Sluggish, lethargic and generally out of sorts? You don’t have to suffer from IBS to experience any of these symptoms. Try incorporating some gut friendly ingredients.
From bone broth to apple cider vinegar, garlic to sauerkraut, here’s 10 foods that can aid digestion according to nutritionist Cassandra Barns…
Garlic has potent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can help keep in check any ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut and can also be beneficial in cases of candida (yeast) overgrowth in the gut.
2. Raw sauerkraut or kimchi
Sauerkraut is a traditional fermented food usually made with shredded cabbage. It naturally contains gut-friendly bacteria – it’s basically a natural probiotic! Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut but usually made with a combination of vegetables and the addition of spices such as ginger and red chilli flakes. Make sure you get raw sauerkraut or kimchi; if it doesn’t say raw on the label, it’s probably been pasteurised, which kills all the beneficial bacteria.
3. Jerusalem artichoke
These knobbly vegetables are one of our best sources of inulin, a type of soluble fibre. Inulin has a prebiotic effect, helping to ‘feed’ the good bacteria in our gut.
Ginger can stimulate production of stomach acid and digestive juices, as well as helping to keep food moving through the gut. It can also help relieve nausea. Use ginger in stews, stir-fries, soups, vegetable juices, grated on salads, or in curries (but keep them light to benefit your digestion!) Hot ginger tea made with fresh grated ginger is a fantastic digestive tonic too.
We need fibre for a healthy gut and good bowel movements! But wheat bran can be quite harsh on the gut, causing digestive problems for some people. Oats can be a better source of gentle fibre. As a bonus, the fibre in Nairn’s Scottish Porridge Oats (£2.59, www.nairns-oatcakes.com) have also been found to help lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar.
6. Live miso
Like sauerkraut and kimchi, traditionally prepared unpasteurised miso contains natural ‘friendly’ bacteria as well as live enzymes, both of which can be beneficial for the gut and digestion. Again, it’s important to look for an unpasteurised product to get these benefits. A great example is Clearspring’s Organic Japanese Brown Rice Miso Paste (£5.79, www.clearspring.co.uk)
7. Rocket and watercress
The bitter taste of rocket and watercress can help to stimulate the digestive juices as well as bile flow from the liver. Bile helps to emulsify and digest fats and helps us digest and absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E. Good bile flow is also necessary for efficient detoxification, as it’s the liver’s way of getting rid of fat-soluble wastes and toxins.
8. Apple cider vinegar
Contrary to what you may have thought, it’s more common to have too little stomach acid than too much. Having low stomach acid can cause many of the problems that people associate with indigestion, including burping, nausea and even heartburn symptoms. Taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water before a meal can help to balance stomach acid levels. However, do not try this if you are already taking a prescribed medication to reduce stomach acid.
9. Bone broth
Traditionally prepared bone broth is made by simmering leftover meat or fish bones for at least 8–12 hours. This process leaves us with a highly nutritious broth containing valuable minerals and gelatin that come from the bones. Gelatin can help to restore a healthy gut lining, and the amino acids it contains may also help to improve stomach acid levels.
10. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which is vital for good gut health. Raw pumpkin seeds have also been used as a traditional remedy for parasites. Try Grinding up Clearspring’s Organic Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (RRP, £1.19, www.clearspring.co.uk) before eating to get the most benefit.