Is Popcorn Bad If You Have Digestive Problems?

Popcorn is a healthy snack, because it provides few calories but a significant amount of fiber, which aids digestion. Though popcorn is generally safe for people with digestive problems, discuss your dietary options with your doctor and nutritionist to determine whether popcorn will improve or worsen the performance of your digestion system.

A young girl eating popcorn at a carnival. Credit: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images

Fiber

Fiber promotes healthy digestion, so increasing the amount of popcorn you eat can help you deal with digestive problems, such as constipation and diarrhea. Three cups of air-popped popcorn provides 3.5 g of fiber. Generally, women should eat 21 to 25 g of fiber per day, and men should eat 30 to 38 g per day, according to MayoClinic.com, so eating popcorn is an effective option for increasing your dietary fiber intake.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Johns Hopkins Medicine says popcorn is a food source that helps those with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. The condition is characterized by painful cramps, bloating, gas and changes in bowel habits. For example, stress or a large meal might trigger a powerful urge to visit the bathroom. Though the cause of IBS is unknown, the moderate amount of fiber in popcorn can be part of a high-fiber diet that alleviates the effects of the condition.

Diverticulosis

Popcorn doesn't pose a threat to people with diverticulosis, though doctors once advised patients to avoid it, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, or NDDIC. Diverticulosis is a condition in which tiny pouches form in the lining of the intestines. In the past, doctors feared the undigested parts of popcorn, seeds and nuts might lodge in the pouches and cause inflammation or block the pouches, called diverticula. But the NDDIC says the fears are unfounded, as no scientific data support avoiding popcorn as part of an effective treatment regimen.

Considerations

If you add flavorings to your popcorn, you might have digestive problems due to the extra ingredients. For example, people with lactose intolerance might experience gassiness, bloating or diarrhea after consuming heavily buttered popcorn. Read product labels carefully and check with your doctor to ensure none of the ingredients will cause you problems. Better yet, use an air-popper to make your popcorn and season it lightly with salt or spices that you know are safe for you.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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