Diet and Digestion: How Food Choices Affect Your Gut Health | Gut Health
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Misbah Wasi

Functional Nutrition Specialist, Scientific & Regulatory Advisor for Health Supplements

Misbah Wasi is a seasoned professional in the field of Nutrition Science and Food Regulation for over 15 years. Currently, she is lendin her expertise in the area of Health Supplements and Nutraceuticals and is an active member of the Standards Review Group (SRG) - Nutraceuticals FSSAI Ms. Wasi is a post-graduate in Food and Nutrition. Certified Lead Food Safety Management Systems Auditor (FSMS, FSSC 22000) and a certified FoSTaC traine for Health Supplements and Nutraceuticals. She is also a Subject Matter Expert for ‘Food Regulations in India’ for IFLR (International Food Laws and Regulations) course at Michigan State University.

Diet And Digestion: How Food Choices Affect Your Gut Health

What is a Healthy diet?

A healthy diet means a balanced diet. It involves eating a range of different foods, from a variety of food groups, in adequate portion sizes. There are five different food groups: starchy foods (whole grains, rice, potatoes, cereals); protein foods (meat, fish eggs, beans); dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt); fruits and vegetables; oils and spreads. One single food group cannot provide everything needed for good health, choosing a variety of foods from each group can help achieve a healthy balanced diet.

What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract—also called the GI tract or digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.

Why is digestion important?

Digestion is important because your body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water are nutrients. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair.

• Proteins break into amino acids

• Fats break into fatty acids and glycerol

• Carbohydrates break into simple sugars

What is Gut health?

Your gut is a gastrointestinal system, including your stomach, intestines, and colon. It digests and absorbs nutrients from food and excretes waste. About 200 different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi live in your large intestine. The bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut are known as your gut microbiome. The bacteria help to break down food, turning it into nutrients your body can use.

Certain types of bacteria in your gut may contribute to some diseases. Some microorganisms are harmful to our health, but many are beneficial and necessary for a healthy body. It is indicated by studies that the variety of bacteria in your gut is an important indicator of the health of your microbiome. The health of your gut can impact both your physical and mental health. Many factors, including the foods you eat, can impact the type of bacteria found in your digestive tract. What we eat can have short-term and long-term effects on our gut microbiome environment.

The digestive tract plays a vital role in your health, as it’s responsible for absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. Unfortunately, many people experience digestive problems like bloating, cramping, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation for various reasons. Certain conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn’s Disease, diverticulitis, and heartburn, can put you at risk for more severe digestive issues.

However, even a healthy person can experience digestive problems due to a lack of fiber or probiotic-rich foods. If you have digestive problems, eating certain foods can help relieve symptoms. This includes fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt and fiber-rich foods like dark green vegetables, seeds, and whole grains. Prebiotic foods (whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans, and artichokes) act as food for healthy gut bacteria. Probiotic foods like yogurt are full of good bacteria already.

Why Is Gut Health Important?

Your gut does far more than break down the foods you eat. It also absorbs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that keep your body healthy. It moves toxins and waste out of your body, and helps your immune system stay strong.

A healthy gut can help balance your hormones and contribute to clear, healthy-looking skin. It can even balance your mood and reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. A reduced risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases like lupus are other benefits of having a healthy gut. If your gut isn’t in great shape, there are several gut health hacks you can practice to start feeling better. Signs of an unhealthy gut include an upset stomach, changes in weight, and insomnia. Skin problems, fatigue, and diarrhea after eating certain foods are other common signs of an unhealthy gut.

Ways to Restore Gut Health

• Eat More Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut health. This “good” gut bacteria can restore a healthy balance in your gut. It can also destroy and reduce “bad” gut bacteria and cells that cause diseases. Some good gut bacteria may even produce vitamins and help you digest certain foods.


• Yogurt is a probiotic that is relatively easy to find in grocery stores. When buying yogurt, stick to brands that lack added sugars. High-sugar foods can worsen your gut health. Use natural sweeteners like honey and fruits to improve the flavor of plain yogurt.


• Kimchi, kefir, and kombucha are other foods that contain probiotics. If you have problems adding these foods to your diet, ask your doctor about supplementation. Probiotic supplements can also help you improve gut health.

• Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fiber. Pectin bypasses digestion in your small intestine and is then broken down by the friendly bacteria in your colon. It increases stool volume and is therefore commonly used to resolve constipation and diarrhea. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of intestinal infections and inflammation in the colon.


• Fennel contains an antispasmodic agent that relaxes the smooth muscles in your digestive tract. This action can reduce negative digestive symptoms like bloating, flatulence, and cramping.


• Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, which causes them to form a gelatin-like substance in your stomach, once consumed. They work like a prebiotic. Their fiber content also helps promote bowel regularity and healthy stools.


• Papaya - This luscious tropical fruit contains a digestive enzyme called papain. It assists during the digestive process by helping break down protein fibers. While not required in your diet, it can aid the digestion of protein. Papain may also ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as constipation and bloating. It’s commonly used as the main enzyme in digestive supplements due to its gastrointestinal capacities.


• Whole Grain includes oats, quinoa, and products made from whole wheat. The fiber found in these grains can help improve digestion in two ways.

1. Fiber helps add bulk to your stool and can reduce constipation

2. Some grain fibers act like prebiotics and help feed healthy bacteria in your gut.


• Ginger helps by moving food from your stomach to your small intestine quicker, ginger reduces your risk of heartburn, nausea and stomach discomfort.


• Dark Green Vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fiber. This type of fiber adds bulk to your stool, quickening its pace through your digestive tract. They are also a good source of magnesium, which can help relieve constipation by improving muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract.


• Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in your body. People with inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances and other digestive disorders often have inflammation in the gut. Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce this inflammation and thereby improve digestion.


• Miso Commonly consumed in miso soup, is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. It contains probiotics that, like other fermented foods, help improve digestion by increasing the good bacteria in your gut. It reduces digestive issues and overcome intestinal illness like diarrhea.

• Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Fermentation breaks down sugars through bacteria and yeast. During the fermentation process, an antinutrient in soybeans called phytic acid is broken down. Phytic acid can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients.

• Remember that probiotics create a protective lining in your intestines to shield them from harmful bacteria. Studies have found that probiotics help alleviate IBS symptoms, prevent diarrhea, decrease bloating and improve regularity.


Digestive issues can be challenging, but certain foods may be helpful in easing uncomfortable symptoms. Research supports eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh, to increase probiotics in your diet, which can improve digestive health. Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, dark green vegetables, and chia seeds, also play a role in digestion by helping food move through your system more easily or quickly.

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