The holiday season can leave many of us with bloating, gas, and digestive troubles. Between the holiday parties, dinners, dessert tables, and booze, you’re likely out of your routine and ready to make some simple changes to get back to feeling your best.
So what can you do? The good news is that making a few simple swaps in your diet can have a major impact on your digestion and overall gut health. Whether you’re interested in optimizing your gut health or you’re struggling with poor digestion, try incorporating some of these gut-healing foods as a first step.
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts found in fermented foods that, when consumed, take up residence in the gut and improve health. Kefir, a fermented drink traditionally made with cow’s or goat’s milk, is an excellent source of probiotics. Another bonus, kefir contains antibacterial properties which help boost immunity and overall health.
Pro tip: There are plenty of dairy-free kefirs on the market. You can get coconut-kefir or water-kefir and still enjoy the gut boosting benefits.
Sauerkraut & Kimchi
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi are also an excellent source of probiotics. These foods give your gut healthy, living microorganisms which crowd out the “bad” bacteria, improve absorption of minerals, and support overall health.
Pro tip: These foods are usually best kept refrigerated, and not cooked so you don’t kill the beneficial probiotics.
This tiny but powerful seed is exceptionally high in fibre, which provides food for the good bacteria you want in your gut and helps eliminate toxins and excess hormones from your system. Want to prevent constipation and ensure proper elimination? Flaxseed fibre also promotes regularity—one more reason for you to enjoy it!
Pro tip: Add a tablespoon of flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal or yogurt bowl as an easy way to sneak in more fibre and omega 3s.
Although they get less attention, prebiotics may be just as important than probiotics for gut health. This is because they feed your friendly gut flora and help them increase on their own. Bananas are an excellent source of prebiotics and have been shown to increase healthy gut flora and reduce bloat.
Pro tip: Other prebiotic rich foods include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, beans, and oats.
The recommended daily amount of fibre is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men—but if you’re like most Canadians, you’re nowhere close to meeting your daily intake. A cup of raspberries packs in 8 grams of fibre and is a delicious way to boost your daily fibre intake while keeping your “good” gut flora in check.
Pro tip: Eat berries (and all fruit) on an empty stomach and preferably first thing in the morning to prevent fermentation later in the day. This will reduce bloating and gas, and keep your tummy happy!
Coconut oil is mostly made up of a unique kind of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are more easily digestible than other types of fat, which means less strain on the digestive system—and therefore an excellent option for those who have a sensitive stomach.
Coconut oil also contains anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties which heal the digestive tract and help kill “bad” microorganisms that can cause chronic inflammation and discomfort.
Pro tip: Look for cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil to make sure you’re getting a high quality oil which will provide you with the best nutrients.
Bone broth has been used for thousands of years as a digestive tonic to help reduce symptoms of chronic digestive issues such as IBS, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Studies also show that the amino acids in bone broth such as L-glutamine and glycine help normalize stomach acid and reduce inflammation.
Pro tip: There are so many ways to sneak more bone broth in your diet! Use it to cook your favourite grains, drink it straight up instead of tea, or use as a base for a soup or stew.
Pro tip: Chewing fennel seeds can also keep your breath smelling minty fresh.
Ginger has been used for centuries as a digestive aid and is known for reducing bloating, flatulence, and IBS symptoms. It stimulates digestive acids that help support optimal digestion and maximize nutrient absorption.
Pro tip: Add fresh ginger to stir fries, smoothies, and juices.
Foods to Skip
If you’re eating a healthy diet but still suffer from digestive issues, you may have a hidden food sensitivity. It may also help to avoid or cut back on the following food and drinks:
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Sweetened fruit juices and sodas
- Fried and/or processed foods
- Gluten, soy, and dairy
It may also be a good idea to try a supervised elimination diet to discover how food sensitivities affect you. This process usually takes 3 weeks and is best done with the help of a professional. Seeing how your body feels and operates in the absence of trigger foods can help you pinpoint the culprits that may be holding you back from achieving optimal health.
Danica is a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and health coach on a mission to help women around the world find their optimal well-being. She is the founder of Nakd Health, where she coaches clients to prioritize wellness in their busy lives with delicious recipes, nutrition advice, fitness and lifestyle changes.