Examples of this conundrum are foods that are high in good fiber, such as vegetables and wheat, but which may be harder to digest than simpler carbohydrates.
Also, fatty foods and some animal-based proteins take time for the body to break down and can mean hard work for the digestive system.
So, the foods that are good for someone are often the opposite of what they might enjoy eating when they have an acute illness.
In this article, we take a look at 10 easy-to-digest foods that may help people who are experiencing or recovering from illness.
Ten easy-to-digest foods
The foods listed below are usually more easily digested than other, more complex foods that take larger amounts of the body's energy to break down.
Toast is an easy to digest food that may be a staple of a bland diet.
Toast is often a staple of a bland diet. One reason for this is that it tends to be easy for the stomach and gut to digest.
Toast can be helpful to decrease nausea and reduce heartburn. But not all toast is the same.
Whole wheat bread is high in fiber and can be difficult for some people to digest. So, to avoid digestion problems, a person can stick to white toast and skip the butter when they have been unwell.
If someone has an intolerance to wheat or gluten-containing foods, they can choose a wheat or gluten-free bread option.
2. White rice
Rice is a grain that is a good energy source for the body's needs. But not all grains are easy to digest. Those high in fiber, such as brown rice, can contribute to digestive issues, such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
When looking for grains that are easy on the digestive system, white rather than brown rice may be a better option that will also provide carbohydrates for energy.
3. Saltine crackers
Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates that can be digested easily by most people. In ripe bananas, these carbs are even more accessible.
Bananas are also a good choice because they provide the body with potassium, which can be lost during a bout of diarrhea.
Applesauce is an easy to digest source of fruit.
Fruit is part of a healthy diet. But because of the fiber content, it can lead to digestive problems. Applesauce is an excellent choice for a more easily digestible source of fruit. Although it contains some fiber, it has less than a whole apple that can be harder on the stomach.
Also, applesauce contains pectin, which is a soluble fiber that may help treat diarrhea.
The sugar and carbs also provide an energy boost.
Apples and applesauce contain fermentable carbohydrates or good sugars that feed gut bacteria, but these may aggravate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If someone has IBS, they can substitute apples for blueberries or grapes.
Eggs provide protein and minerals that help keep the body healthy. Scrambled eggs are soft, simple and are easily broken down, which makes them favorable for people who are getting over a stomach virus or a bout of nausea.
Both the white and the yolk are usually well tolerated and easily digested.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a good source of soluble fiber, which can be easier on the digestive system than insoluble fiber. Furthermore, soluble fiber increases the good bacteria in the intestines, which contributes to a healthy digestive system.
Again, sweet potatoes contain potassium, which is an electrolyte often lost during digestive upsets.
Chicken provides a good source of lean protein, which helps the body repair itself.
Chicken tends to be easy to digest. It also contains no fiber, which makes it a good choice for people with digestive issues, such as IBS.
It is best to stick to skinless chicken that has been baked or grilled rather than fried. In the case of fried chicken, the oil can lead to stomach upset and aggravate digestive problems.
Salmon is an excellent option when considering an easy-to-digest fish. It is high in protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Baked salmon is usually the best way to serve it for to keep digestion simple.
Gelatin is often the first food a person can eat in hospital after surgery. It is easy on the digestive system and can help treat the dehydration that is associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
Gelatin also contains no oil or fat and is a simple texture that goes down smoothly.
Conditions that easy-to-digest foods may help
A variety of intestinal conditions can lead to digestive problems. Choosing foods that are easy to digest may help ease some of the symptoms a person can experience and prevent others from developing.
Easy-to-digest foods may be especially helpful for the following digestive issues:
- intestinal surgery
- stomach flu
Foods that commonly cause indigestion
Fatty foods and spicy foods may cause digestive issues.
Allergies and intolerance are two of the best indicators of poorly digested foods, and they will vary from person to person.
For instance, milk can cause digestive issues in people who are lactose intolerant and have problems digesting the sugar found in milk products.
Gluten, which is a protein found in rye, barley, and wheat is also difficult for some people to digest. Other grains contain lectins, which are proteins that may also be problematic.
The inability to digest gluten can lead to a variety of symptoms including bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Even people who do not have food sensitivities may find certain foods harder to digest than others.
The following types of foods commonly cause digestive issues:
- Spicy foods: Spicy foods, such as hot peppers, can be hard on the digestive system and make heartburn worse.
- Fatty foods: Fatty foods, such as ice cream, butter and, red meats can worsen diarrhea and contribute to bloating.
- Fried foods: Fried foods, such as french fries and onion rings, are again high in grease and fat, which can bring on stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea.
- Acidic foods: Acidic foods that include oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit can be difficult to digest and may contribute to symptoms of poor digestion.
- Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols: Nausea, diarrhea and digestive symptoms are common side effects from consuming these added sweeteners.
Not everyone's stomach reacts well to everything they eat. Some foods may be hard for certain people while not bothering others.
Foods that are hard to digest may make symptoms of intolerances and allergies worse. It may take a little trial and error to determine what is bothersome and what is not.
It helps if people keep in mind that certain foods may be beneficial for their overall health but might still cause digestive problems.
It is important for someone to prevent a flare-up of their indigestion symptoms without robbing themselves of the nutrients their body needs.
Before someone eliminates any food group from their diet, it may be helpful to talk to a doctor to make sure all their nutritional needs are still being met.
It is not just certain foods that can lead to digestion issues, however. Poor eating habits, such as not chewing well, eating too fast, or eating when stressed can also contribute. It is worth remembering that practicing good eating habits can decrease digestive complaints.