4 Healthy Foods That Are Making Your Gut Miserable


When your diet is clean, dealing with gas, bloating, and other digestive woes is confusing—not to mention annoying. After all, when you're downing organic this and whole grain that, what more could you do to set your bod up for optimal health?

Jen Marshall, a certified nutrition therapist in Boulder, CO, gets this frustration, but says it's important to realize that even the healthiest foods can cause issues in some.

"The way foods are digested and assimilated is partly dependent on each person's microbiome, which is shaped by so many factors—from ones you can't change, such as whether you were born via C-section or vaginally and whether you were breastfed or not, to the amount of fiber or sugar in your diet," she says. The result? Certain "healthy" foods may do wonderful things for some of us and wreak havoc in others.

Here, Marshall breaks down some of the cleanest eats that can cause gut issues, plus better ways to get the nutritional benefits they offer.

Whole Grain Flour



You ditched white flour a long time ago in favor of its whole grain counterpart that's filled with more fiber. While this is a great nutrition move, whole grain flour can still cause digestive woes in many of us, says Marshall. "All flour—even whole grain—lacks enough fiber to keep blood sugar stable," she says. "When you digest flour quickly, you get a surge in blood sugar and a consequent blood sugar drop. That roller coaster puts you in 'fight or flight' mode rather than 'rest and digest,' which can upset digestion and cause issues as a result."

Instead, reach for: Grains in their whole forms (such as rice, quinoa, and millet), rather than foods made with flour.

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Other Crucifers
While most of us think of all veggies as health powerhouses (and they are!), it's important to understand that some vegetables contain starches that may cause digestive issues, says Marshall. The type of starches to watch out for are called fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharaides and polyols (FODMAPs). "These starches are osmatic, which means they pull water into the intestinal tract," says Marshall. For some people, this doesn't cause digestive problems; for others, it can prompt abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

Instead, reach for: Veggies and fruits that are low in FODMAPs (think arugula, bell peppers, carrots, collard greens, tomato, zucchini, berries, bananas, and citrus fruits), at least for a few weeks. "Oftentimes people who experience digestive issues after eating foods high in FODMAPs have a microbiome issue where good bacteria has migrated from the colon to the small intestine," says Marshall. "Clearing up this issue can increase your tolerance to crucifers and other foods high in FODMAPs."


Fermented Foods
Yes, all of that kimchi and sauerkraut you just stocked up on is filled with good bacteria that feed your microbiome. However, fermented foods also contain histamine, says Marshall, which can cause problems in people who already have an excess of histamine. "This happens when someone is lacking the enzymes to break it down, or when they're producing too much due to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria," says Marshall. "Excess histamine can lead to an allergic response, like you'd expect, but also diarrhea, stomach pain, heartburn, and bloating."

Instead, reach for: A probiotic supplement, at least until you've figured out if you have a histamine issue (talk with your doc) and have treated it.

Garlic and Onions



Few of us can imagine making dinner—whether it's a pot of grass-fed beef chili, a pan of roasted root veggies, or a bowl of zucchini "noodles"—without using garlic or onions. These staples contain sulfur compounds, which support the body's natural detoxification process. However, some people have a hard time metabolizing sulfur, says Marshall, "which can lead to upset stomach and gas that smells like rotten eggs," she says.

Instead, reach for: A variety of super-flavorful organic veggies that don't cause digestive problems for you.