Food has more effects than just tasting great and satisfying hunger. It can impact how your digestive system runs, and when you don't tolerate a food well or you're already feeling some digestive discomfort, what you eat can either make you feel better or worse.
And the last thing you want to do when your belly hurts is to eat or drink something that may make that stomachache more extreme.
To be safe, steer clear of these 15 foods and drinks that wreck your stomach, all of which can further cause irritation and prevent relief. You don't want to end up wreaking havoc on your stomach! (While you're making healthy changes, be sure to try out 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Anything with bubbles could do a number on your stomach.
"Seltzer water and carbonated beverages release carbon dioxide, which can cause bloating or gas in your digestive system and make stomach aches worse," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Instead, go for flat when possible and drink sparkling water and other drinks, like wine, in moderation.
"Cauliflower is a cruciferous veggie that contains raffinose, an indigestible carbohydrate, and while good for the gut, it may cause distress in those who have tummy troubles like IBS," says Harris-Pincus. Sometimes, thoroughly cooking the veggie can help make it easier on the belly than eating it raw, so feel free to give it a shot!
"Milk and milk products contain the carbohydrate lactose, which some people lack the enzyme to break down," says Harris-Pincus. When this happens, those with a lactose intolerance can experience stomach pains, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Not so fun!
"If you are sensitive, you may still be able to tolerate dairy in small amounts or choose a lactose-free variety that contains the enzyme to break down the lactose for you," Harris-Pincus recommends.
Tomato sauce is tasty and can be nutritious, but even low-sodium versions tend to be very acidic, which can make an upset stomach even angrier.
"Even a small amount on pizza or for dipping is a no if you're dealing with actual stomach pain or reflux," says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
Red meat is not only high in saturated fat, but also the protein content means it will spend more time in your stomach, which can lead to digestive distress.
"When your stomach isn't agreeing with you, look for lower fat proteins in small serving sizes. If you're choosing protein foods at all before feeling better," says Jones.
"Similar to red meat, fried chicken is very high in fat and often the oils used for frying aren't the healthiest, potentially putting more stress on your digestive tract," says Jones. Save this food for when your stomach is feeling its best, where it can handle the oils and cooking technique better. Although it's always best to go for lean grilled or roasted chicken!
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"Even without an upset stomach, alcohol irritates the stomach lining, so if your tummy is already turning, this side effect will be exacerbated," says Jones. While hard liquor and wine may be the worst drinks to choose, beer can also disrupt the digestive tract, so be careful. If you are drinking, swap in water in between alcoholic drinks.
"Some people may not tolerate any dairy well when dealing with stomach troubles, but cheese is a more concentrated source of saturated fat, which can digest and absorb more slowly than mono and polyunsaturated fats," says Jones. Ditch the dairy and go with a dairy-free alternative instead.
Another carbonated drink, soda is particularly troublesome for your stomach. "Soda is not only high in sugar, but also usually contains phosphoric acid. Both can irritate the digestive tract, so opt for another beverage," says Jones. More of a reason to just never sip on any soda!
You might love the heat, but it will cost you a stomachache later.
"Spicy foods tend to irritate the stomach if it isn't feeling well, so skip the hot sauce until your digestive tract settles down," says Jones. Hot peppers in particular add a pop of flavor, color, and vitamin C to many dishes, but because they're spicy, they may irritate an already upset stomach.
Beans are incredibly high in fiber, which is typically a benefit, but, if your digestive tract is upset, you want to eat foods that are easily digested, rather than those that will spend a lot of time moving through.
"Once your stomach is better, include them regularly so your microbiome is healthy and can potentially help avoid some future digestive upset," says Jones.
High Fiber Crackers
"Average crackers can be great to settle your stomach and maintain blood sugar when you don't feel like eating much. But, like beans, high fiber crackers will spend too much time in your digestive tract and make it work harder than it needs when it's trying to recover," says Jones. Go for basic saltines instead.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts are great dietary staples unless you're dealing with digestive issues. "These contain not only fiber, but also carbs called oligosaccharides, that are not digested, similar to fiber," says Jones. So proceed with caution!
That morning cup of java could cause digestive woes later on.
"Coffee is both acidic and known to have a diuretic effect on your bowels, so it's a good idea to skip to avoid excess irritation or the possibility of stimulating diarrhea," says Jones.
"While you hear to get more vitamin C while sick, orange juice isn't a great idea when you have a stomach bug," says Jones. "Its acidity can exacerbate what the stomach is feeling, similar to the effects from tomato sauce," she adds.