9 Foods That Cause Digestive Problems

Foods- Many of us experience digestive issues such as acid reflux, gas, upset stomach, and bloating. These symptoms can be triggered by specific foods that affect our gastrointestinal tract.

However, the foods that disrupt digestion can vary from person to person, as what bothers one individual may be well-tolerated by another.

Attention to your body’s signals can help you identify which foods are problematic. If you notice that beans or cabbage consistently cause discomfort after consumption, there are strategies you can employ to still enjoy these foods without experiencing digestive issues.

Similarly, citrus foods and peppermint may also trigger digestive problems and must be avoided.

Understanding which foods can potentially cause digestive issues and how to manage them if they bother your stomach is essential.

Remember that some of these foods provide valuable nutrients, so unless they cause discomfort or upset your stomach, they can still be included in a healthy diet.

Fried foods

Consuming fried food, which is rich in fat, can often result in stomach aches and diarrhea. Furthermore, fried food has been linked to acid reflux, as demonstrated in a recent Preventative Nutrition and Food Science study in 2021.

To address this, consider alternative cooking techniques that involve less fat. Pan-frying with minimal oil or opting for cooking methods such as roasting, baking, sautéing, and stir-frying can help reduce the amount of fat in your meals while still providing delicious results.

Sugar alcohols

Consuming sugar-free foods that contain sugar alcohols, such as candy and gum, can lead to gas and an upset stomach for some individuals. It is essential to check the ingredient list for sweeteners ending in “-ol,” such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol.

To address this issue, consider opting for candy, gum, and other food items that do not contain sugar or alcohol if they tend to bother you.

It’s worth noting that added sugar consumption should also be limited to no more than 10% of total calories, as recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Therefore, even when consuming foods with added sugar, it is advisable to do so in moderation.

High fructose corn syrup

Consuming foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener commonly found in candy and pastries, can lead to symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, bloating, and cramps for specific individuals.

It is recommended to carefully read the nutrition facts label and choose candy, pastries, and other food products that do not contain high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient to avoid the issue.

By making this conscious choice, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing these discomforting symptoms.

Citrus fruit

Certain fruits with high acidity, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, have the potential to cause heartburn in some individuals. It is due to the ability of citrus foods to relax the esophageal sphincter.

This valve separates the esophagus and stomach, allowing acid to flow into the esophagus and trigger heartburn. Additionally, the acidic nature of these fruits can delay stomach emptying, leading to stomach acid reflux into the esophagus and exacerbating heartburn symptoms.

To alleviate this issue, exploring alternative fruit options that are less acidic and won’t provoke acid reflux is advisable. While citrus fruits offer beneficial nutrients, if they trigger acid reflux symptoms, it is best to avoid them and choose non-citrus fruits as a sweet and nutritious snack.


Peppermint has the potential to trigger heartburn and indigestion in specific individuals. The relaxation effect of peppermint on the esophageal sphincter, the valve between the stomach and esophagus, can result in the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing discomfort and symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.

It is recommended to refrain from consuming peppermint and explore alternative herbs or types of tea that do not have the same effect to manage this issue.

You can enjoy flavorful options by choosing different herbs or teas without the risk of exacerbating heartburn or indigestion symptoms.


Beans contain oligosaccharides, which are types of non-digestible and fermentable fibers. These fibers can result in the production of gas, abdominal discomfort, and bloating for some individuals.

However, it’s important to note that these fibers benefit the gut, as they pass through the stomach and upper part of the gut undigested, reaching the colon where beneficial bacteria ferment them. The fermentation process leads to the production of gas, which can cause discomfort.

To minimize the potential gas-related effects of beans, try soaking dried beans for at least 4 hours and discarding the soaking water before cooking. This soaking process can help reduce the oligosaccharide content and alleviate gas production.

Additionally, research suggests that if you’re not accustomed to consuming beans and experience digestive issues, gradually introducing a regular ½ cup of beans over eight weeks can help reduce bothersome symptoms.

By implementing these strategies, you can still enjoy the nutritional benefits of beans while minimizing the discomfort associated with their oligosaccharide content.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collard greens, belong to the cabbage family. They contain sugars similar to those found in beans, which can contribute to the production of gas, abdominal discomfort, and bloating.

Additionally, these vegetables are high in fiber, which can pose challenges for digestion in some individuals.

To alleviate potential discomfort associated with cruciferous vegetables, cooking them instead of consuming them raw is recommended. Cooking these vegetables can make them gentler on the stomach and help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms.

The cooking process softens the fibers and breaks down some complex sugars, making them easier to digest.

By opting for cooked preparations of cruciferous vegetables, you can still enjoy their nutritional benefits while minimizing the potential digestive issues they may cause.

Spicy food

Specific individuals may experience sensitivity to spicy foods, resulting in heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. Spicy foods can relax the sphincter (valve) between the stomach and esophagus.

This relaxation allows acidic contents from the stomach to flow back into the esophagus, leading to heartburn and acid reflux.

There are a few alternatives to consider to alleviate the discomfort caused by spicy foods. First, you can reduce the amount of peppers and spices used in your dishes, lowering the overall heat level.

It can help mitigate the potential for triggering symptoms. Alternatively, if you find that even milder levels of spiciness bother you, avoid spicy foods altogether and opt for softer and less seasoned options.

By adjusting the spiciness of your meals or opting for blander food choices, you can manage the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux associated with spicy foods. Listening to your body and making choices that promote digestive comfort is essential.


Chocolate is known to have a similar effect as peppermint and citrus fruits, as it can cause the relaxation of the esophageal sphincter (valve).

This relaxation can contribute to the development of heartburn and indigestion in some individuals. However, it’s important to note that sensitivity to these foods can vary from person to person.

Reducing your consumption may be beneficial if chocolate triggers symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. You don’t necessarily have to permanently eliminate chocolate from your diet, but you may want to avoid it for the time being to minimize any discomfort you experience.

Being mindful of your body’s response to chocolate and adjusting your diet can help manage the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. It’s always best to listen to your body and make choices that promote digestive well-being.

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