Blueberries are a delicious and nutritious fruit. But for some, this sweet snack can cause digestive issues. So why do blueberries cause gas and stomach pain, anyways?
Here are the potential reasons why blueberries give you upset stomach, along with tips for how to prevent or relieve the pain.
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1. You're Eating Too Much Fiber
And blueberries are a major source of the nutrient — just 1 cup of the fruit provides about 14 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
But if you don't usually get enough of the nutrient, fiber-rich blueberries are hard to digest. Indeed, eating too much fiber in one sitting can lead to issues like gas, bloating and cramping, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fix it: If blueberries do cause gas and bloating for you, try slowly upping your fiber intake to give your body time to adjust to digesting the nutrient, according to the Mayo Clinic. Slowly increasing your daily dose of fiber over a few weeks should help you avoid symptoms.
Staying hydrated can also help minimize gas and stomach pain from fibrous blueberries.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat Every Day?
2. You Have Food Poisoning
It's important to eat fresh fruit, but sometimes unwashed produce can contain disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And it's these harmful organisms that may be to blame for your blueberry stomach ache. Per the CDC, food poisoning can cause symptoms like:
- Upset stomach
- Stomach cramps
Fix it: Properly washing and storing your food is the best way to prevent foodborne illness, according to the CDC. Make sure to wash your blueberries thoroughly, then eat them on a clean surface with clean utensils. Once you're done, store them in the fridge.
If you have a high fever, frequent vomiting, dehydration, bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that persists for more than three days, visit your doctor, per the CDC.
3. You Have a Salicylate Sensitivity
Salicylates are chemicals that occur naturally in plants (including blueberries), according to Food Intolerance Diagnostics. And if you have a sensitivity, the salicylate in blueberries may be responsible for your stomach pain.
Other potential symptoms of salicylate intolerance include:
- Nasal congestion
- Skin rash, hives and/or itching
- Swelling of the hands, face and/or feet
- Inflammation of the eyes
Fix it: There's not much research about salicylate sensitivity to food, according to Food Intolerance Diagnostics. As a result, there's no clear way to diagnose or treat the condition.
However, if you notice a certain food — like blueberries — regularly causes digestive issues, talk to your doctor about whether it might be best to avoid eating that plant. They can also help you rule out a food allergy and track your symptoms.
Salicylate is an ingredient in aspirin, so if you're sensitive to that medication, it's possible that you're likewise sensitive to plants that contain the chemical, according to a March 2017 study in the Iranian Journal of Immunology.
4. You Have an Allergy
Blueberry allergies aren't common, but it's still possible you have one. According to the Mayo Clinic, food allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a food and releases chemicals that trigger symptoms like:
- Itchy or tingly mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat or other body parts
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Fix it: If you think you're allergic to blueberries, tell your doctor. They can test you for an allergy, and if you do have one, avoiding the fruit altogether can help prevent symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic.
Food allergies can trigger an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, where your throat swells up and makes it hard to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.
5. You Have an Intolerance
Blueberries can also cause gas if you have an intolerance, which makes it hard for your body to digest the fruit, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Symptoms of a food intolerance include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Upset stomach
It's important to note that a food intolerance isn't the same as an allergy, according to Mayo Clinic. Food intolerances lead to digestive issues, while allergic reactions tend to cause respiratory or skin-related symptoms.
Fix it: Blueberries do cause gas if you have an intolerance, so talk to your doctor if the fruit regularly irritates your stomach. They can help you determine if you have a food intolerance or sensitivity. If you do, the best way to avoid further stomach pain is to cut the fruit from your diet, per the Cleveland Clinic.
6. You're Sensitive to Fructose
Sometimes its not blueberries in particular that are causing your stomach pain — it may be fructose, a naturally occurring sugar in fruits, some veggies, juices and honey, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Blueberries are relatively low in fructose compared to other fruits, but they could still trigger symptoms if you eat them frequently or in large quantities.
If you have a fructose intolerance, your body isn't able to properly absorb the sugar, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The result? Symptoms like:
- Upset stomach
- Low blood sugar
Fix it: If blueberries do cause gas frequently and you suspect you have a fructose intolerance, talk to your so they can run tests to make a diagnosis. If you do have an intolerance, you'll want to limit or avoid the fruit.
- Iranian Journal of Immunology: "Salicylate Food Intolerance and Aspirin Hypersensitivity in Nasal Polyposis"
- Food Intolerance Diagnostics: "Salicylate intolerance"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Health Benefits of Blueberries"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Food Intolerance"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Hereditary fructose intolerance"
- Mayo Clinic: "My daughter has fructose intolerance. Can you tell me which foods have fructose so that she can avoid them?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food allergy vs. food intolerance: What's the difference?"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.