Health begins in the gut.
It’s common to feel digestive discomfort (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea) or fatigue after eating, but it should not be the norm.
The gut allows nutrients to pass into the body and provides a barrier against harmful organisms. When this happens correctly, you feel energized and refreshed after meals.
If that’s not the case for you, you may benefit from a few simple guidelines known to improve digestion and ease symptoms like abdominal pain and swelling, mental fog, intestinal gas, and fatigue.
These are not rules, in that you have to follow them for the rest of your life, but becoming aware of how you eat certain foods together to improve digestion can help, especially if you suffer from digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Combining foods to improve digestion works because our food (carbs, fats, and proteins) digests at different speeds and requires different digestive enzymes to break it down. You can create a little war inside if you eat foods that have different requirements for digestion and absorption… especially if you have underlying digestive problems added to the mix.
Food combining guidelines
Leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables contain their own digestive enzymes and can be paired with any meal.
Citrus fruits, spices, and herbs are neutral foods and can be paired with any foods. Many of them aid in digestion. Use lemon, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, oregano, basil, cilantro, and other healing herbs to add flavor and improve the health of your digestive system.
Eat fruit away from starchy carbs
Fruit, grains, and other carbohydrates (like potatoes and legumes) have a similar digestive rate, so they will compete with one another and lead to fermentation in the gut, which causes gas and bloating. The grain or starch will win this battle and the fruit will be left in the gut to putrefy and ferment while it waits its turn to be digested.
Instead, try fruit with nuts, or eat it alone. Its simple sugars will digest very rapidly. It’s best to eat it about 30 minutes to 1 hour before or after meals.
Some people also do well with fruit smoothies since the fruit is already broken down and it can be easily digested along with chia seeds, avocado, greens, and plant based proteins. Chewing your smoothies will also help you release the digestive juices necessary to digest with ease.
Eat melon alone because it has a quick fermentation process and can cause bloating when eaten with any other food.
Pair protein with non-starchy vegetables
Protein needs an acidic environment and plenty of digestive enzymes to break down and digest. It can be paired with cabbage, broccoli, greens, peppers, or other non-starchy vegetables because they have their own digestive enzymes.
Many people can digest protein well with starch. A lot of this will depend on the health of your digestive system, blood sugar imbalances, and your metabolic type. People with thyroid or adrenal disorders may need more carbohydrates with protein to help support energy.
When eating protein with a carbohydrate-rich meal, pay attention to whether or not your stomach feels heavy or you feel foggy and tired after meals. This is a sign that you had too much starch with your protein.
Pair starch with healthy fats and vegetables
Grains, potatoes, plantains, and legumes play nice together at mealtime and all need an alkaline environment for digestion. They also pair well with non-starchy vegetables.
Limit liquids during meals
Digestive enzymes are formed in the mouth when we chew our food. Drinking water or any other beverage with your meals can dilute these digestive enzymes and slow digestion. Drink water outside of meals and sip room temperature water with your meals. You can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before meals and drink it about 30 minutes before you eat to improve digestion.
What if you still have digestive upset after meals?
Digestive upset can still happen if we overeat or if we don’t combine foods appropriately. It’s natural to want to reach for an over-the-counter remedy to give you a little relief.
Here’s a few more things you can try:
- Raw apple cider vinegar helps rebalance the pH in your gut to help you digest better. Try 1-3 teaspoons in 4 oz of water.
- Digestive enzymes before meals are beneficial if you know you have consistent issues. You may also try 2 capsules after meals that cause bloating.
- Ginger tea before or after a meal can help calm nausea and bloating and relieve constipation
If you have indigestion after a meal, you can add a pinch of baking soda to about 4 oz of warm water to neutralize the acid.
Want to learn more about digestive health?
If you’re struggling with food sensitivities, low energy, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions, or weight gain, it could all be related to poor gut health and particularly leaky gut.
Functional lab tests and a good professional assessment can be life-giving if you have chronic digestive issues or health problems.
Check out my services here and connect with me to learn more about whether our programs are right for you.
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