Oatmeal is an excellent choice for breakfast that provides you with important nutrients and few calories while making you feel full longer. If your morning oatmeal gives you stomach cramps, you might assume it's due to an allergy and be tempted to give up this healthy food.
But an allergic reaction to oats isn't one of the most common food allergens. Your stomach may be sensitive to some of the components in oatmeal, but if you give your body time to adjust and add oatmeal to your diet gradually, your symptoms could gradually disappear.
Carbohydrates and Gas
Your stomach and small intestine don't fully break down the carbohydrates, or sugar, starches and fiber, in foods. Carbohydrates travel to your large intestine, where bacteria continue the digestive process. The bacteria release gas as a byproduct.
Symptoms of gas include burping, flatulence, bloating and stomach pain. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, whole grains, including oatmeal, are common causes of gas in many individuals.
Too Much Fiber
Soluble fiber, a carbohydrate that comes from plants, helps you maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease and diabetes and treat constipation and diverticulitis. Soluble fiber draws in water, turns to gel and slows down your digestion, which can cause you to experience stomach cramps, gas and bloating. This will subside once the bacteria in your body adapt to more fiber.
Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fiber. Increase your oatmeal intake gradually over a few weeks to avoid stomach problems and drink plenty of water, which helps move fiber through your digestive system.
Intolerance to Oats
If you suffer from an oat intolerance or allergy, you may experience digestive problems, including cramping, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, after consuming oatmeal. With an allergy, your body mistakes the protein in oats for something harmful and creates antibodies against it. If you're intolerant, oats irritate your digestive system, and symptoms may not appear for several hours.
Food allergies cause symptoms every time the food's eaten. An allergic reaction to a food can also lead to serious symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, which may affect your breathing. If you're allergic to oats you need to avoid them to prevent serious health consequences. A food intolerance is dose dependent, and you may be able to eat oats in smaller amounts without experiencing abdominal discomfort.
Maybe You're Allergic to Wheat
Oat allergies are uncommon, but if you have a wheat allergy you may experience stomach cramps after your morning bowl of oatmeal because oats and wheat are typically processed in the same facility.
People with celiac disease are unable to eat gluten, a protein in grains. Oats don't contain gluten, but if they're contaminated with wheat, you'll develop stomach cramps after eating them. You might also be allergic to the additives in some oatmeal products. Buy 100 percent oats rather than oatmeal that contains added sugars, food coloring and fruits.