October 12, 2018 By Yenny Rojas
It may surprise no one that the foods we eat (and don’t eat) affect the way our digestive system functions. For example, too much bread and not enough fiber can lead to constipation rather quickly. If your diet has consistently been undersupplied of certain proteins, minerals, or other needed nutrients, it can create disorder in your system. This isn’t just a problem for your digestive system; it can also cause problems with your skin, immune system, and respiratory system.
Common causes of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are inappropriate diets, a lack of exercise and inflammation anywhere along the length of the digestive tract. In addition to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), one of the most common GI disorders is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s a chronic condition that causes a variety of signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. While there’s no cure for IBS, dietary and lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods and decreasing stress levels can ease symptoms. These may include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, acid reflux, and nausea.
Because there are so many possible causes of GI disorders, they can be difficult to treat.
How Do Processed Foods Impair the GI Tract?
Processed foods are bad to eat for a number of reasons, including that they can contribute to GI disorders. The problems associated with processed foods include:
- Low-fiber content that could unsettle digestion and aggravate existing GI symptoms
- High levels of trans fats, which raises bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increases gut inflammation
- Additives like preservatives, sweeteners, bleaches or colorants, which can alter the balance of the microbiome of the gut, causing disease and dysfunction
Fiber is Your Friend
Fiber assists in the movement of materials through the digestive system. Processed foods are very low in fiber – so a diet high in processed foods can greatly increase your risk for GI disorders.
Consuming a high-fiber diet is an easy way to help avoid GI disorders or manage the symptoms of one. A diet with sufficient quantities of fiber – 25 to 30 grams a day is recommended to help normalize the digestive process, increasing the size of bowel movements and softening it.
This reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticulosis). The type of fiber found in foods like beans, bran, and oats (soluble fiber) helps to reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. In people with diabetes, soluble fiber has shown to slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Fiber may also improve heart health by helping to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Foods that are high in fiber are more filling. You can eat less and stay satisfied longer, making it easier to obtain or maintain a healthy weight.