When tummy trouble happens, it often is our body telling us that something we ate is hurting us. Whatever the offending food is, it is causing inflammation in our gut. This inflammation can be in a variety of forms, from bloating, pains to serious issues   like stomach cancer.

Digestive complaints are common in the U.S.—74 percent of Americans suffer from gas, bloating, stomach cramps and acid reflux and 14 percent suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating foods that contain probiotics, prebiotics and spices to support digestive health can help relieve your stomach troubles, improve your mood, increase the nutrition you obtain from your food and help you feel your best.

Eat probiotic-rich foods. The average adult gut contains around five pounds of bacteria. These friendly flora ferment carbohydrates you would otherwise be unable to digest, producing important nutrients and gut-healing short-chain fatty acids in the process that help train and rebalance your immune system, reduce gut inflammation, and help prevent allergies and pathogenic microbes from flourishing. Probiotic foods are especially important when you experience diarrhea or after a course of antibiotics.

These probiotic-rich foods contain strains of friendly-bacteria that populate your gut and support digestive health:

Cultured dairy products, including yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, buttermilk

Fermented beverages, like kombucha

Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, beets, kimchi

Fermented soybeans like miso and tempeh

For a healthier gut, include foods rich in prebiotic fiber. This fiber passes through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, helps you cultivate a healthy population of friendly bacteria in your gut, and prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria.

Good sources of prebiotic fiber include apples, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans and lentils, broccoli, cabbage, cashews, chickpeas, endive, garlic, greens (beet, mustard, turnip), jicama, kiwi fruit, leeks, oats, onions, pears just to name a few.

Consume spices that help sooth your gut by facilitating digestion. The following spices have been used for centuries to ease digestion and soothe the gut: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger and peppermint.

The following foods and other items will hurt your digestion by either increasing bad bacteria or decreasing good bacteria. These include:

Sugar – Excess sugar very rapidly increases the quantity of bad bacteria in your gut. American eat about three times the amount of sugar they should, which explains why three-fourths of Americans have gut issues.

Foods that trigger allergies and sensitivities, including three main groups:

Gluten – found in wheat and other grains

Dairy – primarily due to casein, the protein in cow’s milk. Reactions may also be due to lactose (milk sugar) intolerance.

Soy – about 93 percent of soy products are GMO (genetically modified organisms)

Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including antibiotics and acid-blockers – these may be medically necessary but make sure you understand how they may affect your gastrointestinal tract and consume additional pre- and probiotic foods to mitigate their effects. The label directions on these products specify they are for short-term use.

No matter how nutritious your diet, you can only reap its benefits when you are digesting and absorbing nutrients properly. Good gut health not only helps you to absorb the nutrients your body needs but it also helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and helps improve your overall mood. When you eat for a healthy gut, you can fully reap the nourishment from the foods you eat and improve your mood in the process.

With these baby steps you will love the way you feel!