According to the National Institutes of Health, indigestion encompasses a variety of symptoms, including an uncomfortable sensation of fullness during or after eating and pain or a burning feeling in your upper abdomen. Although several causes can spur indigestion, high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, are notorious for bringing it on or exacerbating existing symptoms.
Whole grains and whole-grain products tend to be high in dietary fiber. While fiber actually has profound benefits for the digestive system, suddenly increasing your fiber intake or regularly eating a lot of high-fiber foods can cause gas and indigestion. Although indigestion can be uncomfortable, the NIH reports that most cases are mild and are not symptoms of any severe health condition.
Indigestion and related symptoms, such as abdominal bloating, constipation or diarrhea, may, in some cases, arise as a result of gluten intolerance or celiac disease. People who have celiac do not tolerate gluten, a protein compound that is found in the whole grains wheat, rye and barley. One way to judge whether you may have celiac or not is to keep a detailed food journal for several weeks. In your journal, write down the times you eat wheat, rye or barley products, how much you eat and how you feel in the hours following. If you consistently get indigestion or related symptoms after eating those products, share your experiences with your doctor.
If you suspect that whole grains are contributing to chronic indigestion for you, it may help to lay off the most fiber-rich grain sources and get more fiber through alternate food sources, such as fruits and vegetables. According to MayoClinic.com, you’ll find the most fiber in whole-wheat pasta, pearl barley, bran flakes or oatmeal, which have 6.2 g, 6 g, 5.3 g and 4 g of the nutrient per serving, respectively.
Indigestion from whole grains is often mild and can be relieved with simple home remedies or over-the-counter products, such as antacids. The NIH recommends avoiding coffee, carbonated drinks and alcohol, eating small, frequent meals throughout the day, and slowly chewing all of your food. Health professionals at Columbia University also recommend attempting to relieve indigestion by reducing stress in your life through exercise, meditation or yoga.
If your indigestion is severe and chronic, interferes with your daily life or is accompanied by other troublesome symptoms, see your doctor before changing your diet or giving up whole grains.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Indigestion; November 2008
- MayoClinic.com; High-Fiber Foods; November 17, 2009
- Medline Plus; Indigestion; February 4, 2011
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Celiac Disease; September 2008
- GoAskAlice.Columbia.edu; Gas, Bloating, Fiber?; July 11, 2008