Easy to digest foods provide a much needed relief to an already aggravated digestive system. Whether you’re suffering with an upset stomach, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Gastroparesis, one thing’s for sure; your regular, diverse diet can’t stay. In fact, it could be making your gastrointestinal symptoms worse.
Your best bet for relieving gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps and nausea is to stick to a bland diet, at least until you’re feeling better.
What Foods are Easy to Digest?
Generally, a diet that’s easy on the digestive system consists of low fiber (unless you’re suffering with constipation), low saturated fats, but still contains a good amount of carbohydrates and protein.
Of course, vitamins and minerals are still essential. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know what it considered easy to digest, especially when many healthy foods can trigger painful GI symptoms.
To help you, we’ve put together a list of easy to digest foods recommended by Lisa Meredich, MD, GI Doctor.
List of Easy to Digest Foods
a) Some Fruits
Most fruits are notoriously high in fiber, which can cause further upset to an already upset stomach. For this reason, you’ll want to stick to the following easy to digest fruits;
1. Honeydew Melon is incredibly easy to digest. It makes a great choice for Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD) sufferers thanks to its low fiber content. It’s also rich in Vitamin C. Watermelon in particular is a very easy to digest food.
Plus, it’s predominantly water, so easy on your digestive system, and if you’re suffering with dehydration due to an upset stomach, this is one food you’ll want to add to your diet.
Word of caution: if you’re suffering with dyspepsia or IBS, you’ll want to be careful with watermelon due to its high FODMAP content. See the list below for easy to digest foods for IBS.
5. Very ripe bananas are another great choice. Bananas are often recommended for those experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. They’re an easy to digest food, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin B.
Those with a j-pouch or an ileostomy may find that bananas help to prevent loose stools. Word of caution: if you’re suffering with dyspepsia or IBS, you’ll want to be careful with watermelon due to its high FODMAP content. See the list below for easy to digest foods for IBS.
6. Canned or cooked fruits without the skin or seeds
b) White Grains
You might have heard that wholegrains are healthier than their white, processed counterparts. However, due to their high fiber content, they’re harder for the body to digest.
On a normal day, you’ll want to add these nutrient rich grains to your diet, but if you’re suffering with an upset stomach, cramps, IBS, or any other gastrointestinal illness, you’ll want to stick to processed grains where the bran and germ have been removed.
1. White Bread
2. Plain Crackers
3. White Rice Bagels
5. Saltine crackers can be a life-saver when you’re dehydrated and suffering with an upset stomach. Their high salt content can help to restore your electrolyte levels. Just make sure to skip any heavy toppings on these grains i.e. butter or cheese.
C) Some Vegetables
Vegetables, like fruit, are high in fiber. Cooking them, however, reduces their fiber content. Try cooking these vegetables or picking up a canned variety the next time you need to cook an easy to digest meal.
1. Potatoes without skins
4. Green Beans
7. Yellow Squash without the seeds
You might also want to try adding some pulpless fruit or vegetable juices to your diet as these contain no pulp, so are less likely to cause any aggravation.
D) Certain Meat Products and Protein Sources
Turkey and chicken are your safest bets when it comes to easy to digest meat. Tender cuts of beef and steak digest well too. Skinless sausages or skinless hot dogs are also a good option.
Eggs and Tofu may be suitable for some vegetarians, although if you suffer with IBS you may want to limit your intake.
E) Lactose Free Dairy Products
Lactose can cause a lot of gastrointestinal issues, from cramping to bloating to diarrhea. To combat this, you’ll want to look for low-lactose or better yet, lactose free options. Nut milk is also best avoided as this can cause GI problems too.
Some easy to digest dairy based foods include;
1. Lactose Free Ice Cream
3. Lactose Free Milkshakes
4. Lactose-free Yoghurt
Other Foods which are Easy to Digest
The following foods are also considered safe for a low-fiber or soft foods diet;
3. Tomato Sauces
5. Cooked Cereals
7. Sweet Potatoes
8. Plain Soups
9. Herbal Teas
List of Easy to Digest Foods for an Upset Stomach
Suffering with the odd upset stomach but no intestinal disorder? Try these foods recommended by Lisa Meredich, MD, GI Doctor.
1. Low Fiber Fruit e.g. Watermelon
2. White Grains
4. Soups and broths
6. Oatmeal (made with water, especially if you’re lactose intolerant)
List of Easy to Digest Foods for IBS
IBS can be tricky. What triggers cramping, bloating and other painful symptoms in one person may not be the same in others.
Try these ‘tried and tested’ easy to digest foods for IBS. You may want to keep a trigger diary to track which foods you experience discomfort with and which ones you can tolerate.
1. Bananas, just limit your intake, as more than 1 banana a day can cause a laxative effect.
2. White rice.
3. Lean Protein Sources e.g. Tuna, Salmon, Chicken.
4. Carrots & Parsnips.
5. Peeled Apples – note if you have trouble with fructose or sweeteners, apples may not be for you.
6. Squash and Pumpkin.
9. Oatmeal (made with water if you’re lactose intolerant)
List of Easy to Digest Foods for Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is an illness whereby your stomach empties into your intestines slower than it should. With gastroparesis, you’ll want to monitor the amount of fats and fiber you intake, as these can greatly affect how intense symptoms are.
Try these easy to digest foods if you’re suffering with gastroparesis;
2. Vegetable & Fruit Juices
3. Fruit Purees
4. Lean Proteins e.g. Salmon, Tuna, Turkey
5. Peanut Butter
7. Breads, crackers, bagels (wholegrain may aggravate symptoms, so stick with plain)
What Foods to Generally Avoid if you have an Upset Stomach
As a general rule of thumb, foods high in fiber and saturated fat should be avoided. Dairy products are also ones to monitor, and should only be eaten in small amounts. Fried food and carbonated beverages are also to be avoided.
Here is a list of foods to avoid if you have an upset stomach;
1. Heavy cream
2. High Fiber Fruits e.g. Frozen/Thawed Berries, Coconut, Pineapple.
3. Potato Skins
6. Butters, oils, and margarines
7. Beans and Legumes
8. Fried Foods
9. Broccoli and Cauliflower (and other cruciferous vegetables)
10. Carbonated Beverages
13. Seeds and Nuts
14. Cheese and Milk
17. Lunch Meats
It’s always a good idea to keep a food diary to track which foods upset your stomach as a one size fits all approach isn’t necessarily the case. What foods trigger nausea, cramps and indigestion for you may not cause the same effects in someone else.
When in doubt, try these easy to digest foods and swap your rich diet to these ‘plain’ foods for a few days, at least until you’re feeling a bit better. When you’re feeling better, you’ll want to switch to a nutrient rich diet.
If you suffer with a gastrointestinal illness, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first before switching diets.
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