The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (2022)

Food provides us with nutrients, keeps us energized, and can even help us fend off disease. But those benefits aren't true for all foods. In fact, certain foods can actually cause health issues, inflammation, and drain you of energy. Perhaps even worse is that consuming these foods in high doses can put a strain on one of the major players in the digestive process: your stomach.

Many overprocessed foods are loaded with an amalgamation of unhealthy ingredients that can cause irritation, exacerbate preexisting stomach problems, or even be the cause of new tummy troubles.

To make things even more complicated, some foods that provide incredible benefits to some people may not do the same for others. For those with stomach-related health issues, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), certain healthy foods contain compounds or nutrients that may irritate the affected person's stomach, triggering irritation, inflammation, and discomfort. (The good news is that if your gut is healthy, most foods eaten in normal amounts won't irritate it, say experts.)

Taking care of your gut is paramount when it comes to your overall health—making sure your digestive system is functioning at its prime ensures your body can adequately process food and give you the nutrients and energy you need. So come along for a tour of common eats that can spell tummy troubles. Read on, and for more on healthy eating, don't miss these25 Unhealthiest Habits for Your Digestion.


Refined Carbs

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (1)

The simple carbohydrates in refined grains and highly processed foods like chips, white bread, and soda can cause bloating, gas, and cramping. What you may not feel is the gut inflammation from these poor food choices. "Gut microbes love sugary foods, so they thrive and can overcome the good microbes," says Harvard psychiatrist and trained chef, Uma Naidoo, MD. "When your good microbes become overwhelmed, they cannot help you and this leads to gut inflammation and neuroinflammation. An unhappy gut causes a sad, anxious mood," says the author of This Is Your Brain on Food.

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Soup, Ham, and Other High-Sodium Foods

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (3)

The average can of soup contains more than 700 milligrams of sodium. A ham sandwich packs over 1,117 milligrams. TGI Fridays Chicken Parm Pasta wins the prize with 4,130 mg of sodium; that's almost double the 2,300 mg recommended limit per day! "High salt diets are known to harm the stomach lining, raising the risk for ulcers and even stomach cancer," says physician-scientist William W. Li, MD, author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Health Itself.


Low-Fat Yogurt

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (4)

You know that people with lactose intolerance can get an upset stomach when eating dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, but did you know that the high sugar content of some dairy items can upset your stomach even if you're not lactose intolerant? Take low-fat yogurt, for example. A single cup can contain upwards of 6 teaspoons or more than 24 grams of sugar. So much for a healthy snack; it's more like cotton candy. Too much sugar can cause acute problems like bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. And worse. "Diets high in sugar have been shown to have the potential to decrease the microbial diversity in the gut after just one week's time," says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. "Loss of microbial diversity in the gut microbiota has been shown to be associated with most of the human diseases affecting westernized countries." Those maladies include inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer, and autism, according to the report "Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases" in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.


Spicy Foods

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (5)

Spicy foods may be good for your health for some people, except when they trigger "burning diarrhea." While a study in BMJ noted that people who consumed spicy foods almost every day of the week had a 14% risk reduction in total mortality compared to those who rarely ate chili peppers, another study in Neurogastroenterology & Motility suggested that the more spicy food eaten (especially if you are young or female), the more common nasty gastrointestinal symptoms tend to be. Foods containing capsaicin, the ingredient that gives chilies their fire, can irritate the lining of the stomach, triggering nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea that burns.

(Video) Top 10 Foods That Destroy Your Gut


Fried Foods, Orange Juice, Coffee, Alcohol, Etc.

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (6)

The list of foods that are irritative to the stomach and may make gastritis worse is long and varied, according to surgical gastroenterologist Madhan Kumar, MD, of "The caffeine in coffee is irritating to the stomach lining, but even healthy choices like very acidic foods like citrus fruits, orange juice, and tomato juice can irritate the stomach lining," he says. Other foods on the long list of potential irritants include fried foods, dairy products, carbonated beverages, fatty foods, chocolate, and alcohol, among others. Anything that's deep-fried such as French fries and chicken nuggets can trigger heartburn and acid reflux.



