In theory, you should be able to digest just about any type of food you put in your mouth.
But changes in food processing and preparation (think fried) not to mention lifestyle (think sedentary) mean our stomachs don't always react well to everything we eat.
It's best to avoid some food—like fatty meats—to avoid upset tummies. But, fortunately, nature also provides foods that can ease our digestion. Here's a guide to what's good and what's bad when it comes to keeping your system running smoothly.
Bananas help restore normal bowel function, especially if you have diarrhea (say, from too much alcohol).
And they restore electrolytes and potassium that may be lost due to runny stool. This fruit also has lots of fiber to aid digestion. "A banana a day is what I always say," Anderson says.
Best: Yogurt: Mtindi
You have trillions of bacteria in your gut that help you digest food, and yogurt contains some types of these healthy bacteria. (Although not all yogurts have them—check for "live and active cultures" on the label.)
"Yogurt has bacteria, which replenishes the normal flora within the gastrointestinal tract so it's healthy," Dr. McCashland says.
Kimchi is a Korean favorite usually made with cabbage, radish, or onion, along with lots of spices. The main ingredient is usually cabbage, which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
And cabbage is a type of fiber that's not digested, so it helps eliminate waste, keeping bowel movements regular, Anderson says. Sauerkraut is good for the same reasons.
This dish can be spicy, however, so it might not be a good option if you’ve found that spicy foods trigger digestive problems for you.
Best: Lean meat and fish
If you're going to eat meat, go for chicken, fish, and other lean meats—they'll go down a lot easier than a juicy steak.
"Red meats tend to be fattier," Anderson says. "Your body can handle lean meats and fish and chicken a whole lot better than prime rib."
And lean meats and fish have not been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer like high-fat red meats have.
Best: Whole grains:
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oats, and brown rice, are a good source of fiber, which helps digestion.
"If there's one thing America lacks, it's fiber," Anderson says. "We need 20 to 30 grams a day and we maybe get 12."
Fiber also can help you feel full and lower cholesterol, but it can cause bloating, gas, and other problems in people who quickly ramp up their intake—it's better to take it slow when consuming more. And wheat grains are a no-no for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.