Some foods are easily digestible, while others can wreak havoc on your tummy as your body struggles to metabolize them. Many foods that are difficult for your body to process are unhealthy for you. However, a few do contain the nutrients necessary for good health in general and good gut health in particular. Here are some foods that can be hard on your stomach. Some you may want to ditch altogether, and others you may want to learn how to properly enjoy for the most benefit.
12. High-Fiber Foods
Foods that are rich in fiber are important for promoting good digestive health. Since your body digests them more slowly, they remain in your digestive tract for a while and help you feel full longer. They are also important for maintaining a healthy balance of the good bacteria in your gut that aid in digestion. However, if you’re not used to them, these foods can be difficult to digest and can result in gassy feelings and bloating. Introduce high-fiber foods like bran, cruciferous vegetables, and fruits to your diet slowly. Start with adding one or two servings of fiber-rich foods each day and increase as your body becomes accustomed to them.
11. Foods Dense in Carbohydrates
Some bloating and stomach pain can occur due to the fiber contained in high-density carbohydrates such as whole grains. In other cases, bloating and stomach discomfort may be caused by a reaction to the gluten contained in carbohydrate-rich breads, pastries, and pastas. If consuming these foods leads to diarrhea, stomach pain, and irritability, it may be prudent to speak with your doctor. Your physician can rule out conditions such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease occurs when the consumption of gluten triggers an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to intestinal damage.
10. Processed Meats
Some people may find processed meat leaves their stomach feeling queasy. However, meats that have been heavily processed or treated with chemicals can cause more damage than just a little stomach upset. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that regular consumption of processed meats increases the risk of stomach, colon, and rectal cancers. Meats may be processed through salting, curing, smoking, or the addition of preservatives. Processed meats include cold cuts, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and hot dogs.
9. Fried Foods
Fried foods can wreak havoc on your digestive system. The fat from greasy, fried foods is not easily digested and can cause your stomach to work overtime to move it through your system. These foods may spend more time in your stomach, causing you to feel bloated and uncomfortable. Additionally, the oils used to fry these foods can destroy the balance of the good bacteria that line your gut. Eating too many fried foods may send you running to the bathroom with a case of diarrhea as well as indigestion.
8. Milk and Dairy Products
Milk and other calcium-rich dairy products can be beneficial for the development of strong teeth and bones. However, many people suffer from the effects of lactose intolerance. These people lack the enzyme lactase, which is critical for breaking down lactose in the body. Lactose intolerance can result in stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea. Lactase is available as a supplement that can be taken before consuming milk to help the body break down lactose. Some lactose-free milk products are available as well.Related: 10 Unexpected Ways Your Body Can Alert You to Stomach Problems
7. Beans and Legumes
Beans are notorious for causing gas, due to their high fiber content and the presence of oligosaccharides, which are difficult to digest. However, the health benefits of beans and legumes include decreased risk of heart disease, improved blood glucose control, and decreased risk of cancer. While introducing beans to your diet can result in embarrassing issues with gas at first, this issue should disappear within three to four weeks of regular consumption. Try a variety of beans and legumes, including black-eyed peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, and kidney beans.
6. Sugar Substitutes
There are two types of sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are composed of synthetic compounds and do not seem to cause issues with stomach upset. Meanwhile, sweeteners like mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol are manufactured from plant sources and are also known as sugar alcohols. These sweeteners can cause diarrhea due to their effects on water in the digestive tract. As they linger in the intestinal tract, they can draw water and other fluids into the tract, resulting in diarrhea. If you use sugar substitutes and are susceptible to stomach upset, you may want to choose artificial sweeteners rather than sugar alcohols.
Fructose is a sugar found in many fruits, vegetables, and honey. It is also the main component of the refined white sugar on your pantry shelf, and of the high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers add to so many foods and beverages. Some people find fructose harder to digest than others. If you have trouble digesting fructose, Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding products containing fructose, honey, agave syrup, maple-flavored syrup, molasses, and sorghum. Additionally, Zeratsky recommends swapping high fructose fruits like apples, grapes, watermelon, and zucchini for lower fructose foods like bananas, blueberries, carrots, green beans, and lettuce.Related: 11 Signs You Might Have a Stomach Ulcer
4. Foods Chemically Altered to Be Fat-Free
In the quest to be healthy and lose weight, the array of available products touted as “fat-free” may seem like healthy options. In reality, any foods that have been processed or treated to remove fat are probably not healthy choices. Often, foods labeled as fat-free are high in sugars, which are not only unhealthy, but also can cause bloating and diarrhea. These processed foods are often low in nutrients and high in additives. Replace processed fat-free items with whole foods that contain the protein, fiber, vitamins, and even healthy fats your body needs.
3. Alcoholic Beverages
Anyone who has had a few too many knows that alcohol can have a damaging effect on your stomach. Alcohol is an irritant to the lining of the stomach, and too much can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, alcohol stimulates the creation of excess stomach acid, which can erode the lining of the stomach and result in stomach ulcers and pain. To prevent damage to your stomach, avoid binge drinking. The Centers for Disease Control Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than two alcoholic beverages per day for men and one for women.
2. Pre-Packaged Bakery Items
Pre-packaged baked goods such as breads, cookies, and cakes are high in saturated fats and refined sugars. In addition, they are usually high in refined white flour and lack the fiber necessary for good digestive health. While it may be okay to indulge in baked treats once in a while, try making them at home where you can control the amount of sugar in them. Try swapping white flour for whole wheat in recipes to add fiber to your diet.
1. High-Sodium Snacks
Snacks high in salt content such as pretzels, potato chips, and crackers can cause bloating by drawing extra water into your digestive tract. Too much salt can lead to water retention, dehydration, and high blood pressure. Additionally, Dr. Stephanie Fay of the World Cancer Research Fund reports that high-salt foods like meats, fish, and vegetables preserved by salting increase the risk of stomach cancer. The National Kidney Foundation suggests decreasing salt in your diet by consuming fresh meats and vegetables, checking labels on frozen and canned goods, and choosing seasonings other than salt.Related: 6 Warning Signs of Stomach Cancer that have Nothing to do with Pain