Digestion is one of the most important functions our bodies perform. Food is broken down into smaller nutrients, which are then absorbed in the small intestine to encourage cell growth, tissue repair, and metabolic processes. That’s a best-case scenario. Unfortunately, for many, the best-case scenario is not their scenario; and digestion issues interfere to cause intestinal discomfort. Hard-to-digest foods may also cause bloating, gas, and occasional diarrhea — all of which negatively affect nutrient utilization.
While there are certain supplements, like probiotics and enzymes, which you can take to support digestion, foods can also provide benefit. Here are five foods you can add to your diet to help relieve intestinal discomfort.
According to a recent clinical study conducted at Lund University in Sweden, blueberries may support digestion and calm intestinal inflammation.  Not only that, but these sweet summery berries are low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in health-boosting antioxidants. Add a cup of fresh blueberries to a morning smoothie, or toss a handful into a salad!
Ever wonder why restaurants offer after-dinner mints? Peppermint and spearmint have been used for centuries as a natural digestive aid. Studies confirm that mint, specifically peppermint, soothes and relaxes stomach and intestinal muscles to support digestion.  One study even found that peppermint is effective against irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, by relieving uncomfortable bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
3. Coconut Oil
Replacing butter and typical vegetable oils with coconut oil may ease digestion for people who experience difficulty digesting and absorbing fat.  Coconut oil’s main fatty acid constituents include medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), also known as medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These fatty acids are easy on the stomach and require little to no bile acid salts for digestion. Plus, coconut oil promotes absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
While coffee has gotten a bad rap by a few reputable health organizations, some studies have suggested occasional use may help ease an upset stomach. Research performed on light-, medium-, and dark-roast coffee noted a positive impact on digestion among individuals who consumed a dark roast.  It is always best to choose organic coffee that was grown using fair-trade practices.
5. Fermented Foods
Kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut are foods that have been heavily fermented, a process that produces the familiar acidic bite. Something else that fermentation produces are strains of probiotic bacteria, helpful for digesting fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Incorporating these foods into your diet may be helpful for soothing digestive upsets.
What foods help ease your digestive distress? Which foods are the most problematic for your digestion? Leave a comment and share your experiences!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- Camilla Branning PhD.. Blueberries counteract intestinal disease. Lund University. 2010 February 8. (last accessed 2014-04-01)
- Merat S, Khalili S, Mostajabi P, Ghorbani A, Ansari R, Malekzadeh R. The effect of enteric-coated, delayed-release peppermint oil on irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2010 May;55(5):1385-90. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-0854.
- André C Bach, ScD, and Vigen K Babayan, PhD. Meidum-chain triglycerides: an update. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1982 November;36(5):950-62.
- Malte Rubach, Roman Lang, Carola Skupin, Thomas Hofmann, and Veronika Somoza. Activity-Guided Fractionation to Characterize a Coffee Beverage that Effectively Down-Regulates Mechanisms of Gastric Acid Secretion as Compared to Regular Coffee. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010, 58 (7), pp 4153-4161. doi: 10.1021/jf904493f.