Do you try to eat right but have trouble digesting healthy foods, like vegetables, beans, dairy, nuts, and seeds?
It is frustrating when your good intentions of eating better are stopped by abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, and bathroom issues. Fortunately, some methods, supplements, and exercises can aid digestion so you can feel better.
Trouble Digesting Healthy Foods Summary
- Food allergies involve your immune system with potentially life-threatening symptoms.
- Food intolerance or sensitivity is a lesser reaction that typically affects the digestive system.
- Use an Elimination Diet. To perform an elimination diet, remove your trigger foods for a few months, and then slowly reintroduce the foods back into your diet.
- Taking a digestive enzyme supplement with food helps you breakdown nutrients.
- Physical exercise, as well as breathing exercises, aids digestion.
Trouble Digesting Healthy Foods? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The difference between food allergies and food intolerance.
- 3 ways to aid digestion!
- Additional resources for motivation and healthy eating!
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance (Sensitivity)
There is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance or sensitivity.
With a food allergy, your immune system gets involved. An allergy is a quick reaction with a swift onset of potentially life-threatening symptoms, like sudden inflammation of the airways that can make it hard to breathe. (Think of someone with a peanut allergy who suddenly can’t breathe).
Food allergies can also cause hives or a skin rash to appear very soon after eating something. Therefore, if you have a food allergy, you need to stay away from the offending foods.
Food Intolerance (Sensitivity)
Food intolerance is a lesser reaction that typically affects the digestive system.
Many foods can cause the onset of symptoms in a person with food sensitivity. Common food triggers include dairy, gluten, vegetables, certain fruits, and beans.
If you have a sensitivity to a food, the symptoms typically come on slowly. For instance, within a few hours of eating a salad with beans, you may feel gassy, experience stomach pain and bloating, develop a skin rash, feel mentally foggy and achy, or have trouble sleeping.
Ways to Aid Digestion and Handle Food Sensitivities
There are ways that you can aid digestion and, in some cases, overcome a food intolerance.
Let’s look at a few strategies.
For some, an elimination and reintroduction strategy works well. To perform an elimination diet, remove your trigger foods for a few months, and then slowly reintroduce the food back into your diet.
Note that if you reintroduce the food for one day, and you feel fine, that doesn’t mean you are cured. You may need to eat the food for a few days in a row before the symptoms reappear. When you are ready to reintroduce the food, do so by having a small portion each day for a week.
During this reintroduction phase, listen to your body. Do you feel tired, bloated, have any stomach pains, constipation, or diarrhea? If you pay attention, your body will tell you everything you need to know.
This elimination/reintroduction strategy is an experiment, so think like a scientist. You don’t want to be studying too many variables at the same time.
Therefore, if you removed more than one food from your diet, let’s say you removed vegetables, gluten, and beans, don’t add all of them back at the same time. If you do, and you have a reaction, you won’t know which of the foods was offensive.
Instead, add one of the trigger foods back, and give your body a week before adding a second trigger food.
If your symptoms have come back during the reintroduction phase, then you need to remove that offensive food for another three months, or you may want to try a digestive enzyme supplement.
Digestive Enzyme Supplements
We all have enzymes inside our digestive tracts that get released when we eat. These digestive enzymes are the substances that break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in our food.
Taking a digestive enzyme supplement is like sending more workers down into your digestive tract to chip away and break down food.
Supplements to Help Digest Dairy
For instance, if you have trouble digesting milk or dairy products, you may be lactose intolerant. Having lactose intolerance means that you lack the digestive enzyme (lactase) needed to break down a particular sugar in milk called lactose.
To avoid digestive issues, you can take a digestive enzyme, such as Lactaid, before eating or drinking a milk product. The Lactaid tablet contains the missing enzyme and breaks down the milk for you.
Supplements to Help Digest Fiber
Other digestive enzymes are available to help you digest other nutrients such as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber. These supplements are taken with the trigger food to help you digest the food.
Fiber is a common food sensitivity trigger. If you notice constipation when you eat high fiber foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, a magnesium citrate supplement may help.
If you increase the amount of fiber you’re eating, but you aren’t going to the bathroom regularly, it won’t be long before you do not feel good. Magnesium citrate, along with additional water intake, can help relieve constipation caused by high-fiber foods.
An effective way to aid digestion is by moving more. Some exercises help with digestion, and the nice thing is that you don’t need to perform an intense exercise to benefit. Even fifteen minutes of the right exercises can go a long way to improving your digestion.
Walking helps to move foods through the digestive tract. A 15-minute walk after a meal has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for weight loss.
Yoga is a great exercise for better digestion, and you don’t have to be a yoga master to benefit. Many of the digestive benefits come from the breathing aspects of yoga. The twisting poses and abdominal motions also help by massaging and toning the midsection.
Focused breathing exercises like Qigong breathing help to massage the abdominal organs and promote healthy digestion. Qigong is a low-impact exercise that has similarities to Tai Chi. These types of activities also help to lower stress, further benefitting digestion.
An elimination/reintroduction strategy, digestive enzyme supplements, and light exercise are do-it-yourself ways to feel better if you have trouble digesting healthy foods.
Be patient with your body as it gets back on track, and if you need a little motivation and somewhere to get started, you can watch my Free Video Series that shares my 4 Daily Habits for living a healthy lifestyle.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.