The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (7)

These carbohydrates can cause gas pain and bloating in people who are sensitive to them, especially those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols, which are short-chain sugars that the small intestine absorbs poorly, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Many whole grains and fruits and vegetables contain these compounds so a low FODMAP diet can be quite limiting in foods that are needed and nutritious," says food scientist Julie Miller Jones, PhD, emeritus professor of nutrition at St. Catherine University. "For this diet, many foods are cut out for several weeks and a person adds back foods one at a time to see what the offending foods are." Some of the most common FODMAP compounds are fructose (found in fruits, vegetables, and added sugars like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup), lactose (in milk and other dairy products), fructans (in many grains, including wheat and barley), galactans (prevalent in legumes), and polyols (in sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol as well as some fruits and vegetables). Because a FODMAP diet is very limiting, it is highly recommended that you work with a professional registered dietitian throughout the process.


Artificial Sweeteners

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The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (8)

Even though they're FDA-approved, artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame that are found in "diet" foods like sodas and sugar-free candy can cause gut microbiome imbalances. In a 2018 study, researchers found that the bacteria found in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to concentrations of only one milligram per milliliter of artificial sweeteners. "This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity, which can cause a wide range of health issues," said Dr. Ariel Kushmaro, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study. "The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment"


Energy Drinks

The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (9)

Energy drinks contain caffeine and other stimulants and the water-soluble vitamin B3 known as niacin. The high caffeine content and/or niacin in these drinks have been shown to cause upset stomach and nausea, among other symptoms. While the risk of niacin toxicity is low, it can happen, according to Philadelphia-based nutritionist Beth Auguste, RD, of Be Well with Beth. "It's possible to over-consume so you do want to check the label to see what percentage of your recommended daily allowance these energy drinks contain," says Auguste. Signs of niacin toxicity include flushing, dizziness, low blood pressure, fatigue, headache, upset stomach, nausea, blurred vision, and inflammation of the liver.

RELATED: 12 Dangerous Side Effects of Energy Drinks, According to Science


Sugary Cereals

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The 9 Worst Foods for Your Stomach, According to Doctors — Eat This Not That (10)

Non-organic grains used in sugary cereals—and especially oats—contain herbicides like glyphosate that can cause damage to the gut biome (healthy bacterial populations), says DJ Polzin, DO, a family medicine physician who practices telemedicine for nomadic travelers through Imbalances in gut bacteria can trigger everything from gastrointestinal issues to such diseases as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and depression.


What are the three worst foods for digestion? ›

5 Foods to Avoid When Digestive Troubles Arise
  • Spoiled or unwashed foods. Bacteria from old or raw foods can cause food poisoning, cramps, or other issues if it gets into your system. ...
  • Spicy and hot foods. Foods with a bit of a kick can trigger problems like heartburn. ...
  • Dairy products. ...
  • Acidic foods. ...
  • Alcohol.
22 Jan 2020

What are the 7 foods to avoid? ›

The untouchables: 7 foods to avoid at all costs
  • Processed deli meats. ...
  • Ramen noodles. ...
  • Doughnuts. ...
  • Movie theater popcorn. ...
  • Raw oysters. ...
  • Sugar-sweetened fruit juices. ...
  • Reduced-fat peanut butter.
25 Mar 2020

What vegetable is toxic to your gut? ›

If you're wondering what vegetable is bad for your gut, you should know that Brussels sprouts contain high levels of fructans. Your gut bacteria can ferment fructans after consumption. Often, this could result in severe abdominal discomfort. Many people opt to eliminate Brussels sprouts.

What is the number 1 vegetable to avoid? ›

Don't eat: Onions

Onions contain fructan, a carbohydrate well-known for causing mild to severe gastrointestinal problems. Onions, along with other allium veggies like leeks and shallots, can be difficult for your body to absorb and result in excessive water content in your intestine.

What 3 foods should you not eat? ›

5 unhealthy foods you should avoid, according to a nutritionist
  • Hot dogs. Processed meats in general are just one of the worst things you can put into your body. ...
  • Pretzels. Pretzels were the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing type of food. ...
  • Diet soda. ...
  • Processed pastries. ...
  • Fluorescent orange snacks.
24 Jan 2022

What is the hardest food to digest? ›

Fatty foods, such as chips, burgers and fried foods, are harder to digest and can cause stomach pain and heartburn. Cut back on greasy fried foods to ease your stomach's workload. Try to eat more lean meat and fish, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and grill rather than fry foods.

