For anyone who’s struggled with digestive issues, you know that it can be hard to tell if what you’re eating is helping or hurting your belly.
Last week, during my interview on KTLA, I debunked some of the most common healthy foods that may actually be sabotaging your digestion. To be clear: these foods ARE healthy foods. However, if you suffer from digestive issues (acid reflux, bloating, constipation, etc.), you may want to experiment with limiting or removing these foods.
Are one or more of these 6 foods & drinks sabotaging your digestion?
- Smoothies – Drinking a cold smoothie in the morning slows digestion and can back you up for the day, especially if your digestion is more sluggish to begin with. I recommend starting your day with room temperature or warming liquids and foods. Not ready to give up your AM smoothies? Read this post on how to make your smoothie more digestion friendly.
- Water – I can hear you already: “But Robyn, how could water be bad for me??” It’s not the water itself, but the way you may be consuming it that could be causing you digestive woes. You should not be drinking water with meals, as it dilutes your gastric juices and messes with your digestion of food. When you can, stick to water before and after meals — I try to give myself a 30-minute buffer on either side. If you must have something with the meal itself, try hot water with lemon, hot tea, or room temperature water.
- Quinoa – Some people do not do well with grains! Even though quinoa is gluten free (and technically not a grain but a psuedo grain) it still contains lectins, saponins, and phytic acid like most grains — all compounds that mess with your gut!
Lectins – They damage the gut lining which leads to leaky gut and other disorders. Lectins also cause leptin resistance, which means that your hunger signal is suppressed and that you’ll be hungry even when your body has had more than enough calories.
Saponins are another problematic element of pseudo grains and seeds – like lectins, these compounds are designed to protect the seed so it can survive to pass on the plant’s genetic line. Like lectins, saponins also contribute to leaky gut syndrome by damaging the enterocytes, the cells that line your gut and control what passes in and out of it.
Fun fact = If you’ve ever thought quinoa tastes soapy, it is: in South America, the saponin residue is used as detergent.
Phytic acid – Also found in nuts, phytic acid is a compound that humans can’t digest: essentially, it binds to the minerals in the food and prevents us from absorbing them. No matter how impressive a food’s Nutrition Facts panel looks, none of those nutrients will do you any good if the phytic acid in the food is preventing your body from using them. Phytic acid can also interfere with digestive enzymes and otherwise irritate your gut.
Soaking and rinsing your grains (and pseudo grains) can help remove some of these compounds, but if you struggle from serious digestive issues, you may want to consider eliminating grains altogether and see how you feel.
- Mint – Isn’t mint supposed to be great for soothing upset stomachs? Well, yes, mint is cooling which is good for some (those with indigestion or excess heat in the body) but some people need heating foods like ginger. If you feel you have a sluggish digestion, you’ll want to stick with the more warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Additionally, if you struggle with pain higher up in the digestive tract, such as heartburn, peppermint might not be such a good idea. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, peppermint can actually relax the sphincter muscle which closes off the stomach from the esophagus. This can cause stomach acid to pour back into the esophagus and make heartburn or GERD worse.
- Nuts – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nuts aren’t popcorn! Nuts were designed by nature to be consumed in small quantities. Since already shelled nuts and nut butters are so readily available, we often eat way more than a recommended serving in one sitting (FYI – one serving of nuts = 1 oz ~ ¼ cup or about 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves or just 6 brazil nuts).
Tip = Reach for pistachios in the shell to slow down your consumption, or swap nuts for something just as crunchy but not as dense like raw celery, fennel, and radishes.
- All raw salads – Raw foods can be hard for many people to digest and are usually not as satisfying or grounding as cooked foods. This is why I created my “Good Gut Rule of Five Plate” which I teach in my book, Thin From Within. A key component of this plate is a cooked vegetable which your digestive system LOVES.
- Kombucha – Yes, this bubbly drink is packed with good-for-your gut probiotics, but it can also be high in sugar, and many people drink too much in one sitting, which can lead to bloating and burping. This is a food you’ll need to “go with your gut” on; one serving is about 4-6 oz, so you can play around with what works for you (if any).
- Low-fat yogurt – So many of us are still scared of fat, so we reach for low fat or nonfat dairy which, unfortunately, usually has way more sugar. I recommend going with a full-fat variety (have a little less if it’s too rich for you to start!). You can also experiment with goat’s or sheep’s milk yogurt if you have trouble digesting dairy.
I rotate between higher fat dairy, goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurt in my Power Parfaits.