Whether you’re suffering from a stomach bug or dealing with an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flare-up, one thing’s for sure: Your regular diverse diet isn’t going to do you any favours. In fact, it might even worsen your symptoms. Ugh. No, thank you.
Instead, your best bet for remedying symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea is by sticking to a regime of bland foods — at least until your gut is back in gear. So what foods are the easiest to digest? In general, you want to stock up on bites that are low-fat and low-fibre to ensure that your gastrointestinal tract won’t have to put in even more work to break down food compounds when it’s already a bit out of whack.
Your colon (the large intestine) is the organ that does overtime to process heavier and fibrous foods and eventually dispose of waste product as poop. If it’s inflamed, you don’t want to cause more damage by overdoing it on foods that are hard to digest, like ones that are high in fibre and fat (even something as simple as broccoli sautéed in lots of EVOO).
To make your grocery shopping extra simple, I’ve got a whole list ahead to make it easy for you.
1. White bread and white rice
Compared to their cousins — whole-wheat toast, whole-grain toast, and brown rice — white-flour foods are far easier to digest if you have an upset stomach. White flour is refined and processed, meaning the fibre is stripped out of it.
On a typical, healthy day, you totally want the fibre in whole-wheat carbohydrates, as it takes longer for your body to break down and keeps you fuller longer. However, when your stomach hates you? You’ll have a way easier (and more comfortable) time eating the white stuff.
Also in this category? Saltine crackers. The salt content functions as an electrolyte and can help if you’re dehydrated. Pretzels, too, can be gentle on the tummy, as long as they’re not made with butter or whole grains.
The juicy fruit, along with honeydew and soft sweet melon, are primarily composed of water. Because of that, they’re light in terms of GI work and do an A+ job of hydrating the body, especially when, err, poo just keeps coming out of you. And because these fruits barely have any fibre, they basically get absorbed along the way, leaving little to end up in the colon to eventually be processed.
If you are a produce lover and are wondering what vegetables are easy to digest, many are tough due to the fibre content. That being said, for all those folks who prefer veggies, feel free to reach for cucumbers, as long as they don’t have skin. Like melon, they are high in water. On a similar note, try to avoid the seeds hiding in all of these foods, since they’re not digestible.
When it comes to picking proteins, you’re going to want to opt for lean, low-fat options such as chicken, turkey, and/or fish (the latter of which might sound gross when you have the stomach bug, but your choice!).
Your protein of choice should also be prepared in a low-fat manner as well. This means steer clear of frying and sautéing and just stick to baking these bites.
As for fish? A few additional rules: Avoid sushi because of its higher risk of contamination (read: further stomach distress), and it’s also best to avoid oily fishes like mackerel and sardines, as they can be a little too heavy when experiencing GI issues.
The browner, the better. Yup, you read that right. Under-ripe, greener bananas have more resistant starches, which are similar to prebiotics in that they are hard to digest and feed the bacteria in your gut. And when your tum is having trouble, the last thing you want is for all these bugs to start playing around. But as bananas collect spots (read: ripen) resistant starches turn into sugars, which are no-sweat for your gut. Added bonus? Bananas can be constipating, which is helpful if you have diarrhoea.
5. Cooked cereal
A.k.a. oatmeal. Farina (semolina) or milled wheat and grits work too—as long as they’re cooked using water (read: no dairy milk or nut milk, which may trigger GI issues). When you cook these cereals, you’re helping to break down their components, meaning you’re essentially starting the digestion process before the cereal even enters your mouth. Why not have the stove do the work for you?
One last tip: Some people put toppings like peanut butter in their oatmeal. But when your stomach is acting up, it’s better to avoid this. Peanut butter is easy to digest for some people, but tough for others, and it’s been connected to worsening acid reflux symptoms anecdotally. While your GI tract is angry, it’s safer to hold off on the PB.
6. Canned vegetables
More specifically, canned carrots since they (unlike many veggies out there) are not high in fibre, do not have super fibrous skins, and don’t have seeds. Just be careful of canned options filled with preservatives. To avoid this, look for those with the simplest list of ingredients—essentially just water and veggies.
7. Sweet potatoes
By now you know the drill: Skip the skins. But if you’re looking for an easy-to-digest food that has a bit more flavour and nutrition (sweet potatoes are high in potassium!), bake one of these orange guys and scoop out the insides to do away with the skin part.
Hardboiled are best. That’s because they only require water and are completely cooked through, which is not the case for many other egg preparations such as poached and over easy. Hate hardboiled but love a good scramble? Feel free to eat eggs that way as well, as long as long as you play it safe by using very little butter.
Channel your inner child and enjoy some applesauce. Like cooked cereals, applesauce is considered “predigested,” in that its already broken down to make it easy on your tum. (Think of it as the more digestible form of fruit.) Plus, it’s tasty, sweet, and provides a little bit of nutrition in a situation where you’re not really racking up the vitamins otherwise.
10. Chicken soup
Not only is a warm bowl of chicken soup soothing (and, yes, good for the soul), but it is also a safe way to get different ingredients in an easily digestible form. Cooking the veggies, chicken, and broth all together for hours helps break down lots of the components long before they make their way through your digestive tract. And, voilá, little to no work for your body.
If your stomach situation has left you gagging at the idea of chicken and veggies, then consider slurping on just broth; the combo of salt and water can help rehydrate you.
11. Herbal tea
While not really a food, herbal teas can be key if you can’t bear the thought of chewing something but are craving something soothing. Chamomile tea is known to be gentle and stomach-soothing, and fennel tea can help alleviate cramping and constipation. Ginger tea is a wise choice if you’re looking to tame nausea, and peppermint tea may also help remedy stomach pain and diarrhoea.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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