A Lot to Digest
While you can digest almost any type of food, changes in food processing and preparation — not to mention lifestyles — mean we don't always react well to everything we eat. Here's a quick guide to what's best and worst when it comes to keeping your system running smoothly.
High-Fat and Fried Food
High-fat and fried food can overwhelm your stomach, bringing on acid reflux, heartburn and steatorrhea. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, avoid fatty foods, including butter and cream.
You need calcium in your diet, but if you're lactose intolerant, dairy products such as milk and cheese can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating and cramps, and should be avoided.
When alcohol relaxes your body, it also relaxes the esophageal sphincter, which can lead to acid reflux or heartburn. It can also inflame the stomach lining and make it harder to absorb nutrients you need. Guidelines suggest no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.
Coffee, Tea and Soft Drinks
Coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages can also over-relax the esophageal sphincter, and can act as diuretics, leading to diarrhea and cramping. Caffeinated beverages can be a particular problem if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
You have trillions of bacteria in your gut that help you digest food, and yogurt contains some types of these healthy bacteria. Look for “live and active cultures” on the label.
Lean Meat and Fish
Your system can digest chicken, fish, and other lean meats a lot easier than a juicy steak. And lean meats and fish have not been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer the way high-fat red meats have.
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oats and brown rice, are a good source of fiber, which aids digestion, helps you feel full and lowers cholesterol. But be careful — it can cause bloating, gas, and other problems if you quickly ramp up your intake. So take it slow when consuming more — and avoid wheat grains if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Bananas help restore normal bowel function, especially if you have diarrhea. They also restore electrolytes and potassium, and are a good source of fiber.
When it comes to food, choose the best over the worst. Your digestive system will thank you.
Dr. Abdul Jabbar, MD
Gastroenterology of Southern Indiana
Dr. Abdul Jabbar joined our practice in 2006. He graduated from Nishtar Medical College, Pakistan. For one year he served as Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before completing his Internal Medicine Internship and Residency at Columbia University teaching program of Overlook Hospital at Summit, New Jersey. He received Fellowship training in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Louisville, followed by extra training in hepatology and endoscopic ultrasound. Prior to moving to Indiana, he was an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Gastroenterology at the University of Louisville. Dr. Jabbar is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is married and the proud father of two children. He enjoys U of L basketball, playing golf, and spending time with his family.
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