There are foods that are difficult for some people to digest, due to their natural composition or to the way they are cooked. While some cause unease such as gas, cramps, and diarrhoea, others can be more dangerous to health due to medical conditions such as acid reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Here are eight foods your body cannot digest.
You most likely have seen whole corn kernels in your stool before. It probably worried you the first time. But while it might be strange, it is completely normal. Corn contains cellulose and the body doesn’t have the enzyme required to fully break it down during digestion.
Dairy products are problematic for many adults due to a sugar they contain called lactose. Lactose needs the lactase enzyme in order to be broken down into simple sugars that the body can absorb. Without lactase, the lactose goes straight into the large intestine and ferments. This causes symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. As children, our bodies contain lactase, but production drops beginning at age two as we move out of the infancy milk stage. Since humans are the only animals to continue to drink milk after, we are the only species to have problems.
To avoid problems due to lactose intolerance, you should avoid milk, soft cheeses, butter, and ice cream. Also be aware that some pre-packaged foods such as cakes, pudding, and chocolate can contain lactose. There are options if you still wish to enjoy these foods. There are lactase tablets that you can take when you eat lactose-containing foods, lactose-free versions, and milk alternatives such as rice, almond, and coconut milk.
Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds – all of these can be delicious to snack on or add to your favourite dishes. However, raw seeds continue phytic acid which interferes with mineral absorption. This can cause stomach upset and undigested seeds to pass through to your stools. To help, try soaking the seeds before eating them as this will remove some of the phytic acid.
Foods that are high in fat – and even more so if they are fried – are quite bad for your digestive system. The oesophagus and stomach can get overwhelmed, leading to heartburn and acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when your lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) is weakened and no longer able to keep food and stomach acid from backing up into your oesophagus. Acid reflux symptoms include inflamed vocal cords, chronic cough, and chest pain that is similar to heart problems.
And even once they are past the stomach, these foods still cause problems in your digestive system. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, fatty foods will exacerbate the syndrome, making you feel worse. And at the end, these foods can cause pale-coloured stool and greasy bowel movements (steatorrhea).
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Hot and spicy foods can overwhelm your entire gastrointestinal system. First, they cause a burning sensation in your mouth and your oesophagus. Spicy foods, like fatty foods, also can affect the LES and lead to acid reflux. And if you feel like you have heartburn, it also could be a type of irritation to the area. Once through the stomach and the intestines, spicy foods can lead to painful, burning bowel movements.
Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed packaged foods contain a lot of additives to keep them shelf-stable and tasty over time. While your chips, candies, and breakfast cereals may taste good while you eat them, your body will struggle to digest them afterwards. The chemicals they contain, such as nitrates, phosphoric acids, and fat-substitutes, are all indigestible and irritable to the lining of your stomach and intestines. Over time these chemicals and all the excess salts, sugars, and oils add up and worsen your overall health.
Foots that are high in fibre are necessary in a healthy diet and helps reduce the risk for some chronic diseases. There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. While both are unable to be digested and therefore stay out of the bloodstream, they do help the body, albeit in different ways.
Insoluble promotes digestive system movement and prevents constipation as it moves through largely intact. Examples of insoluble fibre includes dark green leafy vegetables, fruit skins, whole-wheat products, seeds, and corn bran.
Soluble fibres form a gel as they bind with fatty acids. They stay in the stomach longer, letting their sugar release more slowly (helpful for those with diabetes), and lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre can be found in oats, dried beans, barley, flax seed, and oranges.
Sodas, particularly those caffeinated are often associated with acid reflux like fatty and spicy foods. And if they are sugar-free and thus made with artificial sweeteners, they are doubly hard to digest. Aspartame for example is not fully absorbed by the body. However, these sugar alternatives may be a better choice for people with diabetes as they don’t cause the blood sugar spikes regular sugar does. Just remember, all in moderation!