The common culprits for digestive issues are cooked food, since heat destroys the natural enzymes found in raw foods that aid in digestion, and aging, due to a decline in enzyme production of about 13 percent with each passing decade, said Dr. Steven Lamm, a board-certified internist and faculty member at the NYU Medical Center.
While those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease) or an ulcer will have various reactions to different foods and drinks, experts agree the following 10 items are likely to irritate one of more of these tummy-related conditions.
Why it can affect you: While peppermint has numerous benefits, including aiding in digestive issues, it can also have the reverse effect and increase heartburn symptoms, Dr. Gerald Ashton Isenberg, who works in the gastroenterology department at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, told AOL Health. "Mint increases the chance of acid reflux because it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle that is located at the end of the esophagus, allowing acid from the stomach to back up into the food pipe," he explained. Keep in mind this holds true for anything that contains mint, such as peppermint tea and even peppermint gum and breath mints.
Why they can affect you: According to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, both of these beverages contain a whopping 3/4 teaspoon of sugar per ounce. "Many
people have heard of lactose intolerance, but fructose intolerance is another major cause of IBS," he told AOL Health. He further explained that as many as 30 percent of adults have fructose malabsorption, meaning their bodies can absorb less than 25 grams of fructose (six spoons) at a time. "Whatever the body cannot absorb acts like a sponge by sucking water into your gut while triggering unhealthy infections in the colon."
Why they can affect you: Beans can produce intestinal gas because they contain oligosaccharide, a type of complex sugar comprised of large molecules too big for the small intestine. In addition, the body cannot break down this complex sugar because it lacks the enzyme to do so.
Why it can affect you: Teitelbaum said that the acids in coffee can irritate the stomach lining, which can cause excessive production of hydrochloric acid, leading to indigestion and reflux, especially for those with ulcers or who are prone to heartburn. Sorry, java lovers, decaf contains the same acids and will result in the same reaction. To satisfying your coffee craving, Teitelbaum suggested drinking one cup of licorice tea a day, which has been known to soothe the stomach and treat ulcers.
Why it can affect you: Registered dietitian Katherine Brooking told AOL Health that broccoli is a gas-producing veggie that may cause stomach issues for those who deal with IBS. Broccoli is placed in the category of soluble fiber, a type of fiber that doesn't break down until it reaches the large intestine, where digestion causes gas. Plus, broccoli contains a small amount of raffinose, a complex sugar that produces gas, which is also found in beans.
Why they can affect you: "Tomatoes can be an esophageal irritant, bringing about symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn or making heartburn worse," said Isenberg. This juicy red fruit is highly acidic, which, in turn, stimulates the production of extra digestive acids in the stomach. As a result, these acids can creep back up the esophagus, aggravating a sensitive esophagus or further damaging the lining of the esophagus. Tomato-based foods, such as marinara sauce, pizza sauce and salsa, fall under this umbrella, as well.
Why they can affect you: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 30 to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant. "We are the only species that continues to drink milk after weaning, and many people lose the ability to digest lactose -- the milk sugar -- as they grow into adulthood," said Teitelbaum. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the small intestine, stated the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "So any lactose you don't digest becomes party food for the gut bacteria, and they say 'thank you' by making a lot of gas," said Teitelbaum. Substituting "real" milk, ice cream and cheese for dairy products labeled lactose free should ease this problem, along with choosing milk that contains lactase and hard cheese, since it naturally contains less lactose than soft cheese.
Why they can affect you: Foods high in fat, including fried foods, can increase symptoms of acid reflex and IBS, said Brooking. The reason: Fatty foods take longer to break down in the body, so they remain in the stomach for an extended period of time. As a result, the body automatically produces extra stomach acid in order to aid in digestion. Keep in mind that overeating (in general) will also cause a delay in digestion and will stimulate the stomach to secrete more acid.
Why they can affect you: Teitelbaum explained that indigestion isn't typically caused by too much stomach acid but more often by the lack of it. "Digestion relies largely on stomach acid and digestive enzymes," he said. "Your digestive enzymes work best at 98.6 degrees -- and ice-cold drinks can inactivate them, causing indigestion." He advised drinking something hot (like tea or hot water with lemon) when you're dining and snacking and saving the cold drinks for in between mealtimes.
Why it can affect you: Last (and certainly least) is the beloved, dark, any-time-of-day treat. While chocolate has been proven to have health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of stroke, it can also cause indigestion and heartburn. "Chocolate contains concentrations of theobromine, a compound that occurs naturally in many plants such as cocoa, tea and coffee plants," stated Lamm. "And this compound has the ability to relax the esophageal sphincter muscle, letting stomach acid squirt up into the esophagus." Chocolate also contains caffeine, another agent that encourages the stomach to produce excess acid.