By Robin Roberts
Almost immediately after eating eggs, Dan Baillor scrambles to the bathroom. “I don’t know what it is,” says the Surrey, B.C., dad. “I have a pretty solid stomach; I can eat just about anything and not be bothered. But there’s something in eggs that doesn’t agree with me. I love them, but I can’t eat them very often. And when I do, I have to be near a bathroom for the next few hours.”
It may be a mystery to Baillor, but not to registered dietician Jessica Begg of Calgary-based Shift Nutrition. “Eggs, like other gas-producing foods such as cruciferous vegetables, can irritate a sensitive stomach,” says Begg. “It’s the sulphur that creates the gas and smell,” and, by extension, that poopy feeling.
Eggs are otherwise very good for you, due to their high protein and vitamin content that help offset inflammation. It’s possible people like Dan are reacting to the oil the eggs are cooked in, which could be less than fresh or all-out rancid. To be on the safe side, particularly in restaurants, opt for poached or boiled. Others find they don’t suffer the same symptoms with organic, pastured eggs, which could indicate it’s the regular birds’ feed that’s causing the foul effects.
Begg breaks down some more common foods that can make you feel blah and how to win this particular food fight.
Cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, rutabaga and turnips are all related to the mustard family of plants. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that help fight cancer, boost our immune system, and keep us regular. But they also contain a sugar called raffinose, says Begg, which lounges undigested in our guts until our resident bacteria move in and ferment it. That can result in bloating, gas and pain.
Quick Fix: Cook your veggies instead of eating them raw, which will break down the glucosinolates, the sulphurous chemicals responsible for the nasty aftermath. Also, try eating small amounts of these veggies every day until you build up a tolerance. The famed integrative medicine practitioner Dr. Andrew Weil suggests chewing and swallowing a half teaspoon of fennel seeds, which help push the gas through the digestive tract.
An apple a day won’t necessarily keep the doctor away if you’re sensitive to the high levels of fruit sugar, such as fructose and sorbitol, found in apples, pears, apricots, blackberries, cherries, grapes, mango and pineapple, says Begg. Dried fruits like prunes, raisins, dates and apricots can also cause you to balloon up because their sugars and fiber are more concentrated.
Quick fix: Eat half an apple at a time, and chew it thoroughly to help break down the fiber before it hits your gut. Also, consume these fruits separate from other foods that might also be gas-producing so you don’t double down on the blahs. Drink lots of water with your dried fruits to help your bowels do their work more efficiently and painlessly. Some experts believe exercising helps move the gas through your system more quickly, thus reducing belly aches.
The Musical Fruit
Beans are another high-fiber, healthy food that can backfire in the form of bloating, pain and gas. Fiber is essential for a well-functioning gastro-intestinal system, and we should all consume at least 40 grams a day. Beans, peas and lentils are terrific sources but, as with cruciferous vegetables, they contain the indigestible sugar called raffinose. Your colon’s bacteria love to feast on raffinose, but they release that ghastly gas in the process, says Begg.
Quick fix: Sprinkle a little baking soda on dried beans as they soak (or directly into a can of beans), but rinse well and use fresh water for cooking. Try pairing your legumes with easily digested grains such as rice or quinoa to ease the ill effects. Also, Beano works wonders for both beans and cruciferous veggies to reduce gas.
Down on Dairy
Feeling sick after consuming dairy usually indicates a sensitivity to the sugar in milk, called lactose. Some people lack the enzyme (lactase, produced in the lining of the small intestine) needed to digest the milk sugar, says Begg, so it travels into the lower intestine where it creates gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea. People with lactose intolerance as a result of intestinal disorders such as gastroenteritis, celiac or Crohn’s disease are stuck with the condition and follow strict diets. Others who just feel crummy should consume fewer milk products.
Quick fix: Lactose enzyme tablets break down milk sugars making them easier to digest. You can also switch to lactose-free milk, soy, rice or nut milks, goat milk, or kefir, a type of liquid yogurt.
Many people have a beef with meat, particularly rich, high-fat meat like pork belly, which is why their stomachs churn after chowing down on a thick slab. And, as we age, nearly all of us will have trouble processing any kind of meat. Our bodies have to work extra hard to digest it, putting stress on the liver and kidneys.
Quick fix: We all need protein to repair cells, but we don’t need to get it from animal sources. It’s abundant in plants, soy, beans and legumes, grains and nut butters. Simply eating less meat — and eating it slowly when you do — should soften the blowback.
Processed and Fast Foods
Typically these types of foods are high in salt, sugar and fat, a triple whammy of tough-to-digest ingredients. “Salt draws water to the gut which makes you bloated and creates diarrhea,” says Begg. But more than what you eat, it’s how you’re eating it, she says, and if you’re eating fast and processed foods, you’re probably eating on the run. “When people eat fast food, generally their eating patterns aren’t great. They’re running around, rushed, stressed out, grabbing quick foods, or skipping meals.” A perfect recipe for a gut ache.
Quick fix: Limit your intake of take-out. When you must, choose the lower-fat, lower-sodium options and eat it slowly. Drink lots of water with high-salt foods to replace the depletion. Avoid going too long without eating and then eating a lot when you do, says Begg.
Sugar-free foods, drinks and candies containing sugar alcohols that end with “ol” — sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol — are not broken down in our gut, says Begg. “They go right into the lower intestines and create gas. Even the act of chewing gum brings air into the gut. But more than anything, the sugar alcohols will cause the upset.”
Quick fix: Too much sugar in any form messes with our insulin, and can contribute to all kinds of maladies, including heart disease, and that will make you feel more than just blah. Best to limit your intake of sugar, artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes for myriad reasons, not just a grateful gut.