Consumption of sugar or its substitutes may be contributing to stomach cramps in some people, depending on other underlying conditions. Many people eat more sugar than the recommended daily amount, much of it coming from processed foods with added sugar. Try to limit these foods in your diet, favoring naturally sweet foods like fresh fruit instead.
About half of all menstruating women have a condition called primary dysmenorrhea, or painful cramping during menstruation. Although sugar intake is not a cause of this condition, making dietary changes, including reducing your sugar intake, can help ease cramps. About 14 days before your period is due to begin, cut down on your consumption of sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol, and focus on eating whole grains and fresh produce.
Lactose is a form of sugar present in dairy products. If you experience cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea after drinking milk or eating cheese, see a doctor to have lactose intolerance accurately diagnosed. Treat the condition by avoiding dairy products, consuming lactose-free milk or taking a lactase enzyme supplement before eating dairy to help you better digest lactose.
Sugar and Exercise
If you're an athlete, avoid the temptation to "carbo-load" with sugary foods before a big race or game. Foods with high sugar concentration can draw fluid into your gastrointestinal tract, leading to cramping, nausea, dehydration and diarrhea during exercise. Make your pre-workout meal healthy, and consume it one and a half to two hours before the event. Stay hydrated with water and avoid caffeine; you can also save sports drinks and other electrolyte-replacing beverages until after the event.
Cutting down on your sugar consumption can have unintended consequences if you're replacing the sugar with artificial sweeteners. Sugar substitutes such as erythritol, maltitol, lactitol, mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol, also known as sugar alcohols, can cause diarrhea and cramping in people who are sensitive to them. If you get cramps after eating a "sugar-free" treat or chewing sugarless gum, try limiting your intake of these items.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Menstrual disorders - Lifestyle changes
- KidsHealth.org: Lactose Intolerance
- Colorado State University: Nutrition for the Athlete; J. Anderson, L. Young and S. Prior; December 2010
- Consumer Reports Health: Q&A: Artificial sugar and stomach pain?; Feb. 26, 2010
- Consumer Reports Health: Eating too much sugar? Try these 5 ways to cut back; Aug. 27, 2009