Almonds have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, but until recently, were not available in the large quantities they are today. If you enjoy almonds, it can be difficult to stop after only a small handful, and you can end up eating too many. If you have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract, eating too many almonds at one time can irritate your stomach.
If you enjoy eating almonds for a snack or like to add them to your breakfast cereals, oatmeal or yogurt, your serving size should not exceed 1 oz., which is the equivalent of approximately 20 to 24 kernels. This portion corresponds to a small handful and provides 170 calories, 15 g of fat, 6 g of protein, 6 g of carbs and 3 g of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database. Eating a large serving of almonds could be detrimental, not only for your weight, but also to your stomach.
Many foods contain fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, which have not all been clearly identified and measured. Many people absorb these compounds poorly, and they are then fermented by the bacteria in the intestines, producing a lot of gas that can cause abdominal distension, stomach pain and even changes in the frequency or appearance of bowel movements, according to an article in the October 2009 issue of "Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology." No data are currently available on the content of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates in almonds. However, the only nut that has been tested to date, the pistachio, has a very high content of these fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, and it is very likely that almonds share the same property.
These malabsorptions are not fully understood yet and can be difficult to identify. Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms caused by the malabsorption of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates usually occur a few hours after ingestion and can last for a few hours to up to a few days. The best way to determine if almonds are the cause of a stomachache is to stop eating them for a few days to see if your symptoms resolve. After your stomach is back to normal, try eating the number of almonds you normally do. If your stomach pain resumes, you will know you are consuming too many almonds at a time.
Eating the Right Amount
Even if you find that eating a certain number of almonds causes your stomach to hurt, this doesn't necessarily mean you have to completely eliminate them from your diet. Try having a 1-oz. serving. Count to make sure you are not eating more than 20 to 24 at a time and see if your stomach pain returns. If it does, try a serving of 1/2 oz., or about 10 almonds, the next time. Most people are able to tolerate a reasonable serving of almonds without suffering from stomach pain or other gastrointestinal discomfort.
Is This an Emergency?
- Almond Board of California; Making History; 2010
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data Laboratory
- "Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology"; Evidence-Based Dietary Management of Functional Gastrointestinal Symptoms: The FODMAP Approach; Peter R. Gibson and Susan J. Shepherd; October 2009