Stomach pain

*Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert on any of these topics, this is my personal experience with stomach pain. To learn more, click here.

It’s really hard to identify what causes stomach pain and how to cure it. Everyone is different and every case is unique. Do you want to identify what causes your stomach pain? It starts with listening to your body! Read on to see some of the most common causes and their side effects.

Dairy

One of the biggest culprits of stomach pain is dairy. Dairy tends to make people feel nauseous and bloated. Bloating is usually just air that gets stuck and expands in your stomach. It can also be caused by dehydration or lack of water, carbonation, and even stress!

Many doctors and vegans believe our bodies weren’t meant to consume other animal products. After all, we are mammals too. I can’t say I disagree with them, they bring up a fair point. Other animal products can be very hard for our bodies to break down and digest. This leads to backups, bloating, headaches, nausea, you name it.

Gluten

Another up and coming trigger is gluten. Gluten is more than just the newest health fad. It’s a serious issue! People who suffer from celiac disease (like me and my mom) physically can’t digest gluten. This is because their (and our) colons can’t absorb the nutrients in the gluten as it passes through the digestive tract. This means the gluten slides right through the body leaving it weak and aggravated.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is: “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelled, farina, farro, Graham, KAMUT® Khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley, and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected. ”Many celiacs experience varying symptoms to varying degrees.

Digestive Symptoms Include

Abdominal bloating and pain
Chronic diarrhea
Vomiting
Constipation
Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
Weight loss
Fatigue, irritability, and behavioral issues
Dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
Delayed growth and puberty
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Additional symptoms (common in adults):

Unexplained iron-deficiency
Anemia
Fatigue
Bone or joint pain
Arthritis osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss)
Liver and biliary tract disorders (transaminitis, fatty liver, primary Sclerosing cholangitis, etc.)
Depression or anxiety
Peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet)
Seizures or migraines
Missed menstrual periods
Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
Canker sores inside the mouth
Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
*Note: This information comes from the Celiac Disease Foundation. Visit their page

It’s also important to note that the celiac blood test can be unreliable or inconclusive. Some people have no symptoms but are deemed celiacs, while others test negative but have negative reactions to gluten or wheat. There is also wheat sensitivity, something many people suffer from and don’t even know it! Wheat sensitivity is often overlooked if it can’t be classified as celiac disease. Pay attention to your body, maybe reducing wheat or grain consumption will help alleviate some symptoms!

Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup

Another major trigger and a major issue in America is sugar. Sugar is ubiquitous. There’s sugar in almost everything you buy, including many household items. Think ketchup, barbecue sauce, common dips/spreads, cereals, granola bars, etc.! The major culprit though, more than just cane sugar or standard table sugar, is high fructose corn syrup. It wreaks havoc on your body and truly is everywhere. There’s high fructose corn syrup in NyQuil! Man, I’m just trying to get some sleep when I’m sick. I’ve even found it in various vitamin C drinks. Hmm, all these products designed to keep us healthy have this little ingredient. I’m sensing a pattern. But I digress.

More HFCS

Anyway, high fructose corn syrup is very hard to digest. This is because HFCS is NOT natural the way cane sugar is. According to this article, by MD Mark Hyman, “High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your bloodstream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging.” That’s not even all. Read the whole article if you never want to look at HFCS the same again.

The author also explains the negative effects of the corn industry on the overall health of American society. I have a great corn rant for you, but this will be saved for later. It’s a common theme to keep your readers enticed by dangling corn in front of them. 

Fructose

My real point of contention with HFCS, aside from the detriments of the corn industry, is the issue of fructose.

This is a newer phenomenon for me. I noticed that even chocolate and gluten-free, dairy-free, everything-free products would still hurt my stomach. I started doing some research and stumbled upon fructose malabsorption. This is an issue that causes the body to have a hard time digesting fructans. According to MD and RD Amy Burkhart of Celiac MD, fructose should be digested in the small intestine. When it isn’t digested, it’s brought to the colon where gastrointestinal bacteria have a heyday with it.

The problem with this is that the activity of the bacteria causes many of the uncomfortable symptoms talked about thus far. Fructose malabsorption is often linked to celiac disease and gluten sensitivity because wheat and gluten have fructans in them. The main treatment, I would go so far as to say only, is to eat a low fructose diet. For me, personally, I find eating less fruit makes me feel better. The same goes for raw vegetables. The fruits that hurt me the most are apples, peaches, and strawberries because they have higher fructose content than other fruits such as blueberries.

Trial and Error is Everything

Again, everyone is different. Some people can handle any fruit in small amounts and some people avoid fruit entirely. It sounds crazy that fruit is a culprit, I know. But fruit has a lot of natural sugar that can irritate people who are prone to sugar sensitivities. Raw vegetables are another trigger. This is because they’re hard to break down and attract bacteria or produce extra air in the system. It’s crazy how connected everything is! Cooked vegetables are much easier on the digestive system so don’t fear if you like to pile your salads high with veggies. Just opt for roasted or steamed ones! I personally prefer roasted, as the fibers tend to be more broken down. I’m not an expert on the issues fructose cause, but I’m slowly learning through trial and error how my body handles the fructans found in veggies and other foods. 

*For more information on fructose malabsorption click here

There you have it, folks! The big three (and a semi-fourth) and their causes, side effects, and additional symptoms. Keep learning about what your body likes. Trial and error is your best friend, I know it’s been mine! It’s okay to learn the hard way, most of the time you learn the most valuable lessons this way.

What are your triggers and hard passes? Feel free to leave them in the comments below! Watch for my next post on happy tummy hacks.

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