When it comes to digestive function, even the “healthiest” of foods can be troublesome for people. The standard way to address this discomfort is to eliminate or avoid foods rather than address what may be the underlying cause. Not only can this lead to some nutrient deficiencies and less than palatable meals, it can create a lot of anxiety around meal times for some that is often very challenging to recover from. This is why restrictive diets are not the standard at Functional Nutrition of Wisconsin.
Instead, we take a personalized approach by looking at digestive health and the gut microbiome through functional lab testing, that can be done through the comfort of your own home. With that data, we can create a plan to balance and repair the gut microbiome in hopes that our clients will tolerate a greater amount of foods.
For many, this process takes time which is why some foods may be discouraged to provide more relief from bloating, constipation, and diarrhea among other symptoms. Before going to a full elimination diet, here are a few tried and true cooking methods to make foods easier to digest and assimilate.
1) Cook your foods
If you find your digestion struggles when you eat raw plant foods - think salads or even smoothies, your body may have trouble breaking down the indigestible carbohydrates and anti-nutrients that plant foods naturally contain. An easy fix for this is to gently steam your vegetables or incorporate them into soups and stews. Cooking helps begin the process of breaking down indigestible carbohydrates so you feel more comfortable after eating them.
Raw foods do often contain more bioavailable nutrients; but cooking helps to bring some of different nutrients out as well. When you make the switch to consuming more cooked veggies, try to add in about 1/4 cup of raw vegetables to see how well you tolerate those.
2) Marinate Your Meat
Animal protein requires a healthy dose of stomach acid to stimulate the digestive process. Stomach acid also activates something called pepsinogen into the active form of pepsin, which is an enzyme that stimulates the breakdown of proteins in the stomach. You can make meat easier to digest (not to mention, it will be more flavorful!) if you first marinate it. Try vinegar, pineapple juice, or citrus like lemons and lime in your marinade. This will start the breakdown of proteins making it easier for your body to handle.
3) Soak your legumes
Plant foods have defense mechanisms to survive, but before you decide to ditch them entirely - read this!
The outer layer of beans and legumes have an outer layer that have been referred to as anti-nutrients or natural pesticides, which include lectin and physic acid. When these compounds are consumed, they can hinder nutrient absorption and impact digestion.
Fortunately, you can easily reduce these compounds significantly by soaking them in water with baking soda for 8-24 hours before consuming, and rinse the beans before cooking. This greatly reduces the anti-nutrients and helps to breakdown the fermentable fibers - so in turn, you should produce less gas and tolerate the magical fruit even better.
Of course, all individuals tolerate these foods differently, prepped differently or not. Many factors impact your ability to digest foods, including: the balance of bacteria, stomach acid, digestive enzymes, intestinal permeability, and inflammation to name a few. If you don’t know where to begin, start with a Discovery Call by clicking the link below:
In good health,
Kristie and Rebecca