There's nothing like the crunch of a tart — or sweet! — apple. This fruit is ideal as a standalone snack, a touch of crunch in a salad, a sweet dessert or countless other uses.
Plus, they're good for you: Apples contain a variety of nutrients, but they're probably best known for their fiber (one medium apple has about 4 grams of fiber, per the USDA).
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While that can be a good thing, their relatively high fiber content can also make apples hard to digest.
Here, learn why apples can cause digestive issues, how long apples take to digest and what to do if your stomach hurts after eating apples.
What Makes Apples Hard to Digest?
1. They're High in Fiber
As we mentioned, apples are a good source of fiber. This nutrient has a host of benefits, including supporting regular bowel movements and lower levels of LDL (aka "bad") cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you're used to eating a good amount of fiber in your diet, apples may not cause any digestive issues. But ramping up your dietary fiber intake too quickly or eating a lot of fiber all at once (like several apples, for example) can lead to constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal cramps, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
2. They're High in Fructose
Apples are also high in fructose (aka fruit sugar), according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. For some people, the fructose in apples can lead to bloating and stomach pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic, especially if you eat a lot of apples at once.
Indeed, if you have IBS or a sensitivity to fructose, you may get diarrhea when you eat fruits high in fructose, like apples, cherries and peaches, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Fructose is also the reason why apple juice can cause diarrhea, particularly in children who drink it in large quantities, per a June 2017 review in Pediatrics. If your child likes apple juice, try watering it down or limiting the amount they drink on daily basis to prevent this side effect.
How Long Do Apples Take to Digest?
Foods with carbohydrates or sugar, like apples, tend to stay in your stomach for about 30 to 60 minutes, but this all depends on the person. From there, it could take anywhere from 40 to 120 minutes for food to move through your intestines, and up to several hours before it becomes waste, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If you have digestive issues, like IBS or fructose sensitivity, however, this time could be sped up or slowed down depending on the type of symptoms you have (i.e., diarrhea or constipation).
How to Make Apples Easier to Digest
1. Peel Them
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Apples have both types — the soluble fiber is found in the pulp, and the insoluble fiber is in the skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
To decrease the amount of fiber in your apple, you can try peeling it, per PIH Health. This may help cut down on the side effects of eating too much fiber at once, including gas and bloating.
2. Cook Them
Cooking apples breaks down their nutrients and can make them easier to digest than raw apples, per PIH Health. This is one of the best ways to eat apples without getting gas.
Indeed, applesauce and cooked apples without the peels are sometimes recommended for people after they've had a stomach bug, per Piedmont Healthcare.
3. Watch Your Portion Size
Especially if you have IBS, are sensitive to the fructose in apples or tend to get diarrhea from apples, try limiting the amount you eat per day. Keep in mind that a serving size is one medium apple. Eating more than that in one sitting could lead to digestive issues.
If you find pieces of undigested apple in your stool, this may be a sign you've eaten too much and your body cannot break it down, per the Mayo Clinic.
How to Ease Digestive Issues From Eating Apples
Drink plenty of water when eating high-fiber foods like apples to help prevent constipation, per the Cleveland Clinic.
In general, aim to get between 11.5 and 15.5 cups of water per day through drinking and water-rich foods, per the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
2. Go for a Walk
If your stomach hurts after eating apples, try some gentle movement to help your body digest. Exercise is a tried-and-true natural remedy for gas and bloating because it helps food in your GI tract keep moving.
3. Sip Some Tea
Certain herbal teas can help soothe bloating and gas, including peppermint, ginger and chamomile blends. (Keep in mind: If you have acid reflux, peppermint can sometimes make it worse.)
Try These Soothing Teas
- Traditional Medicinals Organic Gas Relief Tea ($4.31, Amazon)
- Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger Aid Herbal Tea ($9.04, Amazon)
- The Republic of Tea Organic Heirloom Chamomile Herbal Tea ($16.99, Amazon)
4. Take an OTC Med
If you have diarrhea from eating apples, you can try taking an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal like Imodium ($11.48, Amazon).
You may also want to limit alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and fried or fatty fare until the diarrhea subsides.
When to See a Doctor
If your diarrhea, constipation or bloating persists after eating apples, or you begin to regularly see undigested pieces of food in your stool, you may have an underlying GI issue that a doctor can help treat.
If you're ever unsure or worried about your symptoms, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Fiber"
- American Society of Nutritionists: "Most Americans are not getting enough fiber in our diets"
- USDA: "Apples, raw, with skin"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Improving Your Health With Fiber"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Constipation"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion"
- Cleveland Clinic: "15 Foods That Can Cause Bloating"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Best and Worst Foods for IBS"
- PIH Health: "Five Foods That Make You Bloat"
- Mayo Clinic: "10 great health foods"
- Piedmont Healthcare: "BRAT Diet"
- U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: "Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Is Something in Your Diet Causing Diarrhea?"
- Pediatrics: "Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Apples"
- Mayo Clinic: "Undigested Food in Stool"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Apple, raw"
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.