Eight foods that are hard to digest and easy solutions to fight that

As amazing as our bodies can function, sometimes certain foods can play havoc with our digestive system. You would think that you should be able to digest just about any food you want, but that’s not always the case. Some people must have an iron kettle for a stomach as they hardly ever experience tummy troubles. Then there are the rest of us. Depending on food processing and preparation, how active we are, and even what time of day we eat can result in our stomachs not always reacting well to everything we eat .

Here’s a sampling of eight foods that may cause upset tummies in the form of heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, belching, gassiness, or even nausea.

Some foods should be avoided as they have low nutritional value, while others are very healthy for us but can cause digestive issues. Here’s a look at these eight foods that may give your digestive system a bout of trouble:

  1. Greasy or fried food

What all know what these foods are – ice cream, fatty cuts of meat, French fries, pizza, onion rings – each can make it difficult for the body to digest, leaving you feeling miserably uncomfortable and a bad case of indigestion or heartburn. Foods such as these cause the sphincter muscle to separate the bottom of the esophagus from the top of the stomach to relax too much. This results in stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, causing the sting of heartburn.  

Solution:  To avoid this scenario, limit intake of these types of foods. Only eat small amounts at a time. Avoid combining alcohol when eating these foods, which can further irritate the digestive system. 

  1. Artificial sweeteners

Many of us willingly consume foods with artificial sweeteners. From diet sodas to yogurt to pouring a packet of artificial sweetener into your morning cup of coffee, we may take in much more than we realize. Often relied on to help with weight control, these sweeteners can also be a culprit in your digestion. Sugar alcohols are one type of artificial sweetener that is only partially digested that can impact your GI tract leading to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Even sugar-free gum made with sorbitol (sugar alcohol) can lead to cramps and diarrhea.  

Solution: Experiment with different artificial sweeteners to see which causes the least distress. Some of the natural sweeteners, like agave nectar, make be better tolerated with fewer symptoms experienced.  

  1. Processed foods

Refined carbohydrates are the main effectors of GI issues. These foods include white bread, soda, donuts, potato chips, cookies, cakes, etc. In addition, these foods are often high in calories, sugar, fat, and or salt, resulting in bloating and cramping.  

Solution: The best advice is to avoid these low-nutrient foods. They offer little in promoting health and are not worth the distress to your digestive system. Instead, choose healthier foods such as fruits, veggies, natural peanut butter, lean protein, and whole grains, and leave little room for processed foods. 

  1. Spicy foods

Maybe the buffalo chicken wings or the hot chili peppers added to your favorite chili really ramp up digestive SOS. Unfortunately, foods that bring on the heat can also trigger heartburn or indigestion, especially when eaten as part of a large meal.

Solution: Keep portion sizes reasonable and drink plenty of water or milk to calm the burn. But if the thought of drinking milk is unpleasant, choose another type of dairy food, such as Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. These foods contain GI-friendly probiotics to aid digestion, bringing the burn down to a simmer.

  1. Acidic foods

Even though healthy for you, acidic foods such as grapefruit, oranges, or lemons increase the likelihood of acid reflux and GERD.  

Solution – If these foods always cause acid reflux, it is probably best to avoid them. However, plenty of other fruits and vegetables to choose from generally don’t result in irritation or inflammation.  

  1. Chocolate

Say it isn’t so, but yes, chocolate can possibly trigger heartburn in people prone to digestive disorders. Like coffee can be a diuretic, chocolate can lead to loose stools or diarrhea.

Solution: Sugary milk chocolate can be the main factor in causing digestive upset. Choose dark chocolate with at least 70% or higher cacao content instead. This higher cocoa content promotes healthy digestion and has healthy flavonoids that are good for your heart.

  1. Peppermint 

The peppermint candies so popular around the holidays can be a source of heartburn. The reason is peppermint relaxes the top of the stomach allowing food to move back up into the unprotected esophagus which causes irritation and the annoying acid feeling.  

Solution:  Many people can tolerate peppermint, but for those carrying excess weight, peppermint can cause pressure, resulting in food being pushed back into the esophagus. Besides reaching a healthier body weight, to avoid heartburn, eat smaller portions and don’t lie down after eating.  

  1. Coffee

For some people, coffee can be their digestive tract’s worst enemy. From stomach irritation to excess acid production to inflammation, heartburn, and GERD, coffee is not their drink. And don’t forget, this caffeine-containing beverage also acts like a diuretic which can cause dehydration and constipation. 

Solution: If you like coffee, but it makes your GI tract tizzy, limit drinking it to just one cup a day. At the very least, drink no more than one cup of coffee every two hours, allowing your body time to process the caffeine. Also, avoid drinking it on an empty stomach, as this can only increase indigestion.  


 Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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