When it comes to the best foods for digestive health, perhaps the best way of thinking about it is this: If it doesn't cause any symptoms, then it's good.
There are "foods that clean out your bowel system. Foods that help to keep you regular. Foods that will not increase reflux. Foods that won't cause diarrhea," Kristi King, R.D., a senior dietitian at Texas Children's Hospital and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells HuffPost.
Good digestion starts the moment you put a food in your mouth, King adds, noting that foods that are "good" for digestion are generally those that make the digestive process easier.
Different nutrients from foods benefit the body in different ways, says Dr. Matthew L. Bechtold, M.D., F.A.C.G., a gastroenterologist at the Digestive Health Center at the University of Missouri - Columbia. However, even nutrients that aren't readily absorbed by the body can be healthy -- fiber, for instance, helps to ensure regular bowel movements.
Fiber is the "Roto-Rooter, the Drano, of the digestive system," King says, though she notes that it is possible to have too much. People should generally have between 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day, which is the amount in five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables and about four to five servings of whole grains.
The body is designed to digest many types of foods, but everyone is different in that some foods may trigger digestion-related symptoms for some and not others, Bechtold says.
Bechtold and King offered up some of their picks for the best and worst foods for digestion, based on their ability to help keep things moving in the body, as well as their likelihood of triggering nasty symptoms like diarrhea and acid reflux. Click through the slideshow to check them out:
BEST: Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great for digestion because most are high in fiber, King says. Bechtold adds that the fiber in produce has an added benefit of regulating bowel movements.
BEST: Whole Grains
Whole grain foods, including brown rice and wheat, also contain lots of fiber, making them another top food group good for digestion, King says. (Obviously this advice may not apply for people with chronic conditions like celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities, since wheat contains gluten.)
While all fruits and vegetables are generally good for digestion, bananas in particular are great because they don't irritate the stomach. That's why they're part of the "BRAT Diet" for vomiting or diarrhea -- that is, the bananas, rice, applesauce and dry toast diet. "Those are the four things that tend to be the easiest tolerated amongst people and they tend to be bland, so they won't irritate the stomach like other foods," King says. They are also good for replacing the body's electrolytes, she adds.
"Water is excellent for digestion, and that's one thing I think people don't drink enough of," King says. Water helps the digestive process because it helps move things through the intestines.
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and peppermint are great for settling an upset stomach, King says. Try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge.
BEST: Probiotic-Containing Foods Like Yogurt
Probiotics are good for the digestive system because they contain good bacteria that crowds out any bad bacteria that you may have in your gut, King says. You want to look specifically for foods that contain <em>live</em> bacteria, such as yogurt and kefir.
BEST: Prebiotic-Containing Foods Like Asparagus And Oats
Prebiotic foods contain a type of fiber the <em>probiotics</em> feed off of to multiply, "so it’s good food for your good bacteria," King says. Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, onions, lentils and whole grains.
WORST: Spicy Foods
Spicy foods can be bad for digestion because they may trigger acid reflux symptoms for some people, King notes.
Similarly to spicy foods, those containing caffeine can also trigger acid reflux, as it relaxes the esophageal sphincter -- the flap that keeps what you've eaten down in your stomach -- causing food to come back up into the esophagus, King says. What about coffee, which is high in caffeine yet always seems to help us "go?" King says coffee is powerful for triggering peristalsis -- the term for movement of food through the intestines -- it does contain caffeine, which means it can still cause reflux. But it could help someone who is struggling with constipation, she notes.
WORST: Acidic Foods Like Soda
Like spicy and caffeinated foods, acidic picks like soda can also trigger reflux, King says.
WORST: Foods High In Saturated Fat
Fatty foods can induce heartburn and diarrhea due to poor absorption of fat, Bechtold says. King adds that you can tell if your diet contains too many high-fat foods because your stool will float to the top of the toilet. This is a sign that you might want to cut back on the saturated fat.
Alcohol also relaxes the esophageal sphincter, which can then trigger acid reflux, King says. Bechtold adds that it can induce inflammation in the stomach.
Dairy can induce bloating, Bechtold says, as well as abdominal discomfort, particularly for people who are lactose intolerant.
How to Understand Basic Digestion
In this health video you will learn how to understand basic digestion.