Why Cherries Can Cause Gas and Bloating, and How to Avoid It

Cherries can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea for some people.
Image Credit: Anna Pustynnikova/iStock/GettyImages

Like most fruits and vegetables, cherries can be a nutritious addition to your diet. But believe it or not, cherries can cause gas, bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea for some people, especially those with underlying digestive conditions.

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Here, learn more about how this tasty summer fruit affects your digestion and how to actually enjoy eating them without irritating your GI tract.

Tip

Talk to your doctor if cherries (or any other food) regularly cause digestive distress — they can help determine if you have an intolerance to the fruit or if another condition is at play.

Cherries and Digestion Problems

It's important to understand why cherries can be the bad guy when it comes to your digestive system.

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Cherries are high in fructose as well as sorbitol, according to Food Intolerance Diagnostics, so they're considered a FODMAP, which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

FODMAPs are a specific kind of carbohydrate, per Harvard Health Publishing. Dairy, beans, certain fruits and veggies and some grains are on the list too, along with honey and other sweeteners.

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The small intestine doesn't absorb FODMAPs very well. So, if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or another digestive condition and you eat cherries, you may pay for it later with gas, bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea.

Here's what you need to know about why cherries give you gas and other digestive issues:

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1. Cherries and Gas

Cherries and other FODMAPs are quickly fermented by microflora (gut bacteria) living in the colon, which produces gas, per Food Intolerance Diagnostics — and gas equals flatulence and burping.

This can happen to anyone, but people who have IBS might have more bacteria in the small intestine, which would produce more gas.

2. Cherries and Bloating

Sorry to say, but gas is just the beginning — cherries can also make you bloated. The sugar in cherries can draw water into your digestive tract, causing bloating, says Ray Scott Daugherty, Jr., MD, a colon and rectal surgeon at Baton Rouge General.

When this happens, it also affects how the muscles in the bowel wall contract, and sometimes constipation occurs — which leads to yet more belly bloat.

3. Cherries and Stomach Ache

Cherries do cause gas and bloating, which can in turn lead to stomach pain and discomfort, Dr. Daugherty says.

And the discomfort associated with cherries and other FODMAP foods can actually be excruciating for those with IBS, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. People have described their stomach aches as feeling like cramping, stabbing and sharp.

4. Cherries and Diarrhea

According to Harvard Health Publishing, sugar, namely fructose, is a big offender when it comes to diarrhea. Sugars stimulate the GI tract to put out water and electrolytes, which loosen bowel movements.

About 75 percent of people who eat more than 40 to 80 grams of fructose daily will get diarrhea, per Harvard Health Publishing. And a cup of cherries (sans pits) has just over 8 grams of fructose, per the USDA.

How to Eat Cherries Without Digestion Problems

One way to avoid all of these problems is to stop eating cherries, but that's a real bummer. So LIVESTRONG.com asked Ashley Kravitz, RD, founder of Nutrition Specialists of New Jersey, for suggestions on how to eat cherries and avoid digestion problems.

1. Eat in Moderation

"An appropriate serving size would be 1/2 cup, although IBS is very individualized — some people are able to tolerate more foods than others," she says.

If you have IBS, make sure you don't eat too many cherries by first trying a smaller portion (say, 1/4 cup) to see how you feel.

2. Don’t Eat Them on an Empty Stomach

Too much fructose at once can mess with your digestion. Instead, try eating cherries with other foods that have low or no fructose, like lean meats, cheddar cheese, oats, eggs or nuts and seeds.

3. Avoid Other Triggers

What's tolerated well by one person may not be tolerated by another. But if you're sensitive to FODMAPs, you might want to avoid other foods with these carbs, per Johns Hopkins Medicine, including:

  • Some other fruits, like apples, pears and peaches
  • Some vegetables, like artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dairy products, including cow's milk, yogurt and ice cream
  • Wheat-based foods, such as bread, crackers and cereal

Tip

To know for sure if cherries are causing your digestive symptoms, you can try cutting them out of your diet completely for a few weeks and then slowly re-introducing them. "If you don't experience any symptoms when you introduce the food back into your diet, you know it's not a trigger food for you," Kravitz says.

4. Chew Slowly

The more your food is broken down, the easier it is to digest, Kravitz says.

Of course, if none of these suggestions work and you're sure that cherries are making you gassy or leading to bloating, stomach pain or other digestion problems, you really may need to cut them out completely.

But before you make any decision regarding what's on and what's off your menu, Dr. Daugherty suggests talking to your doctor. That's because these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so you'll want to make sure cherries are the culprit and not something else.

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references

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.