Gastrointestinal problems can be a symptom of a serious medical condition, a food allergy or a result of eating too much. Most often, you can reduce or eliminate specific gastrointestinal problems by avoiding foods that trigger or worsen your condition. However, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor if symptoms persist or include a significant and lasting change in bowel habits, unusual abdominal pain, narrow or bloody stools or rapid weight loss.
Difficulty or an inability to digest milk sugar can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, cramps, stomach bloating and gas. While the degree of gastrointestinal symptoms depends on how much if any lactase -- the enzyme responsible for milk sugar digestion -- your body produces, avoiding all dairy products is a good idea until all your symptoms subside. Foods especially high in lactose include all varieties of milk, plain yogurt, cottage and ricotta cheese, sour cream, half-and-half and heavy cream, ice cream and ice milk.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When your large intestine --- also called your large bowel --- functions improperly, certain foods can cause or worsen symptoms such as cramping and bloating, gas and alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Because irritable bowel syndrome has no known cure, the more "trigger" foods you eliminate from your diet, the better. Common culprits include fried foods, dairy products, chocolate, alcohol, foods containing caffeine and carbonated drinks.
Acid Reflux Disease
Heartburn, chest pressure or pain and stomach acid in your mouth can all be symptoms of acid reflux disease. In this case, certain foods can cause the muscle that keeps stomach fluids from entering your esophagus to relax, while others increase the amount of acid your stomach produces, making the situation worse. Fat is especially bothersome, so eliminating fried foods is a good idea. Other foods to avoid include whole milk, cooking oil, cream style soups or sauces, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, caffeine and foods, including hard candy, that contain peppermint or spearmint flavoring.
A peptic ulcer is an open sore that can develop in the lining of your esophagus, stomach or small intestine. At best, peptic ulcers can be painful, and at worst, they can cause internal bleeding, a serious stomach infection called peritonitis and a buildup of scar tissue that makes it difficult for food to move through your digestive tract. Reduce stomach pain and other symptoms such as belching, nausea, vomiting and indigestion by avoiding refined foods such as white bread and pasta, convenience foods that contain trans fatty acids and acidic beverages such as coffee, alcohol and carbonated soda. Reduce dietary fat by avoiding fatty red meat and fried foods.
- Cleveland Clinic: Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Mayo Clinic: Lactose Intolerance; February 2010
- Cleveland Clinic: Lactose Intolerance
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome; May 2007
- Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet; Frank W. Jackson, M.D
- Mayo Clinic: Peptic Ulcer; January 2011