By, Larissa Long in Vol. 22, No. 1.
Your digestive system rarely gets the respect it deserves. Its functions go way beyond breaking down food, sending nutrients into your bloodstream, and eliminating waste products. In fact, the friendly bacteria that exist in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract play a huge role in keeping your immune system strong.1,2 So when something is amiss in your digestive system, the repercussions can be more far-reaching than a simple stomachache.
Digestive issues affect millions of Americans. Some of the most common complaints include irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Fortunately, making a few dietary changes can have a profound effect on your digestive system and alleviate many of these bothersome symptoms and conditions.
First and foremost, you need to eliminate the foods that put a strain on your GI tract and throw off the delicate balance of bacteria in your intestines. These include spicy foods like chili peppers and any products that contain refined sugar, refined carbohydrates (like white flour), and trans fats.
Once these challenges are out of your system, you will likely notice positive changes pretty quickly. You can accelerate these benefits by adding the following foods into your diet, all of which have been shown to not only improve digestion, but also alleviate symptoms of digestive upset and more serious conditions.
Traditionally, people fermented food as a means of preservation. Nowadays, fermented foods are not consumed as frequently because we can get fresh produce and dairy products at a moment’s notice. However, lactic acid–fermented foods need to have a place in your diet if you want to help maintain good digestion and alleviate any number of GI concerns.
During the fermentation process, beneficial cultures are added to food to break down that food’s natural sugars. As these bacteria feed on and metabolize the starches and sugars, they produce lactic acid as a byproduct. Lactic acid is what actually preserves food by inhibiting pathogenic bacteria that could cause rotting.
Lactic acid-fermented foods are so beneficial because they help to maintain a good balance of friendly bacteria (i.e., probiotics) in your bowel, which improves digestion, supports healthy immune function, and prevents intestinal infections.3…
For the full article, author bio, and references see Vol. 22, No. 1, January/February 2013 (available in print or digital format).