Maintaining a healthy digestive tract is more than just shits and giggles (sorry). After years of ignoring it, researchers have finally realized that the state of your stomach a huge influence on your overall health.
That’s thanks to a collection of beneficial bacteria known as the microbiome, and keeping those benevolent microscopic inhabitants of your stomach happy means better immunity, a reasonable weight, and, yes, great poops. So if you’re experiencing problems in the gut department, consider adding more of these foods to your diet:
Apparently, pineapple is more than just a juice that successfully masks the taste of horrible things (like vodka… and semen). According to Talia Pollock, holistic health coach and creator of Party In My Plants, the fruit is also super soothing to our stomachs. “Pineapple contains a special digestive enzyme called bromelain, which helps us break down proteins, making it easy for us to digest and absorb nutrients,” Pollock says. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties are also helpful in easing stomachaches and discomfort.
Ginger is often called the “universal medicine” in India, Pollock says, but it’s probably better to use it for digestive purposes rather than, say, tuberculosis. “Ginger stimulates our digestive systems, helping us ‘go,’ and relieving us of any uncomfortable gas and bloating,” Pollock says. It’s also known to alleviate nausea, so if your gut is feeling a little “off,” add a chunk of the freshly peeled root to a mug of hot water and let the plant work its magic.
Oktoberfest isn’t the only time sauerkraut is in season. According to Pollock, raw sauerkraut is the next best thing to popping probiotic pills, because the raw, fermented food is a good source of naturally occurring probiotics. In addition to making the most of the nutrients we eat, this “good” bacteria helps break down food faster, and plays an important role in maintaining your overall health. Feel free to load up your plate at the next festival, because this German favorite might help restore the balance that your knockwurst-and-beer habit works hard to destroy.
Those fizzy, funky drinks that line the refrigerated sections of Whole Foods are more than just trendy and overpriced — they can also help ease digestive distress! Like sauerkraut, kombucha is fermented, which means it contains probiotics that help your digestion. If you’re looking to soothe your gut while you booze, Pollock suggests “[using] it as a mixer for your cocktails so you can detox while you tox.”
There’s some truth to the “magical fruit” song: Legumes, especially black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of soluble fiber, says Brian Tanzer, nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. As it passes through your system, soluble fiber soaks up water, which bulks up your stool (leading to a satisfying poop). “The healthy bacteria in the gut ferment the fiber into short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid,” Tanzer says. “Short-chain fatty acids have considerable health benefits — like serving as an energy source for cells that line the intestinal tract.”
If you’re one of those people who tosses out the stalks of broccoli, you could be passing up the best bowel movements of your life. These stalks — along with fibrous tops of leeks, bottoms of asparagus, and apple skins — all contain insoluble fiber, which is essential for healthy digestive function and regularity. “Insoluble fiber stimulates contractions in the intestinal tract, which helps keeps things moving along,” Tanzer says.
Yogurt selections labeled with live or active cultures contain strains of bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, says Amanda Foti, registered dietician for Selvera Wellness. These probiotics, which are also found in sauerkraut and kombucha, can enhance your bowel movements and help you maintain a healthy digestive system. Foti recommends incorporating a serving of yogurt with live cultures into your breakfast routine, adding fresh fruit like banana, which contains prebiotics. Just make sure that you’re not getting a brand that has a ton of added sugar in it.
Onions may make you cry on the outside, but on the inside (of your intestines) it’s a different story. The allium family includes garlic, onion, leeks, chives, and scallions, and all are rich in prebiotics — or carbohydrates that serve as food for probiotics, Foti says. Dicing these additives and tossing them into a salad, rice, or pasta dish is an easy and tasty way to consume prebiotics and keep your digestive tract happy.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.