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6 Foods Making Your Gut Issues Worse

To avoid exacerbating your gut issues, steer clear of these foods when experiencing digestive discomfort.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Gut issues can present themselves in many different ways. Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and reflux are just some of the symptoms one may experience. While some of these symptoms may be related to a chronic condition in the digestive tract, others may be due to a sensitivity to one or many particular food items. In both scenarios, what you eat can influence your gut health. That is why it is important to note when these symptoms arise, while also perhaps considering what you ate throughout the day.

Regardless of the origin of your digestive issues, there are a few foods to steer clear of when experiencing digestive discomfort, as they could be making the symptoms you are experiencing feel even worse. Here are 6 examples of foods you'll want to avoid when you have an upset stomach because they may make your gut issues worse. And for more dietitian-approved advice that can help reinforce your gut health, you should also check out Eating Habits for a Healthy Gut as You Age, Say Dietitians.


potato chips

Salty, crunchy, and tasty, chips may be a convenient snack, but they could be exacerbating your digestive issues. Foods that contain a lot of simple carbohydrates like chips, white bread, and pastries tend to move through the digestive tract quickly, often leading to bloating and gas. Chips have another layer of digestive difficulty in that they are fried. High-fat foods are notorious for causing heartburn, a common issue in the digestive tract. Chips aren't the only culprit here, rather any fatty foods, including processed items, french fries, and fatty meat, could increase the likelihood of heartburn.

Sugar-free gum

chewing gum

It may surprise you that gum could impact your digestive tract, but many sugar-free gum varieties are made with sugar alcohols. This compound is used to provide sweetness in food without as many calories as sugar. However, these sugar alcohols can't fully be digested by the body and can therefore lead to digestive upset. Bloating, gas, and diarrhea are some of the most common symptoms one may experience. You may also find sugar alcohols in sugar-free candy, protein bars, and other products modified to be sugar-free.


jars of candy

While sugar substitutes like sugar alcohols may not be safe for your gut, refined sugar may pose a problem, too. Added sugar, like that in candy, cereal, and baked goods, appears to have many negative effects on the body, including the gut. Research indicates this added sugar may increase pro-inflammatory properties in the gut, which could lead to a cascade of issues, including an imbalance of helpful gut bacteria and metabolic dysregulation. It is not realistic to follow a zero-sugar diet for a significant period of time, so your best approach is to cut excess sugar where you can. Swap sugary dessert for fruit, reduce the sweetener in your coffee by half, and trade candy for cocoa dusted nuts.



This veggie is notorious for causing digestive upset with symptoms like bloating, cramps, and gas. Cabbage is part of the cruciferous vegetables category, a group that contains other commons veggies, like broccoli and brussels sprouts. This group of vegetables contains a sugar called raffinose, which is known to cause gas. For some, cooking these vegetables before eating them may reduce the likelihood of digestive upset, but others may need to steer clear all together.


black beans

Similar to cruciferous veggies, beans is another category of food that contains raffinose, the sugar known to cause gas. Although very nutritious due to their protein, fiber, and micronutrient content, beans commonly cause digestive upset. Gas, bloating, and stomach pain are some of the symptoms often experienced when eating beans. In addition to the raffinose in beans, their high-fiber content may also cause a problem. While fiber is an essential nutrient, eating too much fiber at once, especially while experiencing gut issues, may lead to exacerbated symptoms.

Hot sauce

hot sauce bottles

This ingredient is known for adding flavor and spice, and while it may actually have some beneficial properties, it could be worsening your digestive issues. Capsaicin is the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, and it also has some health properties, including lowering certain markers for inflammation. Yet, this same compound may be responsible for side effects like acid reflux and stomach cramps. When experiencing gut issues, it may be best to skip all forms of spicy foods, including hot sauce, salsa, and spicy seasonings.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey