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Best (and Worst) Foods for Digestion

Fried Food

An article by Health.com’s Amanda Gardner points out some of the reasons that those of us who are “approaching maturity” may have tummy troubles. Things like too much fried food and too little exercise. Not that the denizens of the Underground have those issues; no, that’s purely theoretical. Interesting, but not germane.

Then she goes on to mention some foods that are good for your digestion. And some that are, well, not so good. On her “best” list:

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Ginger

Okay, I can see some of that. Yogurt’s good dairy; unless you have trouble with dairy, of course. Make sure it’s active culture type, though, or the benefits are reduced. Kimchi? Extra-hot pickled cabbage? I hear it’s the breakfast (and lunch and dinner) of North Korean Champions. Cabbage has roughage that humans can’t digest, so it acts like a cleanout plug, for want of a better image. The hot spices can activate your digestion for other stuff, though. Lean meat, fish, whole grains; we’ve been hearing oodles about their benefits for a long time. Bananas are a great source of potassium, as well as being an integral part of the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet when your gut’s in an uproar. Ginger has been touted for centuries in Asia, and it’s developed adherents here too. It’s great for adding flavor to everything from stir-fry dishes to cookies. Too much, though, and you’ll likely suffer the malady that you’re seeking to prevent: Indigestion.

Bucket of Berries

What about the worst foods? Here’s Amanda’s list:

  • High-fat and fried foods
  • Chile peppers
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Berries
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, tea and soft drinks
  • Corn

Okay, the high-fat and fried stuff, yep; that’s one of the issues not only with diabetes but also with digestion issues. Dairy’s a bummer, especially if you’re lactose intolerant; and many of us are. More than we think! Some populations (Asians, for example) are genetically predisposed to lactose intolerance. Aging can have an effect too.

Berries? Wait, those are superfoods and brain foods, yes? True. But they also have small seeds; if you’re got diverticulitis (an aging disease, generally), they’re more than a pain; they may be a trip to the emergency ward. Not good digestion.

The rest of them, though? Blasphemy! In reverse order, look at corn. It’s fiber-rich, with plenty of carbs and minerals. However, if you don’t chew it well, you can get gas and discomfort. This is true of many high-fiber foods, by the way; why pick on corn? Because it’s ubiquitous in American diets. Caffeinated drinks? Well, caffeine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. That’s the valve that keeps tummy acid down where it belongs. If you have acid reflux disease, this can be a serious problem. If you don’t, you could maybe induce the disease over time. Okay, but I’ll still get my morning coffee, maybe with a Nexium chaser.

Peppers

Chocolate? How can that be bad for you? For most of us, likely it isn’t. (My wife thanks the powers that be.) However, if you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or chronic constipation, chocolate may cause a problem. Is it the cocoa? Likely not, as it turns out; it’s the milk materials, probably. So go with dark chocolate.

Alcohol? Heartburn city for some folks. And some may suffer from stomach lining inflammation. The solution? Drink in moderation, or skip it and be the designated driver. Your tummy will thank you, as will your besotted friends.

Which leaves chile peppers. At this point, Amanda moves from preaching to meddling. It’s well-documented that peppers aid digestion. The Chinese have known this for millennia. More recently, even the Live Strong Foundation recommends chiles as a way to help your digestive tract. The Learning Channel’s shown evidence in support of chiles too. So in this case, I’ll ignore Amanda’s placement and move chiles from the “worst” to “best” list and press on.

As always, though, your mileage may vary. If chile peppers do you in, then you can move to a monastery (or nunnery) and avoid the good stuff; that’s my advice…

Enjoy the (Best of Food, Worst of Food) Heat!

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