Almonds are often considered one of the healthiest foods you can eat — rich in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. But some people blame these health-packed nuts for gas and bloating. Here's how to tell if they could be behind your digestive issues.
Video of the Day
Health Benefits of Almonds
Almonds are tree nuts native to the Mediterranean region. One serving of almonds is usually an ounce, which amounts to about 23 almonds, according to Harvard Health. This serving size provides 165 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber, it reports.
Though almonds are calorie-dense, they are also nutrient-dense. An excellent source of vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber and plant-based micronutrients, almonds are known to reduce cholesterol and can help keep blood sugar steady, especially in people with type 2 diabetes or its common precursor, metabolic syndrome, according to a February 2012 review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Because they help you feel satisfied, they're actually a smart snack when you're trying to lose weight.
Almonds and Your Digestive System
"Almonds usually do not cause bloating," says Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist with Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach. That being said, if you think that almonds could be related to tummy discomfort, it may be because of their fiber content.
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. Soluble fiber helps with blood sugar and cholesterol control, while insoluble fiber helps pass food through your digestive system, according to Harvard Health. Almonds contain primarily insoluble fiber.
It's suggested to get at least 25 grams of fiber each day, according to the FDA. Though most people fail to get enough, if you're taking in quite a lot of fiber, especially if the increase hasn't been gradual, you could experience some gastrointestinal discomfort. Too much fiber can lead to bloating, gas, constipation, cramping and diarrhea. So if you're having a few servings of almonds on top of an already fiber-filled diet, this could be the reason for your bloating.
Almonds and Your Immune System
Another possible cause for discomfort after eating almonds could be allergy-related. Tree nuts — including almonds as well as walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews and pistachios — are one of the eight most common food allergies, affecting about 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Everyone's immune system is different, so tree nut allergies can have a range of signs and symptoms. Mild allergic symptoms to almonds could involve digestive issues like gas, bloating, cramps, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. Because tree nut allergies can be life-threatening, it's important to visit an allergist if you suspect a problem. Simple tests can get you an answer, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Read more: The Effects of Overeating Nuts
Other Causes of Gas and Bloating
Some amount of gas and bloating is normal. Excessive levels could have a range of causes, including conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, a motility disorder or an intestinal blockage, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Foods containing FODMAPs, a type of carbohydrate found in certain fruits and vegetables, are major culprits. "[FODMAPs] are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small bowel and then are consumed by small bowel bacteria," says Dr. Raymond. If FODMAPs could be the cause of your distress, ask your doctor if a diet that emphasizes low-FODMAP foods is worth trying.
For many people, eliminating soda, beer or energy drinks can reduce a lot of belly discomfort. "Carbonated beverages can cause bloating as they give off gas in your bowels," says Dr. Raymond. Even sucking on hard candy or chewing gum can be gas producing. Swallowed air that doesn't get burped up exits through your anus, NIDDK explains.
One thing is certain — if you're having frequent digestion issues, get checked out so you can take steps to resolve the problem. Call your doctor if you're experiencing abdominal pain, blood in your stool, diarrhea, worsening heartburn, vomiting or weight loss, advises the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Almonds”
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Health Benefits of Almonds Beyond Cholesterol Reduction”
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Everything You Need to Know About Tree Nut Allergy.”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Fiber”
- FDA: “Dietary Fiber”
- American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: "Tree Nut Allergy"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms and Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Abdominal Bloating"