When you have gut health issues, such as IBS, Colitis, Chron's or you just know something isn't right with your digestive system, food can be the enemy. Never knowing if you'll need to run to the bathroom after eating is embarrassing. Even worse is the uncomfortable feeling of having to suppress gas or experiencing painful bloating that makes you want to unbutton your pants. One way to help manage the symptoms of digestive health issues is choosing foods that support a healthy digestive system.
Specific foods address different areas of the digestive system. The digestive system is a complex system of multiple organs working to extract nutrients from the food we eat to support energy production in the body and to eliminate waste. Suffering from constipation or diarrhea means the body cannot get the nutrients it needs nor can it eliminate waste efficiently. It is a delicate balance to keep the digestive system functioning properly.
Before adding any of the foods I am recommending to support a healthy gut, taking a food allergy test will help you avoid any foods that you may be sensitive or allergic. Everly Well has an at home IgG test that can identify how your body responds to 96 different foods. By taking the test, you can quickly find out what foods to eliminate from your routine. Eating a food that you don't know you are allergic or have a sensitivity to will only make digestive health symptoms worse.
Fiber, protein and healthy fats are key nutrients to focus on eating when healing the gut. In order to digest food, enzymes are needed. Our digestive system naturally produces enzymes but they become inefficient by drinking cold drinks with meals, not eating enough protein, over-eating and eating too fast. Keep in mind these simple guidelines to help digestion happen successfully at each meal:
Drink warm or room temperature beverages with a meal, such as tea
Eat enough plant-based protein per meal
Increase fiber intake per meal
Take time to eat - don't rush
Avoiding piling your plate with a lot of food; start small and go back for seconds if you are still hungry
Reducing meat intake will help heal the gut but if you must have meat, choose lean portions of chicken and fatty fish like salmon. Also, a great supplement to add to a variety of foods is collagen. Collagen heals the gut and is tasteless. It can be added to smoothies, soups and even coffee and tea. There is marine based collagen available but it has to be flavored (as of the writing of this article) which means it is limiting to the amount of foods it can be added to.
Now that you know to focus on fiber, protein and healthy fats whenever you eat, let's look at the quick and easy recipes that support a healthy gut.
Smoothies (or smoothie bowls) are a great option to start the day because you can achieve a great mix of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Use a scoop of vegan plant protein instead of a whey protein to increase protein content. Protein powders that use whey could trigger digestive health symptoms. Whey is recognized by the body as an allergen. The below recipes use fruits and veggies to ensure fiber content is high. If you plan on adding seeds or beans, make sure to soak them the night before to reduce lectin's, which are problematic for the gut.
Another great breakfast is overnight oatmeal. Oatmeal is gluten-free and overnight oatmeal can have any add-ins you want. For the recipes below, I use frozen fruit and veggies. It makes my life so much easier so I don't have to worry about fresh food going bad before I can use it. Enjoy!
Lunch can be problematic for a lot of people. Work can be very busy with little time to eat. That breaks one of the guidelines of not eating fast! Also, there can be surprise meetings where take-out is brought in. Typically, the take-out is something fast like pizza or sandwiches but a salad or fruit is not included.
One way to make sure you always have a healthy lunch is to meal-prep on the weekend. The best way to ensure you have a healthy lunch is to make it yourself. Stir-fry's are a great option because you can combine fresh and frozen veggies with a whole grain. They cook quickly and you can make large portions ahead of time. Soups are also a great option since you can pair it with a salad (if lettuce does not cause issue). Sandwiches are also a good option. Just look for gluten-free breads to help keep gut disruptions low at the office. Here are a few of my favorite recipes.
While I would love to think that dinner is easy to control, life happens. If you have a long commute, traffic delays may make you so tired at the end of the day that you just want to pop something into the microwave and be done with it. Or you may have to stay late at work, leaving the family on their own and you grabbing something unhealthy.
Meal-prep is another way to ensure that a healthy dinner is ready in the evening. I love making casseroles that can be easily reheated during the week or using the crock-pot to start a meal in the morning and have it ready when I come home. Just like lunch, stir-fry's are an easy option and there are a lot more options when it comes to different types of gluten-free pasta or grains that can be made as side dishes. Below are recipes to try.
I hope you learned some new recipes and tactics to help digestion happen slowly. If you try any of the above, don't forget to tag me on Instagram as @heather_lee_donahue and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!
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