Unless you enjoy having heartburn or feeling bloated and gassy, make like a gastroenterologist and avoid these tough-on-the-tummy foods.
Sorbitol and artificial sweeteners
When you see the words “sugar-free” you probably think that the product must be good for you—or at least better than the version that’s chock-full of sugar. That’s not always the case. Things like sugar-free gum, candy, and other foods contain an ingredient called sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that the human body digests and metabolizes very, very slowly, according to Donald Tsynman, MD, at Manhattan Gastroenterology. This slow digestion process can lead to gas, bloating, and diarrhea, not unlike artificial sweeteners in general. Christina Tennyson, MD, associate physician at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tries to limit her consumption of artificial sweeteners, which are slightly different from sorbitol, saying, “I’d rather have a teaspoon of sugar, which, you know, I don’t think is terrible.”
It isn’t groundbreaking news that soda is bad for you. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that gastroenterologists avoid drinking soda. In fact, Dr. Tsynman says he tells patients, especially those who are overweight, that if they were to change one thing right away, it should be to switch to water. Soda is filled with large amounts of sugar, and the more you ingest, the more you put your body at risk for obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and other complications such as heart disease. And diet soda, although it technically doesn’t have real sugar, isn’t much better, as it contains artificial sweeteners that, again, can negatively affect digestion. The carbonation in sodas can also cause problems, potentially leading to GI distress with belching and reflux, according to Dr. Tsynman. Instead, stick with these 13 foods to relieve belly bloat.
Dr. Tsynman recommends avoiding “anything that comes in boxes, cans, or bags,” which is code for processed foods (not food that is simply sold in packaging for convenience, like iceberg lettuce or shredded carrots.) The processed foods to avoid chiefly are frozen and pre-made meals. They’re generally stripped of their nutrients and fiber, potentially causing constipation, and are filled with additives, especially salt, which can be harmful to those with high blood pressure or kidney disease. Processed cereals and protein bars frequently contain chicory root or insulin, which are commonly difficult to digest and can make you feel very bloated and gassy. These are the 15 worst foods for your stomach.
We know that a high-salt diet can contribute to high blood pressure. Several studies have also found links between salt and obesity, heart disease, and stroke. “I don’t personally add salt to anything, except for two things, potatoes and corn on the cob,” says Beth Schorr-Lesnick, MD, assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. “That’s not a GI thing. It’s a blood pressure thing.”