December 3, 2022

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What (and how) to eat to improve your digestive health and get your GI issues under control.
Improve your gut health with these tips from the experts. / Illustration by Rebecca Smith
Suffering from constant stomachaches, bloating, or other gastro issues? Judging by the 400 million views of TikTok’s #guttok videos, you’re not alone. (The past few years could give anyone indigestion!) But it can be hard to weed through the fad diets and probiotic peddling to know what will really help you. Below, five steps from local health experts that provide a starting point. 
One of the first steps in addressing gut irritants is to check with your body after eating. Registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) Beth Auguste tells her clients to note symptoms after meals. Keeping a written log or using an app like mySymptoms Food Diary will help identify trends and gut irritants. Everyone’s body is different, so it’s important to determine the root of your gut problems to find a lasting solution.
Cristina Hoyt, an integrative clinical nutritionist and body-image coach, says she doesn’t address food with some of her clients — because resolving stress often resolves their digestive issues. Hoyt recommends sitting while eating and taking a few minutes before meals to practice deep breathing.
It seems obvious, but RDN Alexis Newman says, “Chewing food well allows more digestive enzymes to be released to break down the food.” Additionally, the less we chew, the larger the food particles that travel to our stomach, creating more work for our digestive tracts and less absorption of critical nutrients. According to Newman, meals should last at least 15 to 20 minutes, and putting your utensil down between bites is a good way to slow down.
It’s important to incorporate foods with probiotics, prebiotics and fiber into your diet, but it can be difficult to know how. Hoyt suggests bringing more color to your plate. When meals include naturally colorful ingredients — red peppers, green artichokes, purple olives — they’re more gut-friendly and GI-supportive. According to RDN Lisa Rudi-Davis, it can be as easy as swapping out a Coke Zero for a glass of kombucha.
Often, it feels like gut health is about removing food from your diet. But Melissa Green Henkin, certified nutritionist and holistic health coach, recommends adjusting your intake of certain foods to limit the growth of “bad” bacteria in your gut. This can mean reducing refined and processed sugar intake by substituting dark chocolate or fiber-rich fruits for desserts; chickpea or lentil pastas for flour versions; brands like Simple Mills, that use whole ingredients like coconut sugar and almond flour, for baked goods; and higher-protein alternatives like Greek yogurt for the sugary stuff.
Published as “Go With Your Gut” in the October 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
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