According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by digestive troubles, including chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Diagnosing and treating digestive troubles can be tricky, and in many cases, food is at the heart of the problem.
But figuring out which foods are the culprits can be tough, and it requires an elimination diet, which involves removing foods from your diet that could be causing your symptoms. The foods are re-introduced later, one at a time, giving you the opportunity to identify which ones are causing symptoms.
These seven foods are commonly associated with a variety of digestive problems. Try eliminating all of those you feel may be contributing to your troubles and see if your symptoms improve.
Grains--including those without gluten--contain high levels of amylose sugars, which cause inflammation in the gut. They also contain lectins and phytates, which can hinder the absorption of nutrients in the body.
Alcohol consumption can cause problems for almost all of your body's systems, but it can really do a number on the digestive system, according to an article published in the journal Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders.
Alcohol can impair the function of the muscles that separate the stomach and esophagus, causing heartburn, and it can damage the mucosal lining of the esophagus. It can impair muscle movement in the stomach and the large and small intestines, causing diarrhea, and it interferes with the secretion of gastric acid, leading to a number of gut problems.
3. Fermentable Sugars
Fermentable sugars are officially known as FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are short-chain sugars that aren't fully digested and can cause excessive fermentation in your gut. This leads to a release of hydrogen gas, which can cause distension of the intestines. This is a major cause of IBS symptoms, including pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas.
FODMAPs include vegetables like artichokes, garlic, onions, cabbage, sweet corn, and sugar snap peas; fruits like apples, peaches, pears, and plums; dairy products including milk, ice cream, soft cheeses, and yogurt; and nuts like cashews and pistachios.
Legumes include lentils, peanuts, edamame, soy products, and all varieties of beans. Legumes have high phytic acid content, and this inhibits the absorption of nutrients in food. Legumes are also FODMAPS, and they contain lectins, which can contribute to a leaky gut in people with pre-existing digestive troubles.
The main milk protein, casein, is used as a binder in many food products, and it's present even in lactose-free dairy products. Casein can cause a range of gut problems, depending on your unique biology. For example, your gut may not have the enzymes required to digest the proteins in casein. In some people, including those with low stomach acid, inflamed intestines, or poor digestion, the body will attack the casein proteins, causing a negative reaction in the gut and elsewhere in the body.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners encourage the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. Sugar alcohols are not well digested and commonly cause an upset stomach when consumed in large amounts. In the intestinal tract, sugar alcohol meets bacteria, and fermentation occurs. The gases released during fermentation can cause bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and pain.
7. Nuts and Seeds
The roughage of nuts and seeds can irritate the gut, causing inflammation and pain. The hydrogenated trans-fats that some nuts contain can also contribute to digestive troubles, and many nuts are processed with industrial seed oils, which can also cause problems.
A Holistic Approach to Treating Digestive Problems is Best
A holistic approach to treating digestive troubles helps you heal more quickly--and for good. Eliminating tricky foods from your diet can make a big difference in your gut health. Improving the microbiome--the collection of good bacteria that's housed in the gut--also goes a long way toward reducing digestive symptoms.
A daily dose of Thrive Naturals Advanced Probiotic Complex can restore good gut bacteria, thanks to 16 unique strains and 50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) in each capsule. Finally, avoiding processed foods, eating a mostly plant-based diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting in some exercise each day will help keep your digestive system running smoothly and trouble-free.
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