These acidic drinks can irritate the esophagus, stimulating the sensory nerves to feel more inflamed. This might feel like acid reflux, but in reality is just irritation. In the stomach, however, the extra acid of the drink can cause other problems. If you haven’t eaten, your gut is already full of acid, so adding the extra can give you a stomach ache. And if you’re drinking lemonade that’s sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, watch out: that huge influx of sugar is often a cause of diarrhea.
Hot peppers give food a wonderful spicy taste, but they can also irritate the lining of the esophagus on the way down. The result: an unpleasant heartburn-like feeling after you eat. “Even if you try to cool down the heat by adding sour cream, you’re still getting all the spice and the same amount of irritation,” warns Gidus. So rather than trying to mask spice with high-fat cream, opt for milder versions if you routinely suffer side effects.
Onions and their cousins like garlic, leeks and shallots are filled with a variety of phytonutrient compounds—some of which seem to offer healthy, heart-protective benefits, and some of which cause stomach distress. Cooking them seems to deactivate some of the problem-causing compounds. But on the chance that you’re also deactivating some of the good stuff, dietitian Mary Ryan, suggests using mix of cooked and raw so that you can reap the benefits without suffering the consequences.
Nothing seems more benign than a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes. After all, that’s why they rank near the top of the list when it comes to so-called “comfort foods.” But if you happen to be one of approximately 30 to 50 million Americans who are lactose intolerant, you’ll find no comfort in those spuds, since most are loaded with milk or even heavy cream. Make them at home using lactose-free whole milk for the same creaminess minus the after-effects.
There’s no quicker way to determine if you’re lactose intolerant than to sit down with a big bowl of ice cream. The bloating, cramping and gas are clear messages: your system is trying to tell you to stay away from such rich dairy products. If that’s the case, the only solution is switching to lactose-free frozen treats (such as those made from soy or rice milk). But even if you’re not lactose intolerant, ice cream can give you some stomach trouble. That’s because it’s essentially all fat, and fat lingers in the stomach longer than other foods before getting digested.
Broccoli and raw cabbage
These fiber- and nutrient-rich vegetables are incredibly healthy, but they are also well-known for causing gas buildup in the gut. Fortunately, the solution is simple. Cooking them—or even just blanching them slightly—will deactivate the sulfur compounds that cause gas.
The enzyme needed to break down beans is found only in our stomach bacteria. And if you don’t routinely eat beans, you might not have enough of this enzyme to comfortably digest them. The result, of course, is gas and bloating. Cooking beans in soup can help—the extra fluid will help digest the large amounts of fiber beans contain, and the extra cooking time will start breaking the beans down even before you eat them. By adding beans to your diet gradually, you will help build up the enzyme necessary to digest them without issue.
Sorbitol, the ingredient found in many sugar-free gums, candies and diet bars and shakes, can cause an uncomfortable buildup of gas in your gut. Check the labels before you buy to see if you can find sugar-free products that use less troublesome sugar substitutes. The amount also is an issue. Most people can handle two or three grams without any problems, but a product that packs 10 or more grams will undoubtedly be tough on the digestion.
Fried chicken nuggets
Anytime you take a food, dip it in batter and then deep fry it, you turn it into something that can be a bit hard on the gut. Fried foods inevitably are greasy and high in fat, both of which spell trouble for the stomach. If you already suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, greasy foods are especially problematic and can cause symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, says Tara Gidus, a dietitian in Orlando. To make a healthier version, take frozen chicken nuggets (or use your own breadcrumb batter on chicken breasts) and bake them rather than frying.
Most of the unfortunate consequences surrounding this rich delicacy come not from simply eating chocolate, but from overeating it. One small brownie as an occasional treat probably is fine; a triple brownie a la mode probably is not. But anyone who suffers from gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) can experience problems from even a small portion of chocolate. That’s because chocolate causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing stomach acid to come back up.
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Filed under: Nutrition by Nessie