Unless you're experiencing food poisoning, particular foods don't cause colon pain in a healthy, normal digestive system. If you have a condition such as colitis, diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome, however, certain foods and eating habits can trigger colon pain. In addition to seeking any needed medical treatment, a healthy diet limited in these foods can help prevent or ease symptom flare-ups. Before making significant changes in your diet, seek guidance from your doctor.
Fiber can play an important role in managing colon pain because it helps your intestines work properly. It also softens and eases the release of stool through your digestive tract. Because refined grains lose fiber during processing, excessive consumption can lead to colon pain and related issues, such as constipation. As high-glycemic foods, meaning they have a dramatic impact on your blood sugar, refined grains can also cause inflammation. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends avoiding refined foods, such as white bread, to improve IBS and colitis symptoms. Nutritious alternatives include oats, brown rice, quinoa and 100 percent whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals.
High-Fiber Fruits and Vegetables
In some cases, fiber-rich foods worsen colon pain related to IBS or colitis -- particularly if you're experiencing diarrhea, which is caused by inflammation, or if you have been eating a low-fiber diet. Avoid high-fiber foods, such as beans, lentils, broccoli and apples, during diarrhea episodes. Then gradually add fiber sources to your diet to see how your body reacts. If vegetables worsen your symptoms, the UMMC recommends steaming or baking vegetables instead of eating them raw.
Fatty Meats and Dairy Products
High-fat meat and dairy products are leading sources of saturated fat, which can contribute to colon pain by causing inflammation. Cutting back on red meat and relying on leaner foods for protein, such as cold-water fish and tofu, can help ease pain and other symptoms of IBS, says the UMMC. Limiting dairy products may help manage colitis pain by reducing diarrhea. High-fat, inflammatory dairy products to limit include butter, heavy cream, whole milk and cheddar cheese.
Fried Foods and Commercial Baked Goods
Fried foods, such as pastries and french fries, and commercially made baked goods, such as pie crust, pizza dough and cookies, commonly contain trans fats, which can worsen colon pain associated with inflammation. Avoid foods that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil -- another name for trans fats -- on ingredient lists. Fried foods also contribute saturated fat to your diet, so even if a food such as mozzarella sticks or donuts doesn't contain hydrogenated oil, limit or avoid it.
Spicy Foods, Caffeine and Alcohol
Spicy foods may worsen colitis pain. If spicy foods worsen your symptoms, avoid dishes such as spicy curries and Mexican food, salsa and hot peppers. Seasoning food with less hot-spicy herbs, such as turmeric, could provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Caffeine and alcohol could worsen pain related to IBS and colitis. Otherwise, moderate alcohol intake could help lower inflammation.
Food Intolerances and Allergies
If you're intolerant to a food, your digestive system reacts harshly, causing symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, bloating and gas pain. When you're allergic, consuming the food causes immune system reactions, which can trigger abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes and breathing problems. Lactose, the natural sugar found in cow's milk, is the leading intolerance culprit, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Most food allergies involve cow's milk, eggs, tea nuts, peanuts, wheat, fish or shellfish. You can also be intolerant to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. To determine if you have a food allergy or intolerance, seek guidance from your doctor.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- University of Georgia Health Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Diverticular Disease
- Today's Dietitian; The Top Fiber-Rich Foods List
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ulcerative Colitis
- Linus Pauling Institute: The Two Faces of Inflammation
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Cleveland Clinic: Problem Foods: Is it an Allergy or Intolerance
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Food Allergies