Digestion

Digestion

Kirsty BoultonApril 01, 2021
 

What are the worst foods for your Digestion?


What are the worst foods for digestion?

Whilst there are many ways to support your digestion and diet isn't always the only underlying issue, some foods can be particularly problematic in many cases, including:

  1. Processed foods
  2. Caffeine
  3. Spicy foods

Here I explore these foods in more detail, explaining how they can be troublesome, what symptoms they could be giving rise to and which food swaps could be easily implemented to help going forwards.

1. Processed foods

Why so bad?

Processed foods can be tricky to avoid nowadays - they literally line the shelves of most supermarkets you go into which can risk tricking you into a false sense of acceptance. But unfortunately, especially if you already have a sensitive digestive system, for example, if you suffer at the hands of IBS, processed foods may only be adding to your digestive woes.

See, processed foods tend to include a whole list of added ingredients, some of which are not so natural. Unfortunately, this is often even the case if the foods are labelled as being 'healthy' - arguably even more so! As foods are changed; fibre, healthy fats and naturally occurring nutrients are stripped from it, and in goes a barrage of sugars, sweeteners and poor quality fats in a bid to make the food taste nice and be suitably shelf-stable.

The lack of fibre, for one, can contribute to symptoms such as constipation, whereas added fats or other unwanted extras such as artificial sweeteners could irritate our guts and send us running to the loo more often. The other effect that unnatural additions could have is upsetting the balance of our good gut bacteria.

Many added sweeteners, naturally derived or otherwise, fall into the 'FODMAP' category of foods. This means they reach the large intestine having not been fully broken down. This can be seen as an advantage for some as they are technically 'non-caloric' but ultimately, they can upset your balance of gut bacteria due to arriving there in unnatural amounts or states (rather than being part of a natural food matrix), and cause us more issues in the long run. For a little more information on sugar, when its bad and instances when we can consume sugar with less need to worry.

 
 

 


What are the worst foods for digestion?

Whilst there are many ways to support your digestion and diet isn't always the only underlying issue, some foods can be particularly problematic in many cases, including:

  1. Processed foods
  2. Caffeine
  3. Spicy foods

Here I explore these foods in more detail, explaining how they can be troublesome, what symptoms they could be giving rise to and which food swaps could be easily implemented to help going forwards.

1. Processed foods

Why so bad?

Processed foods can be tricky to avoid nowadays - they literally line the shelves of most supermarkets you go into which can risk tricking you into a false sense of acceptance. But unfortunately, especially if you already have a sensitive digestive system, for example, if you suffer at the hands of IBS, processed foods may only be adding to your digestive woes.

See, processed foods tend to include a whole list of added ingredients, some of which are not so natural. Unfortunately, this is often even the case if the foods are labelled as being 'healthy' - arguably even more so! As foods are changed; fibre, healthy fats and naturally occurring nutrients are stripped from it, and in goes a barrage of sugars, sweeteners and poor quality fats in a bid to make the food taste nice and be suitably shelf-stable.

The lack of fibre, for one, can contribute to symptoms such as constipation, whereas added fats or other unwanted extras such as artificial sweeteners could irritate our guts and send us running to the loo more often. The other effect that unnatural additions could have is upsetting the balance of our good gut bacteria.

Many added sweeteners, naturally derived or otherwise, fall into the 'FODMAP' category of foods. This means they reach the large intestine having not been fully broken down. This can be seen as an advantage for some as they are technically 'non-caloric' but ultimately, they can upset your balance of gut bacteria due to arriving there in unnatural amounts or states (rather than being part of a natural food matrix), and cause us more issues in the long run. For a little more information on sugar, when its bad and instances when we can consume sugar with less need to worry, watch my latest self-care tip video below:

My Self-Care Tip: Understand when sugar is good or bad

Here I explain if all sugar is really bad. I look at if some types better than others and how you can decide:

What should you try instead?

Firstly, identifying processed items that you're consuming regularly can be a useful tactic. A nice rule of thumb I use is to check out the ingredients list. If a food has many more than 5 ingredients listed there then it indicates that it has been more highly processed.

Why not re-think what the food is and consider if it would be an option to opt for a less processed alternative? Trying to make your own version from the basic building block ingredients of the food in question might not be unthinkable – there are so many easy recipes and cooking tutorials for beginners online nowadays that you can nearly always find exactly what you are looking for.

2. Caffeine

Why so bad?

Caffeine is mainly found in drinks; however, it can be hidden in so many different drinks that many people are consuming way more than they realise! Caffeine is present in teas (even healthier options such as green tea!), coffee, fizzy drinks and for those who don't consumer any of those – chocolate too! So, why is caffeine so problematic for your digestion?

Caffeine ignites our stress response which ultimately turns our digestion off to some degree. Therefore, if we consume a continuous stream of caffeine throughout the course of the day, your body can struggle to get the chance to stay in its 'rest and digest' mode for any great length of time, and your tummy can be left in turmoil. For some, it can leave them constipated; whereas in others, your bodies tries to 'clear you out' ahead of the stressful situation you're facing, so you could be left running to the loo more often.

Stress can also risk depleting our stomach acid, a really common scenario which can be confused with having too much stomach acid, resulting in people often being put on medication which only further depletes their levels...

What should you try instead?

Stripping back your caffeine intake could help to encourage your digestion to work better. If you need an extra helping hand, a bitter herbal remedy such as our Digestisan could help spur your tummy into further action.

Switch caffeinated teas and coffees for decaf options or why not try our Bambu which is a naturally caffeine-free, yet delicious alternative to coffee? Green tea is technically a safer option as, although it contains a small amount of caffeine, it also contains a compound called l-theanine which is very calming and helps to cancel out some of the effects of the more stimulating caffeine.

3. Spicy foods

Why so bad?

Spicy foods can certainly be irritating for people that aren't so used to them. Spicy foods in excess could risk affecting the lower oesophageal sphincter which, when tampered with, can give rise to symptoms such as heartburn. Next, too much spice could also irritate the lining of the large intestine which can risk speeding up transit time and see you being sent off to the loo in a hurry.

However, that's not to say that they're all bad and we should also consider the context in which the spice is present. If it's contained in a very high fat curry, for example, then perhaps this is a factor in the digestive upset too. So basically, spicy when consumed in moderation and in nice home cooked meals, isn't necessarily one to be avoided completely. Plus, over time you can also build up some tolerance to spice, so little and often can help if you've found you experience some adverse effects.

What should you try instead?

Then there's the raw vs cooked theory to consider too. Raw vegetables are generally more troublesome to digest than gently cooked options, and raw chilli is much hotter than some cooked chilli with the seeds removed. So, this can be something to take into consideration when preparing your meals too. Start small and build yourself up.

Then, if chilli in any form just proves a bit too much for your system, there are a variety of milder spices you can enjoy instead. Cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves are all much milder options and all boast impressive anti-inflammatory properties which could actually do your digestion some good.