The Breakdown of Healthy Digestion

The Breakdown of Healthy Digestion

Having a healthy digestive system is crucial for our health. Going from a flat stomach to a bloated belly throughout the course of a day is linked  to the kinds of foods we consume. Unhealthy foods, such as those that are fried, salty, or artificially sweetened take longer for your body to break down and digest, causing gas to build up.

Bloating occurs when there is gas in the intestines. Overeating, constipation, hormonal changes, or irritable bowel syndrome could cause this. However, more serious illnesses such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or colon cancer could also be the problem. If you suffer from consistent bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, you are advised to seek medical attention.

Making changes to your diet could significantly aid in healthy digestion.

The Digestive Process

Digestion begins as soon as food enters your mouth. As you chew, the teeth grind the food, while saliva that contains enzymes begins the chemical breakdown. The food then passes through the esophagus as you swallow and into the stomach. Your belly breaks down the food further with acids and enzymes. The small intestine secretes most of the enzymes for digestion and absorbs the nutrients. What is not absorbed or completely broken down goes to the large intestine. The large intestine, with the help of its bacteria, breaks down what was not digested, especially dietary fiber and carbohydrates.

Foods To Avoid

Certain fruits, vegetables, and especially beans cannot be broken down in the small intestine and instead change to complex sugars. This process causes gas to be released. Fatty, fried foods are hard to digest and offer little nutrients.

Limit your intake of salty and processed foods, which contain high amounts of sodium. Sodium causes you to retain water, which results in feeling bloated.  Foods high in sodium include: cured meat and fish (such as bacon), sauces and salad dressings (such as soy sauce), instant soup, and roasted nuts.

Artificial sweeteners that are found in diet drinks, sweets, and even chewing gum are also belly-bloating culprits. These include: aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol, cyclamates, and sucralose. Because artificial sweeteners cannot be digested, they cause the fermentation of bacteria, which then produces gas.

Those who are lactose-intolerant or sensitive to dairy products should avoid them to reduce bloating and stomach cramps. When lactose is not digested, it passes into the colon where bacteria tries to break it down. This causes gas.

Potatoes, pasta, and wheat produce gas from the large intestine. If you are sensitive to starchy foods, switch to rice. Always avoid refined white flour that is commonly found in white bread and baking goods.  Refined grains cause water retention and have little nutritional value.

Foods To Eat

Fiber allows for digestion to occur seamlessly. Once your enzymes break down the food, fiber binds to it and helps waste to pass. Fiber supports healthy intestinal bacteria and fights free radicals. Spinach, lettuce, pinto beans, carrots, almonds, bananas and apples all are healthy fibrous foods.

However, avoid broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, onions, peppers, and lentils that are gas-producing vegetables.

Eat lean meats, instead of fatty cuts, such as chicken breast.  Switch from whole milk to low-fat options, and replace butter with olive oil.

Spicy foods release stomach acid, which could cause an upset stomach and irritation to the digestive system.  Instead of black pepper, curry, nutmeg, chili powder, mustard, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, and vinegar, spice your food with herbs and seasonings.

Probiotics are “good bacteria” that are similar to the healthy bacteria found in your stomach. Probiotics help regulate bowel movements, supports healthy intestinal lining, and wards off autoimmune diseases and allergies. Probiotics are found in yogurt, but can also be taken as a supplement.

Apple cider vinegar stimulates the acid in your stomach that breaks down food. It has been used as a remedy for upset stomachs, and reduces bloating and aids in detoxification.

When you drink a carbonated soda, seltzer, or other fizzy beverage, you become both gassy and bloated because of the carbon dioxide in the bubbles. Instead, drink more water. Water hydrates and makes you feel full longer. If you aren’t drinking enough, your digestive system slows down.

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