Do you have digestive issues? Do you have bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea? If you answer yes to any of these symptoms, then your food is probably one part of the problem. Most of us have a sensitivity or an allergen to a food. Our sensitivities and allergens are not just to the typical allergy foods of milk, wheat, eggs or peanuts. It can be anything you eat on a regular basis.
There are a couple of ways to figure out if what you are eating is causing your digestive issues. One popular way is the elimination diet. It is just like it sounds. Eliminate foods from your routine for at least 4 weeks. Next, reintroduce those foods and see if the symptoms reappear. This method sounds really simple but it is not an effective process. The downside is:
You are guessing which foods are the problem foods
It takes a long time
You may not solve the digestive issue the first time so you have to find more foods to eliminate
Another way to identify food sensitivities and allergens is to take an IgG food allergy test. The IgG food allergy test is a blood test that is able to identify foods that are an issue for you that you ate 28 days ago. This is much better than a traditional allergy test that is performed in a Doctor's office with pin pricks. It is easy to get access to the test. You can go to a website like Great Plains Laboratory or EverlyWell to get a test. Great Plains requires a Doctor to be part of the testing while EverlyWell you can do yourself.
The great thing about an IgG food allergy test is you get the results quickly. Now you know which foods are causing you digestion issues. The foods can be eliminated from your lifestyle helping your digestive tract to heal. The results are good for about 5 years. If you aren't willing to take the test, that is your decision. Some people prefer to try methods like the elimination diet. Since you are your own health advocate, you get to decide what is right for you.
Once you've determined food sensitivities and allergens to eliminate from your diet, then you can start focusing on eating foods that support healthy digestion. The nutrients your digestive tract needs to stay healthy are: Fiber, Probiotics, Vitamin A, Zinc and Quercetin.
Did you know that the average American only eats 10-15 grams of fiber a day? No wonder there are so many digestive health issues! We really need to eat between 8-12 grams at every major meal. Fiber is really important for the digestive tract. It helps to detox the body by binding fat soluble waste so it can be eliminated from the body. Plus, the movement of elimination keeps the digestive tract muscles healthy.
If you start working on adding more fiber to your diet, make sure to increase the amount of water you drink. If you don't, you'll wind up being constipated. No one wants that! Foods that are high in fiber include, broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts, bananas, avocado and apples. If beans cause you too much gas, try soaking them in water. If they are dried beans, soak them for 24 - 48 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. If they are canned beans, soak for 24 hours, changing the water every 12 hours.
The digestive tract is home to trillions of bacteria. We need good bacteria in our gut to help promote a healthy digestive tract. When the good bacteria become disrupted, then our digestive health suffers. Probiotics are naturally found in dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant or are allergic to dairy, foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha and pickled cucumbers are alternative options.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which means it fights pathogens in the body. Digestive upset is usually caused by a pathogen. It could be that the immune system is tired and can't fight the pathogen because we are eating a diet with a lot of processed foods and few vegetables and fruit. The pathogen could be the start of an illness, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Vitamin A is known for it's ability to help keep the immune system healthy. If you are eating at least 8 - 10 servings of orange and yellow, vegetables and fruits a day, you are probably getting enough Vitamin A. If not, taking a multi-vitamin with Vitamin A can help. It is rare that we need to take a single Vitamin A supplement.
Zinc is an important mineral that we most often think about during cough cold season. But zinc plays a crucial role in our digestive health. Zinc attaches to other enzymes in the body, including the enzymes in our stomachs, to help break down food. If we are low on zinc, it will disrupt our bodies ability to break down food. (Source: Medical Daily) Rarely do we have a zinc deficiency. We get enough zinc via meats, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains and eggs.
Quercetin is an antioxidant that you have never heard of! It has a lot of beneficial roles in the body, including keeping the digestive tract healthy. Quercetin helps lower inflammation. With lowered inflammation, our digestive system can work properly. Quercetin is found in leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, broccoli, apples and berries. If you are eating a well-balanced diet, then you are probably getting enough quercetin. However, if you are lacking in your fruit and vegetable intake, then you may want to consider a supplement.
I hope this post helps you identify what foods you should be eating to promote a healthy digestive tract.
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