20 Foods to Avoid If You Have Gastrointestinal Problems

by Ella

Gastrointestinal (GI) problems can be a significant source of discomfort and can impact overall quality of life. Individuals with GI issues often experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Managing your diet is crucial for alleviating these symptoms and maintaining digestive health. Here, we discuss 20 foods to avoid if you have gastrointestinal problems.

20 Foods to Avoid If You Have Gastrointestinal Problems

1. Fried and Fatty Foods

Fried and fatty foods can exacerbate GI symptoms, causing bloating, gas, and diarrhea. These foods are difficult to digest and can slow down the emptying of the stomach, leading to discomfort.



  • French fries
  • Fried chicken
  • Potato chips
  • High-fat meats

2. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can irritate the digestive tract, leading to heartburn, indigestion, and abdominal pain. Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the heat in chili peppers, can be particularly irritating for individuals with sensitive stomachs.



  • Hot peppers
  • Spicy sauces
  • Curry dishes

3. Dairy Products

Many people have difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, leading to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is especially common in adults.


  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt

4. Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeine can stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, increasing the risk of acid reflux and diarrhea. It can also lead to dehydration, which can exacerbate constipation.


  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Energy drinks
  • Soda

5. Alcohol

Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and increase acid production, leading to heartburn, indigestion, and gastritis. It can also disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut.


  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Spirits

6. Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated drinks can introduce excess gas into the digestive system, causing bloating and discomfort. They can also contribute to acid reflux and exacerbate symptoms in people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).


  • Soda
  • Sparkling water
  • Carbonated alcoholic beverages

7. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, particularly sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol, can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. They are poorly absorbed by the intestines and can ferment in the gut.


  • Diet sodas
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Low-calorie desserts
  • Sugar-free candies

8. High-Fiber Foods

While fiber is essential for digestive health, too much fiber can cause bloating, gas, and cramping, especially if introduced too quickly into the diet. People with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should be particularly cautious.


  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Bran

9. Certain Vegetables

Some vegetables contain complex carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest, leading to gas and bloating. These include cruciferous vegetables and those high in fructans.


  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Onions
  • Garlic

10. Gluten-Containing Foods

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, can cause severe digestive problems for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.


  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereals
  • Baked goods

11. Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain additives, preservatives, and other ingredients that can irritate the digestive system. They are also typically low in fiber and high in unhealthy fats.


  • Fast food
  • Packaged snacks
  • Frozen meals
  • Instant noodles

12. Red Meat

Red meat can be hard to digest and may increase the risk of constipation and diverticular disease. It is also high in saturated fat, which can contribute to inflammation in the gut.


  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Sausages

13. Chocolate

Chocolate contains caffeine and other compounds that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, leading to acid reflux. It is also high in fat, which can slow digestion.


  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Chocolate desserts

14. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are highly acidic and can irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to heartburn and indigestion. They can also exacerbate symptoms of GERD.


  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Grapefruits
  • Limes

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another acidic food that can contribute to heartburn and acid reflux. They contain citric acid and malic acid, which can irritate the stomach lining.


  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato juice

16. Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onions contain fructans, which are a type of carbohydrate that can cause gas and bloating. They can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, leading to acid reflux.


  • Raw garlic
  • Raw onions
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder

17. Peppermint

While peppermint is often used to soothe digestive issues, it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and worsen symptoms of acid reflux and GERD.


  • Peppermint tea
  • Peppermint candies
  • Peppermint oil

18. Legumes

Legumes are high in fiber and contain oligosaccharides, which are complex sugars that can cause gas and bloating. They can be particularly problematic for people with IBS.


  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas

19. High-Sugar Foods

High-sugar foods can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and lead to fermentation in the gut, producing gas and bloating. They can also feed harmful bacteria in the intestines.


  • Candy
  • Pastries
  • Sugary cereals
  • Sweetened beverages

20. Whole Grains

Whole grains are high in fiber, which is generally beneficial for digestion. However, they can cause bloating, gas, and discomfort if consumed in large quantities or if the body is not accustomed to high fiber intake.


  • Whole wheat
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats

See Also: 15 Foods to Eat When You Have C. Diff

Managing Your Diet for GI Health

Gradual Introduction of Fiber

If you need to increase your fiber intake, do so gradually to allow your digestive system to adjust. This can help minimize bloating and gas.


Drinking plenty of water is crucial for digestive health. Water helps move food through the digestive tract and can prevent constipation.

Smaller, Frequent Meals

Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help reduce the burden on your digestive system. Large meals can overwork the stomach and intestines, leading to discomfort.

Mindful Eating

Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly can aid digestion and reduce the risk of bloating and gas. Mindful eating practices can also help you become more aware of how different foods affect your body.

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

If you experience persistent or severe gastrointestinal symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. They can help identify the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate dietary adjustments or treatments.


Managing gastrointestinal problems involves understanding and avoiding foods that can trigger symptoms. By being mindful of your diet and making informed choices, you can alleviate discomfort and support overall digestive health. This list of 20 foods to avoid provides a comprehensive guide to help you navigate dietary choices and maintain a healthy, balanced diet tailored to your digestive needs.



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