11 Surprising Foods That Can Help Balance Your Digestive Health

No one likes an achy stomach, that's for sure. When digestion is off balance, your body feels it, and it's hard to stay productive and energized when you're crying out for some relief. Luckily, food can help. Eating foods that balance digestive health in the day can set you on the right track and keep inflammation and abdominal distention and cramping at bay. In addition to developing healthy practices, such as mindful eating, moderate servings (to avoid overwhelming the belly at once), and walking post-meal to balance blood sugar levels, eating a diet rich in clean, whole foods, like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, can surely help.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on figuring out a way of eating that works for their bodies and lifestyles. If something appears off, such as stomach pain and bloating in the day, irregular bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea, for instance), or excessive gas, we always look to the diet for ways to improve and balance out the digestive process. Food is often the culprit, and when there's plenty of nutritious and tasty options that are good for your gut, there's no point in wasting your time with foods that don't support your body's digestion and functionality. Here are 11 foods to eat for better digestion, so you can walk away from a meal feeling energized, satisfied, and comfortable.

1. Greek Yogurt

Foods that contain probiotics, like Greek yogurt, have been shown to promote healthy gut flora to balance out the body and improve the digestive process, say nutritional experts at Reviews.com over email with Bustle. Greek yogurt is also high in protein to keep you full and tastes great. Eat it for breakfast or a mid-day snack. For greater benefits, add fresh fruit, advises Dr. Chris Mohr, PhD, and Reebok nutrition expert, over email with Bustle. "All fruits - they contain fiber, which is great for digestion. Berries are particularly high so enjoy fresh or frozen berries, regularly," says Mohr.

2. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are also high in probiotic properties to balance the gut and promote good bacteria to aid in keeping you regular and digesting your food smoothly, advises Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, over email with Bustle. "Fermented foods, like kimchee and sauerkraut, are rich sources of probiotics that help to promote the good bacteria in your gut," says Shaw.

3. Onions & Garlic

Shaw also recommends eating onions and garlic for improved digestion, as they are also probiotics and have been shown to boost immunity and wellbeing. Try adding onions and garlic to mixed vegetable dishes or use as a seasoning on lean proteins. "Spices and herbs are great for you - many contain a variety of nutrients and have unique health benefits. Ingredients like turmeric, herbs like parsley, oregano, basil, cinnamon, etc. These are all great for added flavor without calories," further adds Mohr.

4. Beets

"If you want to boost energy levels while detoxing simultaneously, look no further than the beetroot. A high fiber count makes beets a prime choice for those with digestive issues," say the nutritional team at Rhythm Superfoods over email with Bustle. "Fiber helps to promote digestive and colon health by cleaning out the gastrointestinal system and making for regular, healthy bowel movements," the team adds.

5. Turmeric

"According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, UMMC, turmeric has been used in both Chinese and Indian traditional medicine to treat digestive problems, and research suggests that it may be beneficial for treating dyspepsia, or indigestion," say the Living Intentions team over email with Bustle. "Turmeric has been shown to calm the digestive system, helping to relieve gas and bloating," the team adds. Try Tandoori Popcorn, which also contains probiotics. Ginger is also a great substitute, as it contains the same digestion-promoting properties.

6. Bone Broth

"Bone broth is wonderful for supporting digestive health. The naturally occurring collagen and gelatin in real, slow-cooked bone broth helps to heal and seal the mucosal lining of the gut, which helps to ease and facilitate proper digestion," says Sharon Brown, founder of Bonafide Provisions and Certified GAPS Practitioner over email with Bustle. "Bone broth also contains amino acids, which can help improve digestion as well," Brown adds.

7. Oats

Over email with Bustle, Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director at BeWell Medicine, explains that oats can be very soothing for the stomach and can keep digestion stable, bowels regular, and blood sugar levels balanced. Try oats for breakfast in an oatmeal or as a snack in a healthy, low-sugar granola.

8. Beans

"Magnesium plays a key role in the body’s function which regulates sleep, often being referred to as one of the most powerful relaxation minerals available. You can find magnesium in leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin seeds and beans," says Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and Co-Founder of sleep technology company, Reverie® over email with Bustle. "Low-quality sleep results in the body not sufficiently suppressing the production of cortisol, also known as the 'stress hormone,' which alters the balance of your gut bacteria," explains Rawls-Meehan.

9. Bananas

Rawls-Meehan says that eating potassium can keep water retention and digestion in check and can promote sleepiness to keep you on track towards preventing cravings and irregular bowels from digestion. Enjoy bananas as a snack or toss into smoothies, oatmeals, or yogurts for added nutrition.

10. Dark Leafy Greens

While some vegetables can make you gassy, such as cruciferous ones like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, others can help balance and smooth digestion, such as kale and spinach, found in the leafy green family, explains Rawls-Meehan. Add these to smoothies, salads, and stir-fries, or just eat plain as a veggie side.

11. Papaya

Due to papaya's source of papain, an enzyme that helps break down protein and improve digestive health, it is a terrific aid for smoothing digestion and easing the stomach after a meal. Plus, it tastes great and helps end a meal on a sweet note. Eat plain as a snack or for dessert.

If you're sensitive to certain foods or find yourself with a weak stomach at times, consider choosing these helpers in bettering your diet, lifestyle, and digestion. You'll have greater wellbeing and start to enjoy meals (and their aftermath) way more.

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