Let is face it: Some foods just seem to invite digestive distress, triggering heartburn, gas or flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Let’s face it: Some foods just seem to invite digestive distress,
triggering heartburn, gas or flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome
Culprit No. 1: High-fat foods. Anything that is deep-fried; is made with a lot of oil, butter, cream or cheese; features fatty meats;
or is otherwise high in fat will “slow down motility in the upper gut,
which can trigger reflux (aka heartburn) and gas,” explains Dr. Charlene
Prather, a gastroenterologist and a professor of internal medicine at
Saint Louis University. At the same time, high-fat foods “stimulate the
colon,” which can aggravate IBS, she says. “So for anyone who has
gastrointestinal problems, we recommend a low-fat diet.”
What else can tick off your tummy? “Everybody’s different. There are
certain foods that some people say don’t agree with them, and those
foods may not be a problem for other people,” says Dr. Richard Desi, a
gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. With that said,
some foods tend to be especially problematic for people who are prone
to heartburn, gas or IBS. If you’re one of them, here are some of the
most common foods upsetting your stomach — and how to cope.
What triggers heartburn differs from person to person, but common culprits (in addition to high-fat foods) include chocolate, peppermint and coffee,
all of which relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps stomach
contents from flowing upward and causing heartburn, says Prather. In
addition, acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and sodas, as well as spicy foods, can cause a burning sensation in an already irritated esophagus.
How to cope: “If you’re predisposed to reflux and
these things cause you trouble, avoid them,” advises Prather. If that
doesn’t help — or if you find you have to give up too many of the foods
you love — talk to your doctor, who may recommend medication. Keep in
mind, though, that these foods don’t bother all heartburn sufferers. So
if your stomach can handle a food, there’s no need to avoid it.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as beans and carbonated beverages,
can produce gas in the gut. And if you eat quickly, you’re more likely
to swallow air, which contributes to gas, notes Desi. In addition,
chewing gum or consuming foods that contain sugar alcohols — such as sorbitol, xylitol or mannitol — as well as foods with high amounts of fructose can
produce gas in people who are sensitive to these ingredients. Sorbitol,
xylitol and mannitol are artificial sweeteners commonly found in sugar-free sweets,
including gum, hard candies, ice creams, cookies and puddings. Fructose
is the natural sugar in fruits and vegetables and may occur in
particularly high concentrations in fruit juices and “naturally sweetened” products. (Check the labels for “fruit juice concentrate,” “high-fructose corn syrup” and plain “fructose.”)
How to cope: Cooking
cruciferous veggies tends to make them less gas-provoking than eating
them raw, notes Prather. Or, you can take a supplement that contains
alpha-galactosidase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down starches from
legumes and cruciferous vegetables, thereby preventing gas. Sometimes,
simply eating smaller amounts of these foods can help you avoid filling
up with air.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
“With IBS, the
foods are all over the map in terms of what triggers it and what
doesn’t,” says Desi. That’s because with IBS, the gut is just generally
reactive to food, and it’s hard to identify which foods might be
problematic from day to day. Avoiding high-fat foods is a good idea. And some people with IBS have an element of lactose intolerance, which can make them sensitive to dairy products.
Be aware, though, that with lactose intolerance, “it can vary from day
to day and depend on how much lactose you’re consuming,” says Desi.
How to cope: Eating smaller, low-fat meals can help
reduce IBS symptoms. If you have a problem with lactose, you can limit
or avoid dairy products or take lactase supplements to help you digest
them. (Yogurt may be easier to tolerate because of the live, active
cultures they contain, adds Prather.) If you have the constipation
variety of IBS, slowly increase your intake of fiber-rich foods (such as
fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and drink plenty of water, advises
By taking precautions to deal properly with foods that may be
upsetting your stomach, you’ll be able to enjoy them while you’re eating
them — and afterwards.
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”