandelion leaf, and Swiss chard can help heal the digestive system. Leafy greens are dense in fiber, which adds bulk to the stool and increases its pace through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also softens the stool, making it easier to pass and decreasing the chance of constipation. A diet high in fiber can also decrease the risk of developing hemorrhoids and diverticular disease. Studies have also found that dietary fiber appears to lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Scientists believe this is due to the way fiber ferments in the colon, which results in disease prevention.
Leafy greens also high in magnesium, an essential nutrient that helps move things along in the digestive tract. In fact, magnesium has been found to improve muscle contractions in the digestive tract to help relieve constipation.
Additionally, leafy greens help reduce inflammation in the gut so that the body can perform its natural functions better and more efficiently. Green vegetables also contain prebiotics, a certain type of sugar which helps feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. This helps restore balance to the microbiome and keep the unhealthy bacteria in the gut – those that can cause a host of digestive issues – in check.
Ginger has long been used in Eastern medicine to improve digestion and prevent nausea. In fact, many pregnant women use ginger to help with morning sickness. Its beneficial properties are due to the fact that it has been shown to accelerate gastric emptying. In other words, it moves food from the stomach to the small intestine more quickly. This helps alleviate slow digestion and reduces the risk of heartburn, nausea, and bloating. It also helps those suffering with chronic indigestion due to its ability to move food along the digestive tract. One study in 2011 found that participants who ingested ginger experienced quicker stomach emptying, with emptying occurring within 12 minutes versus 16 for the control group.
There are many other superfoods that help with digestion, but these three options are the best out there for digestive health. As a result, these digestive superfoods help move things along, promote beneficial bacteria in the gut, and are high in dietary fiber.