Stomach pains can be caused by many different factors – whether food sensitivities, allergies, overeating, stress or underlying health conditions. Adjusting your diet to remove or greatly reduce certain “trigger foods” can really make a huge impact; the tricky part however is identifying which foods these are for you individually.
Some foods can trigger increases in stomach acids that actually sneak up and out from the stomach, into the esophagus where they cause indigestion and “burning”. This is the cause of acid reflux, heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Foods and meals that are capable of aggravating heartburn symptoms include:
- fried foods
- refined oils or meals high in low-quality fats (canola, corn, safflower, soybean oils)
- packaged and processed foods with artificial ingredients, sweeteners, preservatives and flavors
- tomatoes and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit (healthy but high in acid)
- garlic and onions
- chocolate and coffee (caffeine increases stomach acid)
- caffeinated products in general
- commercial dairy products that have been pasteurized
- sugary snacks
Other common digestive culprits include dairy, grains, beans or legumes, gluten and sugar which cause many people to experience allergies, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Eggs, seafood seeds and nuts can also cause allergies and sensitives, despite being generally healthy foods. And finally FODMAP foods – a wide range of fermentable carbohydrates found in various fruits, legumes, grains and veggies – are sometimes to blame for stomach pains.
Do you feel gassy after eating a salad or certain veggies? Sulfur-containing veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbage have fermentable residues that increase intestinal gas production. Even meat, eggs or fish can be a problem if you aren’t capable of fully digesting them and are sensitive to their metabolic effects. This might seem confusing, since these ingredients are beneficial in their own ways, but for some people it’s hard to fully digest these foods and this can lead to feeling gassy, bloated and uncomfortable. In the case of veggies and some fruits, their sugar molecules feed certain bacteria in the gut which can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in some sensitive people. Gas-forming bacteria rely on the indigestible food we eat for their own survival and generate smelly gases such as hydrogen and methane, so flatulence is one sign you’re not digesting something well.
The Foods that Can Help Heal the Underlying Issues:
Reducing common allergens and processed foods that come in a box is step one in combatting stomach pains. Instead base your diet on whole, real foods that are easy to digest and won’t aggravate your gut lining or stomach. Some of these include: leafy green vegetables, berries, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, probiotic foods like sauerkraut or kombucha, coconut oil and wild-caught fish. These are generally all well-tolerated, even for people with sensitive stomachs or digestive disorders.
If this all seems overwhelming, remember that eating whole foods is the real goal, since they provide the nutrients you need, are free from synthetic additives and can help heal digestive issues like IBS, leaky gut, acid reflux and many other conditions.
Some of the best foods for helping to reduce stomach pains include:
- ginger, aloe vera, raw honey, parsley, ginger and fennel – which all nourish the digestive tract and soothe nausea
- fermented vegetables including kimchi and sauerkraut, or fermented drinks like kombucha (contain beneficial probiotics)
- fresh organic vegetables (all types, especially the kinds that supply prebiotic fibers including artichokes, asparagus, onions, squash or fennel)
- healthy fats that are easy to digest including coconut oil, avocado and ghee
- high quality animal proteins like free-range chicken and grass-fed beef
- wild-caught fish and seafood including tuna, sardines, salmon and even sea vegetables
- bone broth, which contains enzymes and nutrients like collagen, glutamine, proline and glycine to help rebuild the gut lining
- apple cider vinegar, which is fermented and helps balances stomach acid production
- almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds (assuming you don’t have an allergy)
- stomach-soothing teas including chamomile, papaya, fennel and ginger tea
How do you know if these foods or helping, or if anything else you’re eating is still to blame for your stomach pains? Look for changes in digestion like stomach aches and nausea, constipation, loose stools, bloating and increased gas. When there’s a build-up of bad bacteria or yeast in your gut, you’ll likely notice pressure in your stomach, that you’re passing smelly gas more often and there’s a strong smell in your stool.
How can you know for sure which foods to avoid and those that will work for you? The bottom line is that everyone reacts to foods, so it might take some trial and error in order to establish which are the worst offenders for you personally. You can try practicing an elimination diet or keeping an ongoing record so you can easily connect-the-dots between certain foods and reoccurring digestive symptoms.
Dealing with stomach pains doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily avoid these foods altogether, especially the healthy ones, but you might want to reduce their presence in your diet and take careful note of what you’re eating prior to experiencing any painful stomach symptoms.
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