5 Foods for Healthy Digestion

Reach for these when your tummy rumbles.

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Between 60 and 70 million Americans are afflicted by digestive diseases, while countless more deal with upset stomachs, constipation, diarrhea and other tummy troubles. Maybe it was something they ate—or didn’t eat. If you want to ease or prevent digestive issues, reach for these five foods.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Fermented Food

2 / 6 Fermented Food

What it has: probiotics

Why it works:
Fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi, contain good-for-your-gut bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are purported to help ease diarrhea caused by antibiotics, and may alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, scientists aren’t certain which type of probiotic best promotes gut health.

Whole Wheat

3 / 6 Whole Wheat

What it has: insoluble fiber

Why it works:
There’s a reason whole grains are recommended over other types of grains—they’re a great source of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber softens the stool, helps your bowels move more regularly and can aid in the treatment of constipation, diarrhea and hemorrhoids. Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat pasta and bread, and green leafy vegetables like kale.


4 / 6 Oatmeal

What it has: soluble fiber

Why it works:
Soluble fiber, unlike insoluble fiber, holds water—that’s why oatmeal turns pasty when you add water. Soluble fiber can help fight diarrhea and constipation by soaking up water in the intestines to keep the stool soft and hold it together. Some studies suggest it can also lower your risk of heart disease, too. Oatmeal, peas, lentils and nuts are good sources of soluble fiber.


5 / 6 Fish

What it has: omega-3s

Why it works:
Fish can be a healthy addition to any diet. It’s packed with protein and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are believed to guard against cardiovascular disease by reducing triglycerides, slowing the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, slightly lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of arrhythmia. Eating fish may improve your colon health, too—a July 2016 study found that people with bowel cancer who regularly consumed omega-3 fatty acids had a lower risk of dying of the disease.


6 / 6 Ginger

What it has: gingerols and shogaols

Why it works:
You might know ginger as a spicy root that goes great with sushi, but it can alleviate stomach problems, too. Ginger has been used to treat nausea and diarrhea in China for 2,000 years, and has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting from pregnancy and chemotherapy. A small 2008 study also showed that ginger can help the stomach empty more quickly and increase peristalsis, the contractions that move food through your digestive system.

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