Healthy Vegetables Causing You Stomach Pain?

Can eating healthy vegetables really cause stomach pain?

Yes. in fact one of my good friends called me the other day to tell me that every time she eats raw cauliflower or broccoli she experiences sharp pains in her abdomen.

Did you know that one in five are affected with IBS ( irritable bowel syndrome) causing stomach pain, inconsistent or excessive bowel movements?

If you’ve experienced IBS you know that the pain can be severe and very uncomfortable.


So why do healthy foods cause pain in your tummy?

What are FODMAP’s?

FODMAP’s ( Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). These short- chain carbohydrates often are not completely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can easily sit and start to ferment causing gas and pain.

Even healthy foods can cause stomach irritation, especially those that are high in FODMAP’s. Lactose from dairy, fructose in certain fruits, coconut products and fibrous vegetables ( cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, onion, asparagus) can be difficult for people with functional gut disorders to digest, and can even cause severe pain and bloating.




Do you have FODMAP intolerance?

While most people with IBS are FODMAP intolerant, consuming FODMAP foods does not actually cause IBS, it only exacerbates symptoms. Each person is different and some will be able to eat more FODMAP foods than others without experiencing symptoms.

If you are sensitive to certain foods you probably have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth otherwise known as SIBO.

When bacteria invades and takes over the small intestine, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption, IBS symptoms, weight gain and may even lead to damage of the stomach lining. This is what contributes to IBS symptoms and FODMAP intolerance.

SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut which is due to eating the Standard American Diet, (SAD), sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy and other inflammatory foods. Antibiotics which deplete your good bacteria also cause disruption in your healthy gut bacteria and can lead to IBS and SIBO.

Risk Factors for SIBO

  • Low Stomach Acid- taking antacids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple courses of antibiotics
  • Celiac disease
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Oral contraception

Common Symptoms of SIBO

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort
  • Bloating/ abdominal distention
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas/beltching
  • Constipation

So how do you treat your tummy issues? Fist, addressing that you have intestinal bacterial overgrowth is key; even if you don’t have IBS, unhealthy gut bacteria can lead to poor digestive function.

Some practitioners recommend a low FODMAP diet, but you also need to address the state of your gut bacteria which may involve cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from your diet so that your gut can heal.

Often times people continue to eat the very foods that are wreaking havoc on their intestines. Taking lactose free pills, or drinking lactose free milk may not be the answer if dairy is causing issues to your gut, it’s simply a bandaid and not really addressing the root of the problem.

In my Eat Real Food Health Summit that I hosted this past year and on my monthly live webinars I have often talked about the health of our microbiome and interviewed top medical experts on the subject.  All illness begins and ends in the gut and we are just now learning that the type and quality of our gut bacteria dictates how we feel,  how and what we eat, whether we have difficulty in losing weight, and whether or not we will get cancer, heart disease, auto immune disease or other illnesses.

Links are now being made between the health of our gut and anxiety, depression, cravings, addictions and chronic illness. So perhaps those cravings you are experiencing are actually being ruled by the health of your gut!

It is estimated that somewhere between 10-15% of healthy individuals suffer from SIBO without any symptoms, whereas 80% of those with irritable bowel syndrome have SIBO.

My girlfriend asked me why she could eat kim chi and sauerkraut, but not eat raw cabbage? This is an excellent question. The reason is that the fermentation process pre-digests the vegetables and makes them easier to absorb. Fermented vegetables also contain probiotic microorganisms that help to heal the gut.

Sauerkraut and kim chi do contain cabbage which is high in insoluble fibre and a FODMAP food, but most people who have intolerances to FODMAP foods can eat fermented foods with no ill effect.

What to do?

Finding a good functional medical doctor, naturopath and having a gut bacteria test done is imperative. This can help you address unhealthy gut bacteria and SIBO so that it doesn’t lead to further health problems in the future. Checking into FODMAP foods and knowing which one`s may be affecting your health is also a great idea. I truly believe that our bodies are always talking to us, we just need to listen.


So have you experienced stomach pain or IBS symptoms after eating healthy foods or any foods in general? If so what have you done to alleviate the pain?




About the Author

Written by: Shirley Plant
Shirley Plant is a nutritionist and the author of Finally… Food I Can Eat, a dietary guide and cookbook for people with food allergies, and those looking for healthy, tasty recipes. Shirley offers dietary counselling and menu planning through Delicious Alternatives.

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  1. Thanks Shirley! This article is very informative. I recently learned about FODMAP intolerance . Great information and so few people know about it! I am very sensitive to these foods, and now I know I need to get my microbiome healthy.

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