Made up of your anus, intestines and rectum, your bowels play an essential role in keeping your body functioning at an optimal level. They are primarily responsible for storing and releasing solid waste (poo) from your body.
Despite their critical function, most people take their bowels for granted, until they experience bowel issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, or haemorrhoids. Only then will they realise how important bowel health is.
If you want to lower your risk for the abovementioned bowel conditions or make your trips to the toilet more pleasant, eating the following foods good for bowel health will help.
1. Wholemeal Bread
Wholemeal bread (also called whole wheat bread) is made up of grains that are rich in fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins. Whole-grain foods can improve your overall gut health and help you stay regular. Some studies have also shown that fibre-rich foods can reduce your risk for colon cancer, too.
Make fibrous foods a part of your daily meals to increase the amount of fibre in your diet. You can start by eating three slices of wholemeal bread daily, like one slice of multi-seed whole grain bread for breakfast, a piece of pita bread for lunch, and one whole wheat dinner roll for supper.
A popular vegetarian alternative to red meat, tempeh is a fermented soy food that is high in prebiotics, protein, vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce serving of tempeh already contains:
- 15g of protein
- 54% manganese
- 24% phosphorus
- 18% riboflavin
- 12% iron
- 12% niacin
- 9% calcium
Tempeh can also help boost the amount of good bacteria in your gut. Through fermentation, the phytic acid present in soybeans (which is commonly used to make tempeh) is released and promotes digestion and nutrient absorption. To introduce tempeh in your diet, mix it in your salads and sandwiches. You can also use it as a replacement for your traditional meats. Just be sure to thoroughly cook it and season to your liking, as it has a reputation for having a not-so-pleasant taste.
This wholesome spring vegetable is excellent for your bowel and gut health. It is rich in prebiotics that the good bacteria in your gut break down for energy. It also contains high amounts of inulin which can help promote regular bowel movements and reduce bloating.
When buying asparagus, choose stalks that do not have dry spots and blemishes. The tips should be firm and closed, and use them promptly as they can perish quickly.
Enjoy asparagus by adding it to your side dish (e.g., miso asparagus) or as part of your main meal when served over your favourite salad or rice. You can eat it roasted, steamed, chopped raw or sautéed.
4. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are another spring vegetable rich in inulin. They are also packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals which cause premature ageing and certain cancers. They also contain prebiotics that increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut, specifically bifidobacteria.
Bifidobacteria can keep harmful pathogens at bay, thereby boosting your immune system’s function. Some studies have also shown the potential of bifidobacteria as a way to prevent and/or treat colorectal cancer as well as other chronic gut diseases such as diarrhoea, constipation, enterocolitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dandelion greens can be bitter, so we recommend sautéing them with onions. You can also add them to your salads and soups, or use them for tea.
A staple Japanese food ingredient, seaweed is often seen in sushi rolls and miso soups. But it is more than just the “wrap” that holds your sushi rolls together. It is packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and prebiotics. It contains a specific carbohydrate that can help encourage the growth of certain good bacterial strains in your gut, according to a study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The University of Newcastle – Tyne has also done research on alginate, a dietary fibre that’s typically found in brown seaweed. It turns out alginate can help strengthen the mucus in the gut, slow down digestion, and help foods release their energy more efficiently.
To incorporate seaweed to your diet, try adding some nori wraps to your soups, ramen noodles, sandwiches, or pot of beans. You can also serve it over salads and wakame.
6. Jerusalem Artichoke
This savoury root vegetable is high in inulin, which makes it one of the best foods for improving gut microbiota and your bowel health.
A 2010 study showed that the prebiotic effect of Jerusalem artichoke on the gut microbiome can boost the faecal Bifidobacterium level and cause a significant increase in the number of Lactobacillus/Enterococcus. However, it can also increase flatulence so it is best to consume it in small quantities.
Jerusalem artichokes are best served when shredded raw and added to your salad. You can also roast them with garlic and sea salt.
Flaxseed is a super seed filled with phytonutrients. One of these is lignans that can help fight cancer cells, prevent metabolic disorder and cardiovascular diseases. It also contains soluble fibre which can encourage the growth of good bacteria in your stomach, improve digestion, and reduce your risk for obesity.
Sprinkle your smoothies, yoghurts, soups and salads with flaxseeds for a healthier twist! To get the most of its benefits, shop for freshly ground flaxseeds. You can also grind them in small batches by your own hands to help you digest them fully. Store them in your fridge to prolong its shelf life as ground flaxseed can go rancid within a week past its expiry date.
8. Unripe and Ripe Bananas
Known for helping the gut restore its microbial balance, unripe bananas contain lots of prebiotics that can help reduce bloating. Additionally, unripe bananas have starch carbohydrates that keep weight gain at bay because they make you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Although ripe bananas taste sweeter because of increased sugar content, they are still low on the glycaemic index. This means even if you’re diabetic or suffering from IBS, you can safely consume them. They are also easier to digest than unripe bananas so they are less likely to trigger bloating.
Slice some bananas and add them to your breakfast cereals or yoghurt bowls. You can also blend them in smoothies or keep a piece on hand for your snack time.
Probiotics provide added reinforcement to keep bad bacteria from taking over your gut microflora.
Probiotic-rich foods such as Kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut as well as probiotic supplements prevent and/or treat a wide range of gut and bowel conditions, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal infections
- Digestive tract infections caused by Clostridium difficile
- Bladder cancer
- Eczema in children
Probiotics have been proven effective in the treatment of diarrhoea. Specific bacterial strains like the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG could shorten the duration of persistent diarrhoea in children. They can also help soften stools and increase bowel movements.
Get Your Bowels Back on Track
Fuelling your body with foods good for bowel health – and gut health, as the two are closely linked – is your best bet to having healthy bowels. Any significant changes in the microbiome composition of your gut can wreak havoc on your bowels and cause diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, leaky gut, and increased systemic inflammation. Keeping your gut microbiome balanced is essential not only to your bowel health but also to your overall well-being. Following good toilet habits (i.e., sitting on the toilet properly and avoiding straining) can also go a long way in keeping your bowels in tiptop shape.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, find out more about our gut & bowel health services.