From bloating to bowel issues, gut cramps to gas, an estimated nine million of us suffer from problems with our digestion.
To keep your tummy happy, steer clear of the following foods...
Fried and fatty foods
We’ve all had that urge to reach for a bacon butty or fry-up after a big night out, but that could just make you feel worse. “Your stomach can’t cope with so much fat in one go, so it slows down,” says Dr Anton Emmanuel, medical director at gut health charity Core. Grease and fat are difficult to digest, resulting in heartburn, acid reflux, belching and tummy upset, and they can also make you feel full and bloated.
Whether it’s a vindaloo or spicy chicken wings, food that sets your tastes bud on fire can cause serious digestive problems if you’re not used to them. “They tend to make things go through a bit quicker, and cause a sore bottom,” says Emmanuel. Cooling foods, such as dairy products, can help calm the burn.
Milk and cheese
If you suffer from bloating, stomach cramps or the runs after eating milk or cheese, there’s a chance you might be lactose intolerant.
This is caused when people don't make enough of the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance can run in the genes, but it can also develop if you eat too much dairy produce. “Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, belly aches, nausea – and lots of loud noises,” says Emmanuel. If you are lactose intolerant, eat eggs, meat and fish instead to get your daily calcium hit.
You might think they’re super-healthy, but fruits and fruit juices can cause heartburn and stomach pain if eaten on an empty stomach. Highly acidic fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits can be particularly painful. The conventional wisdom is to eat a meal beforehand.
Processed foods contain a long list of gut-wrenching horrors, including lactose, stabilisers, chemicals, gluten and high levels of salt and sugar. These cause side-effects like tummy aches, diarrhoea and even mood swings. Eaten in large amounts, they can cause diabetes and hypertension. If you can’t manage to completely cut out processed foods from your diet, eat them with foods that digest slowly, like lean protein: think a chicken breast without the skin, or an avocado.
Coffee doesn’t just wake up our minds, it also stimulates acid production in the stomach. High doses, such as those found in espresso, can cause inflammation, heartburn and tummy cramps.
Reduce the symptoms by lining the stomach with something that’s easily digestible, like a banana or bran cereal at breakfast. Beware of tea and chocolate too, both of which contain caffeine, and note that even decaffeinated products often contain some caffeine.
Next time you feel like reaching for chewing gum, think again. Some brands contain the artificial sweetener sorbitol, which often creates gas, bloating, and diarrhoea when it reaches the large intestine.
We all know that eating a lot of wheat can bung you up, but bread and pasta aren’t the only culprits. “There’s wheat in a lot of things you wouldn’t normally expect,” says Emmanuel. Tomato ketchup, stock cubes and soy sauce are just some of the products where unexpected dangers lurk.