As the seasons change, so do the needs of your digestive system. Certain times of the year may bring specific challenges for your digestive tract, and it is often necessary to give extra attention to supporting gut health in different ways. Traditional wisdom tells us that nature provides foods throughout the year that are supportive of seasonal changes, and certain foods can provide unique digestive health benefits.

How to Support Digestive Health in Spring

This time of year, it is a good idea to shift away from heavier, rich foods of the winter and move toward eating the cleansing, nourishing plant foods that start to emerge in the springtime. Some people experience sluggishness in their digestive system this time of year from eating a heavier diet over the winter. By emphasizing lighter, cleansing foods that support liver function, the digestive processes can be strengthened, and the normal detoxification processes in the body can be supported.

There are many spring foods to choose from that support digestive health, depending on what is available in your area.

♦ Focus on eating bitter foods and spring greens at this time of year. Bitter foods such as dandelion root & leaf, radicchio, endive, turmeric, and even coffee in moderate amounts can benefit liver health. Bitter foods help to activate digestive processes, encourage digestive juice flow, and promote healthy liver functioning.

♦ Another bitter food that has tremendous benefits for the liver is milk thistle. Consider supplementing with a liver support formula that contains milk thistle, such as LiverMD®, for additional liver support in the springtime or throughout the year.

♦ Leafy greens, such as red leaf lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, arugula, and kale, provide polyphenols and beneficial fibers that keep your digestive system in balance.

♦ Asparagus, artichokes, and mushrooms contain healthy prebiotics that nourish healthy gut microbes.

♦ Fresh herbs such as chives, fennel, parsley, thyme, cilantro, and dill provide polyphenols that help keep the gut microbiome healthy and aromatic components that aid in the digestion of other foods. 

How to Support Digestive Health in Summer

This time of year, it is a good idea to introduce a wide variety of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) to take advantage of what nature provides throughout this bountiful season. Be sure to incorporate cooling foods with high water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, and cucumbers, which can help to keep you hydrated. Proper hydration is vital for healthy digestion and can support regular bowel functioning. 

woman shopping at the farmer's market

There are many foods to choose from that support digestive health, which are available throughout the summer.

♦ Focus on eating colorful foods high in fiber this time of year. Apricots, melons, rainbow chard, bell peppers, and other foods with vibrant colors provide a variety of important compounds that help to keep the gut microbiome in balance and help to reduce common oxidative stress.

♦ Berries such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries provide polyphenols that help to support important probiotic species.

♦ The microbes in our gut digest many polyphenols, so consider supplementing with a potent probiotic formula such as BiomeMD®

♦ Be cautious of eating sugary fruits in large quantities, as that can lead to imbalances within the gut microbiome. 

♦ To assist in proper digestion of the wide variety of foods available in the summer, consider supplementing with a broad-spectrum enzyme supplement such as EnzymeMD®.

♦ Tomatoes contain prebiotics that may help certain probiotic microbes attach to intestinal cells

♦ Summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash, are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. 

♦ Basil, rosemary, thyme, and other fresh herbs help to promote healthy microbial populations and can reduce everyday bloating.

How to Support Digestive Health in Fall

This is a good time of year to transition to eating warming, well-cooked foods that are easy to digest and provide a lot of nourishment. Many autumn foods provide prebiotics that benefit the environment of your digestive system by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Many foods rich in prebiotic fibers also benefit the immune system, which is very important this time of year.

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There are many fall foods to choose from that support digestive health. Depending on your location, some of these foods might also be readily available throughout the year. 

♦ Focus on eating prebiotic foods rich in fiber for optimal digestive health this time of year. You may need to add a high-quality probiotic supplement such as BiomeMD® to fully take advantage of these prebiotic foods.

♦ Winter squash, apples, pears, mushrooms, whole grains, and beets provide beneficial prebiotics, ample fiber, and other healthful nutrients.

♦ Cauliflower and broccoli are rich in soluble fiber and sulforaphane, which protects gastric mucosal tissue. Broccoli sprouts are especially good sources of sulforaphane.

♦ Nuts and seeds have specific benefits for the digestive system, especially almonds which may promote butyrate production. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that supports the health of the microbiome.

