13 Foods That Can Increase Your Risk of Digestive Issues

Understanding the relationship between diet and digestive health is integral to maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Some seemingly harmless foods may exacerbate or trigger digestive issues. We have compiled some of these foods to help you improve your diet.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are a common culprit in causing digestive discomfort. They contain capsaicin, which gives chili peppers and other spicy dishes their heat. Excess capsaicin irritates the lining of the stomach and esophagus, resulting in heartburn and indigestion. 

Fried and Fatty Foods

Fried and fatty foods are high in saturated fats, which take longer to digest, causing the stomach to produce more acid. This higher acid production can lead to symptoms like bloating, heartburn, and stomach discomfort. Also, fatty foods can encourage the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle separates the stomach from the esophagus, leading to the reflux of stomach acids.

Dairy Products

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream are high in lactose, a sugar that many people have difficulty digesting. This condition, known as lactose intolerance, can cause digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. 

Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes contain a type of sugar called oligosaccharides, which our bodies find difficult to break down due to the absence of appropriate enzymes. Consequently, digestion is passed onto bacteria in the large intestine, resulting in fermentation. This process leads to the production of gas, which can cause bloating, flatulence, and discomfort. 

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Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are abundant in essential nutrients and dietary fiber. However, some people may experience digestive issues when consuming these vegetables due to the presence of raffinose, a complex sugar that the body finds difficult to break down. 

Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages contain carbon dioxide, which can cause bloating and discomfort when it builds up in the stomach. These drinks are also high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, which can alter the natural balance of your gut bacteria and lead to digestive distress. 

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are used as a low-calorie sugar substitute. These non-digestible, synthetic compounds can alter the gut microbiota, disrupting the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria. Also, some people may be sensitive to artificial sweeteners, resulting in a laxative effect, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal distress. 


Coffee, especially when consumed in large amounts, can stimulate the movement of the muscles in your colon, which might result in a laxative effect and lead to diarrhea. It also increases the production of stomach acid, which can cause heartburn or an upset stomach. 

Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, fats, and sugars, which can disrupt your digestive system. The high sodium content can lead to water retention and bloating. Fats, especially trans fats in many processed items, slow the digestive process, leading to discomfort and potentially heartburn. 

Excessive Fiber

Fiber adds bulk to the diet and speeds up the passage of food through the digestive tract. However, consuming too much can lead to bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. This discomfort is because our bodies cannot break down fiber. Eating in large quantities can be challenging for the body to handle.

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Alcohol interferes with the digestive process by damaging the tissues in the digestive tract, preventing the intestines from absorbing nutrients effectively. The resulting malabsorption can cause diarrhea and excessive gas. Also, alcohol increases stomach acid production, which can lead to gastritis or inflammation of the stomach lining.

Processed Grains

Processed grains have their bran and germ removed during processing. This process strips them of fiber, an essential nutrient for healthy digestion. Consuming these grains can lead to constipation due to the lack of dietary fiber, which aids food movement through the digestive system. 

Highly Acidic Foods

Highly acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar-based foods can irritate the lining of the stomach and esophagus, potentially causing heartburn and indigestion. For people prone to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), these foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation.

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