Nutrition Articles

Common Foods That Could Be Hurting Your Belly

Avoid These Foods to Feel Better Fast

It can be as frustrating as it is familiar: the achy tightness in your abdomen after you eat, or the sharp pain, bloating and distension you feel after a large meal--or any meal. With so many foods now composed of a multitude of ingredients, it can be tricky to figure out which foods are helping and which are hurting.  

Any food that causes a pain in the gut after you eat it needs to be further investigated to determine the appropriate course of action, whether the pain is from gas, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation. To learn more about common foods and food groups that can cause gastrointestinal pain and distress, check out the list below.

You don't have to be allergic to dairy products to be lactose intolerant, which means that your body can't completely digest a type of naturally occurring sugar (lactose) found in milk. People who are lactose intolerant often experience lower abdominal pain and bloating. Because this intolerance is so common, affecting about 10% of people, it's among the first things you should test. Learn more about dairy intolerance here.

When you buy products whose packaging proclaims high fiber or good source of fiber, you're often buying a product containing inulin, a type of fiber often from chicory root. There's nothing inherently wrong with inulin, but it can cause digestive upset in some people who are more sensitive to the ingredient. While adding more fiber to your diet prevents constipation and colon cancer, adding too much fiber (or adding fiber too fast) can cause gas and bloating. If you're experiencing pain after consuming high-fiber products, try backing off for a few days, then slowly adding these foods back to your diet.

You've probably heard of these pesky preservatives, but did you know that they can cause abdominal pain, along with a range of other symptoms? Studies have shown that you can become newly sensitive to sulfites through your 40s and 50s, and symptoms of sensitivity include cramping and diarrhea.
It's worth noting that people with asthma are indirectly affected by sulfites, so if you keep your inhaler nearby and have been having tummy trouble, try cutting this out first. Sulfites are found in some processed meats, alcoholic beverages, dried fruits, condiments, soup mixes and even some baked goods.

Sugar Alcohols
Your dentist might thank you for choosing sugarless gum and candy that use artificial sweeteners, which haven't been shown to negatively impact dental health the way sugar can. But so-called sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and others can cause stomach upset and even lead to diarrhea, especially if consumed in large quantities.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

    I have learned (over and over) that some things can affect some people some of the time. My second lesson is that bodies change over time and what I could eat once I can not eat now. - 8/5/2015 9:46:14 AM
    Wheat products were the culprit for me. Stopped eating wheat and stomach cramps subsided, no more puffiness (whole body, including hands, feet, face), lost 33 pounds in only a couple of months. Further, headaches gone, so far, and sinus type issues have reduced dramatically, and I am sleeping much better. My hair and nails are also growing very rapidly as opposed to before, which means I was not absorbing nutrients properly (because of wheat?). Also hunger pangs not present as before, much better overall. :) - 8/5/2015 9:21:52 AM
  • The picture of this gal's stomach in completely unrealistic, and it's stuff like this that leads to eating disorders in women. Get real. - 4/4/2015 8:33:54 PM
  • If sugar alcohols cause you problems, you may have to cut down on the amount you have. Also, some things like fruit and vegetable can cause gas and bloating if eaten with fattening food. Why, you ask? Because when you do that, your body starts digesting the fattening food first. It just does that automatically, it's the body's first priority. While the body is digesting the fattening food, it leaves the fruit and/or vegetables alone. And then what happens? Well, then those things that are left to themselves start to ferment inside of you, which causes all of these little bubbles which get out of control! And then you're in pain! So that's probably why people started eating salad before a meal. There's a reason for this! It's better to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables before anything else, or separate to the meal and watch the amount of fattening food we eat. - 4/4/2015 3:03:10 AM
  • Strange.. I guess maybe that's why I can't eat scrambled eggs anymore?
    i ate them almost every morning for like a week or 2 straight but then I started getting nauseous eating them. I haven't had scrambled eggs in almost 6 months or more :(
    They're so yummy - 3/18/2015 11:48:25 AM
  • I don't seem to have an issue with any of those. My issue is something I really really - 7/9/2014 2:51:30 PM
  • Funny, nothing is mentioned about the side effects of GMO soy products - make me feel like someone kicked me in the stomach... - 2/2/2014 4:10:08 PM
  • Chickory root/Inulin even in tiny doses just kills me (and everyone in the house). Onions and Jeruselem Artichokes are naturally very high in inulin, so beware, there be dragons!

    Sulfites were a recent discovery. Essentially any food high in sulfur or preserved with sulfites is pure digestive torture. No more egg yolks or dried fruit and my tummy is gas-free and I have zero bloating. I had no idea a settled belly felt so good.

    Bloating, cramps, voluminous or deadly stinky gas is NOT NORMAL. Figure out what's causing it for you, for the love of your family's noses and yourself, and stop eating that personal poison.
    - 2/1/2014 8:13:43 PM
  • I have always had problems with my tummy. Gas, cramping, now diarrhea and even constapation. I'm not sure what helps at this point. Definitely avoid greasy foods, long periods without food, refined sugars, not enough water, high fiber meals, regular milk, not enough sleep. Must I go on. - 2/1/2014 4:45:26 PM
  • What is wrong with the picture? - 2/1/2014 1:21:56 PM
  • it has gotten so bad that almost everything gives me problems. whey/soy/inulin or fiber cereals/dairy - you name it. - 2/1/2014 10:22:38 AM
  • My personal foods to avoid are Sulfates and Seafood. My sulfate sensitivity is bad enough to make drinking a glass of wine a huge mistake. I am also developing minor allergic reaction symptoms to seafood. Shellfish in particular, one of my favorites is now not worth the tummy and breathing trouble and rashes. - 1/4/2014 12:57:06 PM
  • The picture they used for the article is simply disturbing. Another example of photoshop gone awry. It's almost as disturbing as the reaction I have been having recently with bananas. I can barely eat them anymore due to developing a sensitivity. - 1/4/2014 12:21:28 PM
  • I have issues with carageenan. Another little known ingredient put into foods to make them more shelf stable. Affects me just like MSG. - 12/28/2013 10:00:03 AM
  • I immediately noted the lack of gliaden, the protein part of certain grains (wheat, rye and barley in particular) that causes celiac disease. I agree with Maggiesmagic - this is a big fail in that department.

    On the plus side, the suggestion of keeping a food diary is an excellent one. It led to my diagnosis with celiac disease, rather than the lactose intolerance I always believed I had. - 12/27/2013 1:45:01 PM

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