6 foods that make your intestinal problems worse

Bowel problems can present themselves in many different ways. Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and reflux are just some of the symptoms one may experience. While some of these symptoms may be related to a chronic condition in the digestive tract, others may be due to a sensitivity to one or more particular foods. In both scenarios, what you eat can influence your gut health. That’s why it’s important to note when these symptoms arise, while also perhaps considering what you ate during the day.

Regardless of the source of your digestive problems, there are some foods to avoid when experiencing digestive discomfort, as they could worsen the symptoms you are experiencing. Here are 6 examples of foods you’ll want to avoid when you have an upset stomach because they can make your intestinal problems worse. And for more dietitian-approved tips that can help bolster your gut health, you should also check out Eating Habits for a Healthy Gut as You Age, Dietitians Say.


Salty, crunchy, and flavorful, French fries may be a convenient snack, but they could be exacerbating your digestive issues. Foods that contain a lot of simple carbohydrates like chips, white bread, and cakes tend to move quickly through the digestive tract, often leading to bloating and gas. French fries have another layer of digestive distress because they are fried. Foods high in fat are known to cause heartburn, a common problem in the digestive tract. French fries aren’t the only culprit here—any fatty food, including processed foods, French fries, and fatty meat, could increase your chance of heartburn.

bubble gum

It may surprise you that chewing gum can affect your digestive tract, but many varieties of sugarless gum are made with sugar alcohols. This compound is used to provide sweetness in foods without as many calories as sugar. However, these sugar alcohols cannot be fully digested by the body and can therefore lead to digestive upset. Bloating, gas, and diarrhea are some of the most common symptoms that one may experience. You can also find sugar alcohols in sugar-free candies, protein bars, and other products modified to be sugar-free.

candy jars

While sugar substitutes, such as sugar alcohols, may not be safe for the gut, refined sugar can also pose a problem. Added sugar, such as that found in candy, cereal, and baked goods, seems to have many negative effects on the body, including the gut. Research indicates that this added sugar may increase pro-inflammatory properties in the gut, which could lead to a cascade of problems, including an imbalance of helpful gut bacteria and metabolic dysregulation. It’s unrealistic to go on a sugar-free diet for any significant length of time, so your best approach is to cut back on excess sugar where you can. Swap out the sugary dessert for fruit, cut the sweetener in your coffee in half, and swap out the sweets for cocoa-dusted nuts.


This vegetable is known to cause digestive upset with symptoms like bloating, cramps, and gas. Cabbage is part of the cruciferous vegetable category, a group that contains other common vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. This group of vegetables contains a sugar called raffinose, which is known to cause gas. For some, cooking these vegetables before eating them can reduce the likelihood of digestive upset, but others may need to stay away altogether.

black beans

Like cruciferous vegetables, beans are another category of food that contain raffinose, the sugar known to cause gas. Although highly nutritious due to their protein, fiber, and micronutrient content, beans commonly cause digestive upset. Gas, bloating, and stomach pain are some of the symptoms often experienced when eating beans. In addition to the raffinose in beans, their high fiber content can also cause problems. While fiber is an essential nutrient, eating too much fiber at one time, especially when experiencing intestinal problems, can lead to exacerbated symptoms.

hot sauce bottles

This ingredient is known for adding flavor and spice, and while it may actually have some beneficial properties, it could be making your digestive problems worse. Capsaicin is the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, and it also has some health properties, including reducing certain markers of inflammation. However, this same compound can be responsible for side effects like acid reflux and stomach cramps. When experiencing intestinal problems, it may be best to skip all forms of spicy foods, including hot sauce, salsa, and hot seasonings.

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