What food is easiest on the stomach? ›

11 foods that are easy to digest
  • Toast. Share on Pinterest Toasting bread breaks down some of its carbohydrates. ...
  • White rice. Rice is a good source of energy and protein, but not all grains are easy to digest. ...
  • Bananas. ...
  • Applesauce. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Sweet potatoes. ...
  • Chicken. ...
  • Salmon.

What food takes the longest to digest? ›

The foods with the longest time to digest are bacon, beef, lamb, whole milk hard cheese, and nuts. These foods take an average of about 4 hours for your body to digest. The digestion process still occurs even when asleep. Which means our digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active.

What foods should not be eaten every day? ›

7 common foods that you must not have daily
  • 01/8Eating the right food. ...
  • 02/8Salt. ...
  • 03/8Juice. ...
  • 04/8Dry fruits. ...
  • 05/8Cruciferous vegetables. ...
  • 06/8Canned foods. ...
  • 07/8Baked food. ...
  • 08/8Animal protein.
3 Oct 2019

What is the unhealthiest food in the world? ›

List of the Most Unhealthy Foods in the World
  • Super-Sweet Cereals. Breakfast cereals are commonly loaded with sugar. ...
  • Sugary Coffee Drinks. Many people are accustomed to starting their day with high-calorie coffee drinks. ...
  • Canned Soup. ...
  • Margarine Bars. ...
  • High-Calorie Soda. ...
  • Processed Meats. ...
  • Ice Cream. ...
  • Frozen French Fries.
14 Dec 2018

What foods heal the gut lining? ›

Top 6 Foods for Gut Health | Dr. Josh Axe - YouTube

What kind of foods heal your gut? ›

Gut Health Foods - 15 Foods For Good Gut Health
  • Yoghurt. Live yoghurt is an excellent source of so-called friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. ...
  • Kefir. ...
  • Miso. ...
  • Sauerkraut. ...
  • Kimchi. ...
  • Sourdough. ...
  • Almonds. ...
  • Olive oil.

What is the number 1 healthiest food in the world? ›

So, having scoured the full list of applicants, we have crowned kale as the number 1 healthiest food out there. Kale has the widest range of benefits, with the fewest drawbacks when stacked up against its competitors.

What vegetable should I eat everyday? ›

The biggest health benefits came from eating leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach) and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene (citrus, berries, carrots). "These are primary sources of antioxidants that may play a role in preventing cancer," Dr.

Which bell pepper is healthiest? ›

Red peppers pack the most nutrition, because they've been on the vine longest. Green peppers are harvested earlier, before they have a chance to turn yellow, orange, and then red. Compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C.

What diet is best for long life? ›

A Mediterranean diet remains one of the gold standards for living longer and more healthfully. This pattern is characterized by a high intake of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; pulses; healthful fats from nuts, olive oil, and avocado; and herbs and spices. It includes seafood a few times a week.

What food is hardest to digest? ›

Fatty foods, such as chips, burgers and fried foods, are harder to digest and can cause stomach pain and heartburn. Cut back on greasy fried foods to ease your stomach's workload. Try to eat more lean meat and fish, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and grill rather than fry foods.

What are 3 digestive Superfoods? ›

Without further ado, here are nine superfoods and beverages that will help improve your digestion.
  • Apples. Everyone knows apples are a healthy alternative when feeling snacky. ...
  • Avocados. Avocado is more than just a favorite topping on toast. ...
  • Black beans. ...
  • Ginger. ...
  • Kefir. ...
  • Kombucha. ...
  • Leafy green vegetables. ...
  • Yogurt.
9 Jul 2020

What food Cannot be digested at all? ›

Examples of high-fiber food particles that often remain largely undigested include:
  • beans.
  • corn.
  • grains, such as quinoa.
  • peas.
  • seeds, like sunflower seeds, flax seeds, or sesame seeds.
  • skins of vegetables, such as bell peppers or tomatoes.

What is the easiest food on your digestive system? ›

What to eat for easy digestion
  • Toast.
  • White rice.
  • Bananas.
  • Applesauce.
  • Eggs.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Chicken.
  • Salmon.


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