These Unlikely Foods Might Be Giving You Stomachaches

by Isadora Baum, CHC
Young Asian woman with stomach ache at home
kyonntra/E+/Getty Images

You might get a stomach ache after eating a huge meal or eating too quickly, but if you're consistently feeling stomach pain after eating, it's worth looking into what you're eating, because that actually matters, too. If you're getting poor indigestion regularly, you might want to be extra careful with foods that are bad for digestion, because they'll only make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable after what should be a delicious meal. Luckily, there are plenty of other foods that can improve your gut (or at least not mess with it) to choose from.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on balancing their gut health, so they can feel comfortable after eating and reap the nutritional benefits of the foods they're consuming. When you have poor indigestion, not only are you likely to feel unfortunate bodily symptoms, like gas, heartburn, fatigue, or bloating, but you're also not able to absorb the vitamins and minerals as readily as you naturally should. When you're not absorbing the nutrients, you're not really improving your health, and you can even become deficient in nutrients in more severe cases (like if you were to have an autoimmune disease, digestive disorder, such as IBS or Crohn's Disease). To better your gut and feel your best, here are seven foods that can trigger poor indigestion that you should watch out for.

1. Processed Foods

According to Will Smelko, co-founder of Ora Organic, over email with Bustle, processed foods can cause poor indigestion. "Highly processed foods and triggers for acid reflux are the first to go. Processed foods found in the center aisles of grocery stores and at fast food restaurants typically contain chemicals we can’t pronounce or highly concentrated and altered forms of plant-based nutrients that our bodies weren’t meant to process," Smelko says.

2. Coffee

Smelko says that "coffee (caffeinated drinks including soda)" can cause bad digestive symptoms, as it's highly acidic. Likewise, alcohol is also a culprit, and it can also even lead to cravings for processed foods (which in turn will cause even worse indigestion!).

3. Dairy Products

While not everyone is sensitive to dairy, Smelko cautions against dairy, like milk, as a key offender in people who can't tolerate the substance well. "Many people already lack the digestive enzymes to properly break down lactose and it has been shown that people can lose the ability to process milk over time," Smelko says. "One other note on dairy is that conventional milk typically uses high amounts of antibiotics as well as synthetic growth hormone — rBST & rBGH," Smelko adds.

4. Sugary Foods

According to Kristen Johnson Brogan, Chief Nutritional Officer at On Target Living, to Bustle, anything that's high in sugar or contains chocolate, especially, will be inflammatory and promote poor indigestion. Think along the lines of cupcakes, granolas, flavored yogurts, and more, even sneaky and surprising, sources of sugar, like condiments or sauces. And, the same goes for sugar alcohols found in peppermint gum and some drinks, as they can trigger gas and bloating, says Lauren Popeck, RD, LD/N, at Orlando Health, to Bustle.

5. Frozen Dinners

Yes, those frozen meals you get for dinner might be great for convenience purposes, but when you get a horrible stomach ache an hour later, it could be a sign that it's just not sitting right. Unfortunately, Brogan explains that frozen foods can often have different additives and acidic substances, which can lead to poor indigestion.

6. Spicy Foods

According to Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, to Bustle, "some people respond poorly to spicy foods and experience significant discomfort upon consuming anything with a pepper, chili or spicy taste to it." So, if you're getting heartburn or gas problems after spicy cuisine, it could be best to stick with more mild ingredients.

7. Burgers

Red meat can be an issue for some people, so be mindful of how you feel after chowing down on that burger and fries. "Another thing many people don't realize is that... fast food burgers, fries and burritos, can also be a culprit," says Shaw. If you notice poor indigestion, try and limit your total fat intake and see if there's a difference.

If you are eating any of these foods and find that they don't settle well with your belly, eliminate them to see if it helps. If you find symptoms to disappear, it might be smart to make a few lifestyle tweaks, long-term.