Your gastrointestinal system is a marvel of complexity and efficiency that usually works harmoniously to take in food, convert it into energy, and rid itself of waste. An extensive network that starts with your mouth and esophagus and extends through your stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, it has many areas that some foods can affect. The signs that your body presents when it reacts to gastrointestinal issues include bloating, constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, incontinence, belly pain, nausea, and vomiting among the standard indicators.
Cleveland Clinic points to some causes of gastrointestinal problems as a lack of exercise, inadequate intake of fiber, changes in routine, stress, and consumption of certain foods that tend to create upsets. Significant impacts can result when you ignore the urge to move your bowels and rely on laxatives instead of natural processes to convey waste out of your system. Medications that include antidepressants, antacids, pain suppressants, and some dietary supplements can affect your gastrointestinal system as well.
A healthy lifestyle and good bowel habits contribute to a properly functioning system, but even the best observers of good practices can get an occasional upset from eating foods that can cause issues. One or more of these nine may create distress for some people but not for others. They share an ability to produce discomfort occasionally or frequently.
Everyday Health cites milk as food that is hard to digest for anyone who cannot tolerate its sugar (lactose) content. Gas and bloating can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after you eat, and it can lead to diarrhea when too much of it enters your large intestine. Yogurt and hard cheeses contain no lactose and may satisfy your taste for dairy without impacting your gastrointestinal system, and lactose-free milk offers an alternative as well.
2. Citrus, Tomato Sauce and Carbonated Beverages
Acidic food has more of an impact on your stomach when it is empty, and the level of acid in oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruit, as well as soda and tomato sauce, is very high. While citrus and tomato products contain many nutrients, their acid content can make eating them unpleasant. An alternative is to avoid consumption when the stomach has issues and to enjoy them in moderation at other times. WebMD recommends sucking on a sour ball to produce an increase in saliva that can dilute the bitter taste of reflux in the back of your mouth.
3. Coffee, Tea and Chocolate
The gastrointestinal tract responds to caffeine by increasing its motility that pushes contents forward more rapidly and often results in diarrhea. When a bout of diarrhea occurs, the choice of a cup of tea or a piece of chocolate only serves to exacerbate the situation. Some caffeine occurs in decaffeinated drinks and makes them a poor choice when your system experiences an upset condition.
4. Ice Cream, Red Meat and Butter
High-fat foods can cause intestinal distress by creating contractions within the gastrointestinal tract. The result can show up as a slower rate of stomach emptying that may contribute to constipation or as a faster process that creates diarrhea. Consumption of high-fat foods can put undue pressure on your stomach that leads to intense levels of discomfort. For the duration of a stomach upset, low-fat food in small quantities can provide relief. A food diary offers a place to record the type of high-fat items that produce a negative impact on your system.
5. Alcoholic Drinks
For the pleasure that a relaxing drink at the end of the day may provide, it can have a toxic effect on your stomach’s lining, and it can change the metabolism of your liver. Moderation can help limit its effects, and the Washington Post reported on the work of a British scientist’s development of chemicals that can produce effects similar to alcohol.
6. Peppers, Garlic and Curry
The zip and bite of fire that spices add to food may also create an impact on your gastrointestinal system. They contain valuable nutrients that stimulate the system and aid with digestion unless they produce the opposite effect. The peppers in salsa and the cayenne in some Asian food can make anyone who has a sensitive stomach choose a bland dish instead to avoid the aftermath of digestive problems. Nausea, diarrhea, and even vomiting can result from the insult to your intestinal system that spices create.
7. Bacon, Fruit Juice and Bologna
A significant problem with many processed foods is that they remove much of the healthy ingredients and replace them with unhealthy ones that can cause constipation. Juices often contain no fruit fibers and have loads of high fructose corn syrup that has no nutritional value and contributes to belly fat. Processed food contains high fat, nitrates, and even lactose that can upset your gastrointestinal system. Uncured meats contain no nitrites that have a negative impact.
8. Fried Chicken, Onion Rings and Frozen Desserts
Fried foods enjoy a high degree of popularity in America, and they have an appeal that you may find hard to resist. Your body’s intestinal tract may reject the high fat in them as well as the AGEs (Advanced Glycation Endproducts) that form when animal products cook for a long time at high heat. The avoidance of fried food can reduce inflammation in the body, similar to the way that it responds to high-fat food. Oven-baking chicken, fries and other favorites can produce nearly the same flavor as frying without leading to discomfort.
9. Artificial Sweeteners
Even though sorbitol occurs in prunes and peaches, Mayo Clinic notes that it is also a hard-to-digest artificial sweetener that replaces granulated sugar. It is in chewing gum, and packets that contain it grace almost every restaurant table as well as the breakfast bar at home. In the large intestine, it can cause gas, diarrhea, and bloat. Food labels indicate its presence, and honey or molasses can help you avoid the condition.