While an unhealthful diet may cause nothing more than a few uncomfortable hours, eating the wrong foods over a long time can lead to more serious complications. As a primer on foods to avoid or at least reduce, listed below are the 10 worst foods for digestive health:
Fried food is at the top of most gastroenterologists’ worst food list because it is so difficult to digest. If you have the slightest digestive sensitivity, fried food can kick off a bout of heartburn and acid reflux. Some of the worst offenders are French fries, fatty steaks and deep-fried anything.
2. Processed Food
The carbohydrates in refined foods — like chips, soda and white bread — move through your digestive system quickly, leading to symptoms like bloating, cramping and gas. The high fat and calorie content don’t do much for your weight and blood sugar levels either.
3. Chili Peppers
You might enjoy the sweat they stir up, but spicy peppers can burn your esophagus and cause heartburn for hours after you eat them. Hot, spicy foods are particularly dangerous for your digestive system when you eat them close to bedtime.
Yes, that sweet tooth you indulge is affecting more than the size of your thighs. Chocolate can trigger digestive symptoms like heartburn and upset stomach, especially if you have a disorder. It’s a diuretic too, which means it can cause diarrhea and loose stools.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
While you think you’re doing your body a favor by shaving calories off your intake, your digestive system suffers when you substitute artificial sweeteners for natural sugar. The pink, yellow and blue packets are filled with ingredients that increase inflammation and cause bloating, diarrhea and gas.
It’s not technically a food unless you consider the three-martini lunch. Even drinking alcohol in moderation can relax the sphincter in your esophagus, causing heartburn or acid reflux. Too much alcohol can inflame your stomach lining, induce cramping and lead to diarrhea. It also prevents you from absorbing nutrients properly.
Too much of anything is bad for digestion, but corn in large amounts is particularly dangerous because it’s high in cellulose, a fiber that the human stomach can’t break down. Corn passes through your system undigested, and it can cause cramps and gas in the process.
Again, while it’s not a food, coffee definitely deserves a spot on this list. Coffee so irritates the stomach lining that nearly 40 million Americans have kicked the habit. Coffee can cause heartburn, acid reflux, inflammation, dehydration and constipation. What’s in your mug?
9. Acidic Fruits
Just the name alone conjures up visions of acid reflux — and for good reason. Oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and lemons are high in acid. Eating too much acidic fruit leads to the condition that carries its name. Eating these fruits on an empty stomach irritates your stomach lining even more.
10. Raw Vegetables
Even though you continue to hear about the many health benefits of crunching raw veggies, you can expect to pay an intestinal price for the practice. Raw vegetables contain a lot of insoluble fiber that, like corn, can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea and cramps when they pass through your system undigested.
Use caution when trying a new food. If you have a diagnosed digestive condition, pay attention to what you eat. Sufferers of GERD, colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Celiac disease, for example, already know to avoid fried and fatty foods. Book an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms last for more than a day. Getting a proper diagnosis is the first step to making healthier choices in the future.
Contact NYC Gastroenterologist, Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, for more information on unhealthy foods for your digestive health.