Can Oranges Make Your Stomach Ache?

Oranges offer a bonanza of nutrition -- a single medium-sized orange can provide you with 120 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement, along with valuable fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, though, oranges also provide plenty of acid, and that can irritate people with sensitive stomachs. If you have a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or peptic ulcers, you may find oranges upset your gastrointestinal system. Depending on which condition you have, you should discuss appropriate treatment with your doctor, including whether you should avoid oranges.

sliced oranges (Image: Claudio Beduschi/iStock/Getty Images)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, occurs when acidic substances from the stomach bypass the lower esophageal sphincter and back up into the esophagus. A normal LES keeps the contents of the stomach from backing up. However, a dysfunctional LES allows gastric juices to slip through into the esophagus. GERD affects children and adults with symptoms that include vomiting in infants, heartburn, chest pain and trouble swallowing. If you have GERD, your doctor may recommend limiting or removing acidic foods from your diet to prevent damage to your esophagus. Oranges, along with other fruits in the citrus family, represent one of the most acidic fruits available. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives Florida Oranges an acidic pH rating of 3.69 to 4.34. Other fruits with a similar acidity include tart forms of blueberries, apples and cherries.

Ulcers

Acid foods also don't cause peptic ulcers, which are sores that can develop in your stomach's lining. However, eating oranges or other citrus fruits can irritate your stomach and cause symptoms if you have peptic ulcer disease. Other symptoms of peptic ulcer disease include heartburn, belching, nausea and possibly, vomiting. Peptic ulcer disease should respond to antibiotics targeting the underlying bacterial infection, so if you have these symptoms repeatedly, you should see your doctor for testing and treatment.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, a condition frequently caused or worsened by stress, can cause stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea and gas. It occurs when your gastrointestinal tract fails to work properly and smoothly; instead, your colon, or large intestine, contracts abnormally, disrupting your digestion and leading to pain and other symptoms. Although it's not clear why, oranges seem to bother many people with irritable bowel syndrome. If you have the condition and find that's true for you, you should talk with your doctor about whether you should cut oranges out of your diet.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

People with inflammatory bowel disease, a serious condition involving widespread inflammation and sores in your gastrointestinal tract, also may find they have difficulty consuming oranges. However, as someone with inflammatory bowel disease, you shouldn't cut oranges out of your diet without discussing the issue with your treating physician first. People with your condition often suffer from severe nutritional deficiencies and weight loss, and restricting your diet can worsen these problems. If you find you need to limit oranges because they cause symptoms, talk with your doctor and a dietitian about still meeting your nutritional needs.

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