If you've been diagnosed with ulcers or colitis, certain foods may cause abdominal pain. Because orange juice is highly acidic, you might wonder if you should cross it off your shopping list. But it doesn't affect everyone the same way, so it depends on your personal tolerance level.
Orange Juice and Ulcers
According to Mayo Clinic, peptic ulcers are sores that develop on the inside of the stomach lining or the uppermost part of the small intestine (duodenum). These open sores can be quite painful and can also cause bleeding. Burning stomach pain is the most common symptom. Other symptoms include nausea, heartburn and feeling full.
"Some people do experience stomach pain after drinking orange juice," explains Nicole Goodrich, RDN, founder and president of Anderson's Nutrition, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified health/wellness coach. "Due to the acidity levels found in orange juice, it is possible that it will irritate ulcers."
Ulcers most often develop from one of two causes:
H. p__ylori__. While certain foods like orange juice can irritate ulcers, food doesn't cause them, not even spicy food (though that, too, can make the pain feel worse). The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common cause of ulcers.
According to Mayo Clinic, it can weaken or damage the protective mucous lining of your stomach and small intestine. When the lining is compromised, stomach acid can create an open sore or ulcer. An H. pylori infection can also cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining, known as gastritis, and can increase the risk of developing certain types of stomach cancers.
Pain relievers. Another very common cause of ulcers is the frequent use of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers. These include aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, according to Mayo.
Read more: Side Effects of Too Much Orange Juice
Orange Juice and Colitis
Colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the large intestine (colon), and is not associated with the stomach. Symptoms may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, dehydration, bloody stools and the urgency to have a bowel movement, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
"Since colitis is located in the large intestine, it is less likely that orange juice will irritate colitis," Goodrich explains. "This is because once acidic foods pass through the stomach, they become neutralized prior to reaching the large intestine."
Possible causes of colitis include viral or parasitic infections, certain foods, bacterial food poisoning or medications, the National Library of Medicine explains.
If you've been diagnosed with colitis, you do have a higher risk of malnutrition. According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, this is due to fluid and nutrient loss associated with symptoms like diarrhea and nausea. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, be sure to talk to your doctor and work together, possibly with a dietitian, to set up a well-balanced diet that will help to maintain your nutritional needs.
Alternative Options to Get Vitamin C
There are low acid versions of orange juice available, which could be a tasty option to drinking regular orange juice. In fact, Goodrich says, "there are many vitamin C-rich foods available as an alternative to orange juice" that are also naturally lower in acid, such as broccoli, bell peppers and mango.
Other examples of vitamin C-rich food options that you could include in your diet are berries, cherries, spinach, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, the Mayo Clinic notes. Your doctor may also recommend a vitamin C supplement if there is concern that you're falling short of the daily requirement.
Plus, you may want to avoid spicy foods, alcoholic beverages and milk products because these foods can potentially cause excess acid and increase abdominal discomfort and pain, according to Mayo.
Read more: Why Is My Body Craving Orange Juice
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: “Peptic Ulcer – Symptoms and Causes”
- Mayo Clinic: “Helicobacter Pylori (H Pylori) Infection”
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin C"
- Mayo Clinic: "Peptic Ulcer -- Diagnosis and Treatment"
- Nicole Goodrich, RDN, CHWC, founder and president, Anderson’s Nutrition, registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health/wellness coach
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: “Malnutrition and IBD”
- U.S National Library of Medicine: “Colitis”