♦ Pomegranates help to promote the presence of probiotic strains, specifically Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

♦ Onions and garlic are good sources of insulins, which are beneficial prebiotic fibers.
Sweet potatoes have prebiotic qualities.

♦ Adding dried spices to your foods, such as coriander, caraway, celery seed, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and cardamom, can enhance the flavor and provide digestive benefits.

♦ Try adding bone broth to soups, stews, or other recipes. Bone broth contains gelatin and glycine, which can have soothing effects on the lining of the digestive tract.

How to Support Digestive Health in Winter

This time of year, people often find themselves craving richer, sweeter, and heavier foods. By emphasizing complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein, you can counterbalance this response in the body with healthful options that help you to feel satisfied and support overall health.

colorful root vegetables

Some winter foods are sources of a kind of beneficial fiber called resistant starch. This kind of starch functions as a prebiotic in the bowel, and when beneficial bacteria digest these fibers, beneficial short-chain fatty acids are produced. By including sources of resistant starch in your diet, you can support healthy digestion, as well as blood sugar balance and heart health. 

There are many foods to choose from that support digestive health, which are available in the winter or can be stored throughout the winter months. 

♦ Roots and tubers, such as carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips, are good sources of soluble and insoluble fiber with lots of other healthful nutrients.

♦ Cooked potatoes are a good source of resistant starch. Colorful potatoes have additional anthocyanins, which offer healthful benefits for the colon.

♦ Beans are high in fiber and are a good source of resistant starch.

♦ Cranberries provide prebiotics that benefit certain Lactobacillus strains and promote the production of short-chain fatty acids. 

♦ Cabbage, kale, and collard greens are high in fiber and sulforaphane.

♦ Celery is high in apigenin, which has a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome.

♦ Barley and oats have resistant starch and are high in fiber.

♦ Citrus fruits have compounds that benefit the integrity of the intestinal wall as well as help support healthy microbes in the gut.

♦ To help you digest the richer foods of the wintertime and holidays, consider supplementing with an enzyme formula such as EnzymeMD® that will promote healthy digestion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

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Tips to Support Your Digestive Health Year Round

♦ Chew your food well.

♦ Find ways to reduce everyday stress levels.

♦ Get good sleep.

Support liver health to assist healthy absorption and regular detoxification.

♦ Drink plenty of water to assist with the digestive process.

♦ Eat prebiotic foods.

♦ Get moderate amounts of exercise.

♦ Support colon health with digestive enzymes

♦ Eat soothing foods that support the integrity of your intestinal wall, such as soups, pureed vegetables, and ground flax seeds. You can also add more support for your gut lining with GutMD®.

Eat fermented foods to introduce a wide range of naturally-occurring probiotics into your digestive tract.

When to Consult Your Physician

If you experience any concerning symptoms or if symptoms do not go away within a week or two, consult your physician. Be prepared for your appointment with specific questions to ask your doctor about your digestive health. It’s a good idea to educate yourself about how you can support your digestive system in ways that benefit your overall health.

How to Support Gut Health From Within

LiverMD® provides effective ingredients for long-term liver health. With this scientifically-formulated supplement, you can support healthy liver enzyme function and detoxification while promoting a healthy metabolism and overall health. 

BiomeMD® delivers 15 probiotic strains along with a broad-spectrum prebiotic blend to help populate your gut with healthy bacteria and nourish your microbiome. This powerful combination helps to support not only your digestive health but promotes vibrant immune health as well. 

EnzymeMD® contains 18 potent, plant-based enzymes to help your digestive system break down crucial nutrients so your body can get the most from your diet. It is fast acting and helps to reduce occasional indigestion, gas, and bloating after eating.

Final Thoughts

As a certified Physician Nutrition™ Specialist, I strongly appreciate and understand the benefit of proper nutrition for common gastrointestinal issues. Eating for the season can provide a wide range of nutrients, but additional support may also be necessary to optimally digest and absorb foods while keeping your microbiome healthy. By adjusting your diet and providing supplements that help to assist with seasonal changes, you can support your gut health in ways that align with the needs of your digestive system throughout the year.

Dr. David Kahana

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Dr. David Kahana is board certified in Pediatrics and Gastroenterology through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), as well as Medical Nutrition through the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists.