Our lives revolve around food. It’s a biological imperative that helped drive humanity across continents as our hunter-gatherer ancestors escaped spreading ice or famine or chased the growing seasons. Our need for energy also inspired the invention of agriculture and many technological advances as we strove to keep up with the needs of an expanding population.
Some of these advances have been integral to our survival and have opened up new possibilities for leisure and learning that were previously impossible, all our time and energy consumed by meeting our most basic requirements. We can attend school, read books, write, live longer, take vacations, and innovate only because we have met our primal need to eat. But these advances have also unlocked the floodgates of time that held back diseases that were rare when humanity worked much harder for our food.
“We are what we eat.” We all know the saying, but relatively few of us take it to heart. What we put in our mouths is what our bodies will use not only as fuel, but also as the building blocks of life inside our bodies. What we eat is used to make hormones, enzymes, living cells, tissue, blood, and bone. The highly processed foods, refined sugars, high sodium, and junk foods of our modern world supply calories, but are lacking in the fiber, minerals, and vitamins our bodies truly crave.
Digestive problems affect more than 60 million people in the United States alone. This epidemic also costs us more than 100 billion dollars each year. The fuels we’re using to power, build, and repair our bodies aren’t the right fit if they’re damaging our digestive systems so badly. And if our digestive systems, our means of taking in nutrition, are weakened, then it should be no surprise that other diseases follow. Cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all are compounded by the deterioration of our food quality and our digestive health.
Avoid foods that damage digestion. These include processed meats and other processed foods, trans fats, very hot peppers, acidic foods, dairy, fried foods, alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, refined sugar, and high sodium foods. Each one of these inhibits digestion, lacks any real nutrition, or robs the body of vitamins and minerals. The stomach likes moderation, not the extremes found in many of our modern fares. Try fresh, organic whole foods that boost digestion and supply the nutrients the body is truly looking for.
Kim Chi and Sauerkraut – Fermented foods like these are easy to digest and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Cabbage is also rich in fiber that aids digestion and clears out toxins. Coconut or almond yogurt is also a good choice.
Sweet Potatoes – These tubers are much healthier than their white alternatives. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin A, B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and complex carbohydrates. B6 is important in helping the digestive system process protein.
Whole Grains – Whole grains are extremely rich in fiber and many other vitamins and minerals. Many grains do contain phytates that resist digestion, so soaked, sprouted, or fermented grains are the best bet. Also choose grains that don’t contain gluten like brown rice, oats, and the grain-like quinoa.
Bananas – These fruits contain a large amount of fiber and potassium. Potassium restores electrolyte balance which is important for digestion as well as hydration.
Ginger – This spice has a soothing effect on the digestive system when used in moderation. Ginger relieves nausea, motion sickness, gas, vomiting, morning sickness, colic, and loss of appetite. Ginger is also a natural pain reliever and natural antihistamine.
Beets – Beets are rich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients are all beneficial to the digestive system.
Water – Water is essential for any bodily process, including digestion. The breakdown and absorption of nutrients cannot be accomplished without proper hydration. Lack of sufficient water is also the main reason for constipation.
Dates, Figs, and Prunes – These sweet fruits are packed with fiber to clear toxins and slow the release of nutrients so the rest of the body can keep up with the regular supply and demand.
Lentils – Beans and legumes supply plenty of fiber, but can contribute to gas. Lentils cause much less gas. They also act as prebiotics, feeding the good bacteria that are vital to healthy digestion.
Apples – These fruits are rich in several types of fiber, including pectin, which helps remove cholesterol. Apples are also good for hydration.
Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which have distinct benefits for digestion. Chia also supplies healthy essential fatty acids. These healthy fats help the body absorb certain vitamins and they also stimulate other organs tied to digestion, the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.
Avocado – Like chia seeds, avocado is very rich in fiber and healthy fats the body needs.
Pineapple and Papaya – These fruits contain enzymes that help the body break down proteins for smoother digestion, easing of heartburn, and better absorption. They can easily be added to smoothies or eaten fresh.
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil supplies energy, is rich in healthy fats, and has antimicrobial properties to keep the digestive system free from yeasts, fungi, and bad bacteria that interfere with proper digestion. Coconut oil also reduces inflammation.