By Dr. Gina Sam
Before you grab that morning cup of coffee on an empty stomach, that lunchtime slice of pizza, or indulge in a steak dinner or ice cream while watching TV, understand that what you eat and when you eat it can lead to stomach upset. It can also trigger more severe issues in your gut. On the flip side, there are some foods that when eaten at certain times of day may soothe already existing stomach issues or may even prevent stomach ailments from occurring down the line. We spoke with Dr. Gina Sam, Assistant Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York who offers insights on what and when to eat certain foods for a healthy gut.
Best Bets for Morning
It’s important to start the day with a healthy breakfast that factors in stomach health. Probiotics found in Greek yogurt is ideal as it regulates the growth of harmful bacteria that grown in the digestive tract. Probiotics also keep colon lining healthy as it breaks through gastric acid and gets to the colon. In 2015 a study published in the The Korean Journal of Gastroenterology showed that yogurt might improve intestinal function for those with inflammatory bowel disease. Those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy lactose free yogurt.
Oatmeal is a great bet for breakfast and can be topped with blueberries another gut friendly food. Oatmeal doesn’t cause acid reflux. It soothes any morning stomach upset and regulates bowel movements.
Honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon are great options for those sensitive to reflux. Bananas help restore potassium, electrolytes and normal bowel function, especially if you have diarrhea. Bananas are also high in fiber, which is great for digestion.
The Lunchtime Lowdown
Eating leafy greens daily is a great for digestion. Lunchtime salads that include grilled salmon; chicken or turkey won’t cause reflux and will be easily digestible throughout the afternoon. If you are sensitive to acid then you will want to avoid onions or tomatoes and for some even the seeds in cucumbers can trigger a bout of stomach cramping. Be careful with lemon juice and vinegar in salad dressings, which can promote reflux. Try adding fennel with arugula and baby spinach along with parsley. Parsley is known to help digestion and settles the stomach.
This delicious Korean coleslaw is made primarily with cabbage, which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Also cabbage helps to eliminate waste regulating bowl movements. Home made sauerkraut is also a delicious option but be mindful if you are sensitive to spicy foods. This is why it is best to make your own so you can regulate the amount of spice.
Lunchtime is optimal for grilled veggies, legumes such as lentils with olive oil along with grilled fish or chicken. Preparing a plate of various whole grains, cauliflower, carrots, figs and pears are all great sources of fiber for the mid day.
A Digestible Dinner
You really want to focus on ease of digestion at dinnertime. Foods that are high fat can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn. Steatorrhea or pale colored stool is excess fat in the feces. People with IBS fare better when they avoid high fat foods. That said here are some options for a healthy gut.
Cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, or tuna when grilled in olive oil are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can address any inflammation in the digestive tract. According to a 2014 study featured in the World Journal of Clinical Cases, omega-3’s were sites as being beneficial to those with ulcerative colitis.
Grilled Chicken with Couscous or Brown Rice
Chicken another lean meat that offers protein and is easy to digest goes great with couscous or brown rice especially if you tend to get acid reflux after late meals. Another option for a side dish is guacamole or avocado slices with lime. Artichokes also feed the good bacteria in your gut as does asparagus and lentils.
Stomach Friendly Snacking
When it comes to snacking there are several options you can reach for. Granny smith apples with almond butter, baby carrots and hummus, hallowed out cucumber and cottage cheese, kale and zucchini chips and assorted nuts (not peanuts) are all healthy and good for the gut.
You know your body best. Pay close attention to what agrees with you at varying times of the day and if you notice changes in how you take to certain foods see your doctor.
About Dr. Gina Sam:
Dr. Gina Sam, MD/MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. She is the Director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center specializing in achalasia, gastroesophageal reflux, functional disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis, and anorectal disorders including pelvic floor dyssnergia and fecal incontinence.