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Why Does Garlic Make My Stomach Hurt?

author image Aglaee Jacob
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
Why Does Garlic Make My Stomach Hurt?
Fresh garlic cloves on counter. Photo Credit: Amarita/iStock/Getty Images

Garlic is used to add flavor to many sauces and dishes. Garlic can not only cause bad breath but it can also cause gastrointestinal problems and make your stomach hurt. Sensitive people can react to even tiny amounts of garlic, garlic powder or garlic salt. The reason why your stomach can hurt when eating garlic is because it is rich in fructans.

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Fructans is a compound commonly found in many foods, including fresh or cooked garlic as well as garlic powder and garlic salt. Fructans are made of a chain of fructose and are not digested in humans. Most people tolerate fructans without any adverse effects, but they can cause unpleasant side effects in some sensitive people or in people who have an unbalanced gut flora. The most common symptoms associated with fructan intolerance include abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, flatulence and changes in your bowel movements. If your stomach hurts when eating garlic, it is likely that your gastrointestinal system does not tolerate fructans well.

Fructans and Stomach Pain

If you are sensitive to fructans, eating garlic will cause an excessive fermentation of the fructans by the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. The excess gas produced by the fermentation of the fructans of garlic can result in bloating, flatulence and pain. There is no test to diagnose fructan intolerance, but keeping a food journal can help you identify which foods in your diet cause your stomach to hurt.

Eliminate Garlic

Eliminating garlic can seem easier than it actually is, especially if you eat out or buy a lot of commercially prepared or processed foods. When eating out, ask how your food is prepared and ask that no garlic salt, garlic powder or broth, marinades or sauces containing garlic be used to prepare your dish. Carefully read ingredient lists on food labels to avoid foods containing any traces of garlic. Be aware that ingredients like vegetable salt, vegetable powder, chicken salt and broth can often hide garlic. Contact the manufacturers for more details about the composition of your favorite food products and ensure they won't cause you stomach pain.

Other Fructan-Rich Foods

If your stomach hurts when eating garlic, it is likely you will also react similarly to other fructan-containing foods. Fructans are also found in all types of onions, onion salt and onion powder as well as in wheat, rye, artichoke, watermelon, peaches, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke and inulin. Ask for the help of a registered dietitian to identify other fructan-rich foods in your diet to prevent you from suffering unnecessarily.

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