Why Do Cucumbers Upset My Stomache?

Sliced cucumbers in a green bowl.
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Along with cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green peppers, cucumbers are frequent culprits for gas and indigestion. Visit your physician to determine if your digestion problems result from a common reaction to cucumbers' sometimes-bitter properties or if you have a more chronic problem such as diverticular disease. Reducing your consumption of cucumbers may help. If you crave the crunchy veggie, the choices you make in buying, growing or serving cucumbers may result in fewer digestive problems.

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Bitter Compound

Drugs.com identifies cucumbers as one of the main gas-causing foods. A substance in cucumbers known as cucurbitacin causes indigestion in some people. Cucumbers likely to cause burping, stomach pains and other signs of indigestion also taste bitter, because cucurbitacin causes both bitterness and gas. Growers and shoppers may find it difficult to predict which cucumbers are likely to cause gas because climate and soil changes have unpredictable effects on the cucurbitacin content of cucumbers.


Diverticular Disease

If you have diverticular disease, cucumber seeds may cause stomach upset. Some people develop small pouches in the lining of their colons or large intestines. The condition, known as diverticulosis, appears in 10 percent of people over 40, and 50 percent of people over 60, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House. Among people with diverticulosis, as many as one-quarter of them develop an inflammation of those pouches, which is known as diverticulitis. Hard seeds like sunflower seeds are more likely to cause gas, bloating and cramps than cucumber seeds are, but for extremely sensitive patients, cucumbers may irritate diverticular pouches.


Serving Options

The Oregon State University Extension Service notes that cucurbitacin most often exists in the peel, outer flesh and stem end of the cucumber. To reduce the chance for bitter taste and indigestion, peel cucumbers before serving by removing both the skin and some of the flesh just under the skin. Cut off the upper inch of the cucumber and discard. Rinsing the paring knife periodically during peeling and before you slice the cucumber may also help reduce the cucurbitacin content of the sliced or chopped cucumbers. If diverticular disease is a concern, seed the cucumbers by scooping out the seeds in the center of the vegetable.


Buying and Growing Suggestions

Look for cucumbers with a "burpless" label at the supermarket or farm stand. Breeders develop cucumbers to reduce or eliminate the cucurbitacin in the fruit of the cucumber plant. If you grow your own cukes, purchase seeds labeled "burpless" or "bitter-free." Bitterness also results when growing cucumbers don't receive enough water. Keep the cucurbitacin level low by augmenting rainfall with water from your hose during periods of drought. Mulch also helps retain moisture. Poor soil also results in stressed-out cucumbers, so augment your cucumber patch as needed by having your soil tested and following recommendations for soil amendments like manure or garden lime.


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. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.