Can oatmeal cause diarrhea

Everyday Tips for Living With IBS

There are a number of different gastrointestinal disorders that can cause bowel dysfunction. The most common: irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, which affects as many as 10 to 15 percent of people in the United States, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).

IBS is a condition that affects mainly the bowel, the part of the digestive system that makes and stores stool. IBS can cause a range of symptoms, from cramping and bloating to gas, diarrhea, and constipation, and it can be very painful.

So how is it treated? Because IBS varies from person to person, so does IBS therapy. “It’s treated in many different ways,” says Brigid Boland, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at UCSD in San Diego. “For people who have constipation, there are medications for that. For people who alternate between constipation and diarrhea, they may try something different. There’s not one medication that works for everyone.” In fact, Dr. Boland says that people with mild to moderate IBS tend to find the most success by changing the way they eat. “Dietary modifications end up being the mainstay for a lot of people with IBS,” she explains.

Find out more about how diet and other lifestyle factors can play a role in IBS management.

Fiber: The Everyday Secret to Easing IBS?

One way to potentially lessen the symptoms of IBS is by introducing fiber into your diet. For some people, fiber reduces IBS symptoms — such as constipation and diarrhea — because it can make stool softer and easier to pass (good for constipation) or bulkier and more regular (good for diarrhea).

Fiber isn’t the answer for everyone with IBS, however. “A lot of people don’t respond to it, and it can cause bloating for others,” Boland says . If you want to try adding foods with fiber to your diet, start slowly. Adding a little at a time allows your body to get used to high-fiber foods. Too much fiber all at once might cause gas.

Here are some examples of fiber-rich foods:

You may want to consult a dietitian about adding fiber to your diet, and your doctor may also recommend taking an over-the-counter supplement to get more fiber.

If you continue to have problems with IBS, consult your physician about other dietary modifications you can make.

Eat Right for IBS: Foods to Avoid

Studies have shown that some people can also lessen their IBS symptoms by avoiding certain foods — although there’s no precise “don’t eat’ list that works for everybody.

“It’s hard to generalize,” Boland says. “A lot of people will tell you that high-fat, greasy foods tend to bother them. Others have problems when they eat out. And dairy can also be a trigger.” Because diet’s effect on IBS is highly individual, Boland recommends cutting out certain foods and paying attention to how your body reacts when you add them back in. This is known as an elimination diet.

Consider steering clear of the following foods:

  • Caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the gastrointestinal system, at times leading to strong contractions and more bowel movements. Additionally, it has a diuretic effect, which may worsen dehydration caused by diarrhea.
  • Insoluble fiber. Fiber can be helpful for IBS, but it can also make symptoms worse. Raw fruits, raw vegetables, seeds, and nuts also act as a stimulant in the digestive system and can cause a narrowing to become blocked. “Uncooked veggies can cause a lot of bloating,” Boland says. “This is unexpected for many people. The fact that healthy foods can actually cause symptoms can be surprising.” On the other hand, soluble fiber, such as pasta, rice, baked potatoes, and oatmeal, can be soothing for diarrhea in that it helps bind loose stools.
  • Alcohol. Irritating to the GI system, alcohol carries a double whammy for IBS patients because it can also worsen dehydration.
  • Fats. Too much dietary fat can lead to steatorrhea, a sometimes painful condition marked by foul-smelling stools that contain abnormal quantities of fat. Fat can also increase peristaltic activity (the contractions of the colon that move food along the GI tract), leading to more bowel movements.
  • Carbonated beverages. Undigested gas bubbles from these drinks can lead to uncomfortable gas.
  • Onions and garlic. Gas-producing vegetables such as onions, garlic, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower can also cause painful attacks of gas. “Onions and garlic are on the ‘to-avoid’ list for many people,” Boland says.
  • Red meat. While red meat is a great source of vitamin B12 and other nutrients, it’s hard to digest. Other sources of protein, such as white meat and fish, can be more comfortably digested.
  • Artificial sweeteners. Products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and sucralose, can cause diarrhea and flatulence even in people with healthy GI tracts. Olestra, an artificial fat, can sometimes have the same effect.
  • Fructose. Fructose — a type of sugar found naturally in fruits and some vegetables and added to many processed foods — may contribute to IBS symptoms for some people. In people with fructose intolerance and IBS, eliminating foods high in fructose may help ease symptoms.
  • Dairy. This applies only to lactose-intolerant people. These individuals need to steer clear of dairy foods to avoid the pain and flatulence that can worsen their symptoms. Otherwise, dairy is a good source of protein and calcium. Some people can take enzymes to help digest lactose. Talk to your doctor about whether dairy is safe for you.

About the Low FODMAP Diet

In recent years, one dietary approach designed by Australian researchers has become more widely accepted as beneficial for people with IBS — the Low FODMAP diet. According to the IFFGD, FODMAPs (or “fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols”) are carbohydrates that tend to cause problems for people with IBS. Restricting them —not cutting them out completely — has been shown to improve IBS symptoms.

Foods that are considered high FODMAP include soft cheeses, cow’s milk, yogurt, vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes, fruits such as plums and apples, cashews and pistachios, and rye and wheat breads.

“The Low FODMAP diet has seen a fair amount of a success,” Boland says. “But it can be challenging to follow completely. I tell my patients that they don’t need to follow it to a tee, but it can help them identify trigger foods that they didn’t expect.”

The Steps of Elimination Dieting

Ready to try an elimination diet to determine which foods trigger your IBS? Success while on an elimination diet is a huge milestone for many people who suffer from digestive disorders. Consider these tips.

Before beginning a trial diet, discuss it with your family to gain their support. You may need help staying on your diet and keeping foods that you shouldn’t be eating out of the house for a while. It’s also a good idea to begin the diet outside of holiday season — wait until a time when pies and stuffing aren’t tempting you at every turn. Finally, keep a diary or symptom inventory for at least three days before beginning the diet, and continue tracking what you eat and how you feel afterward while you follow the diet.

Learn more about how specific foods can cause IBS symptoms.

More Diet Tips to Ease IBS Symptoms

Careful eating can help reduce IBS symptoms. Try these tips:

  • Drinking six to eight glasses of plain water a day is important, especially if you have diarrhea. But steer clear of carbonated beverages, which can cause gas and discomfort.
  • Avoid chewing gum and eating too quickly — they can both lead to swallowing air, which also leads to gas.
  • Eating smaller meals more often can help IBS symptoms. Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you eat something you shouldn’t have — just be prepared. “Even if you want to eat one of your trigger foods, just know to expect your symptoms,” Boland says.

What to Do When Stress Makes IBS Worse

Food isn’t the only factor impacting your IBS symptoms. Stress may also play a role. Although the exact role of stress in digestive disorders isn’t completely understood, many people with IBS have experiences making it clear to them that stress triggers their symptoms of cramping, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.

“I hear so many of my patients saying ‘I’m stressed out right now, so my symptoms are worse,’” Boland says.

Feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS. The colon has a vast supply of nerves that connect it to the brain. These nerves control the normal rhythmic contractions of the colon and can cause abdominal discomfort at stressful times. People often experience cramps or “butterflies” when they are nervous or upset. But with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress.

“Trying to have some sort of game plan to help yourself through the stressful time can be beneficial,” Boland says. If stress plays a major role in your life, try these tips to find relief:

  • Practice relaxation. Do relaxation training, such as meditation or yoga, at least once a day.
  • Dial back. “If things are escalating, try to simplify things,” Boland suggests. “For example, go back to a very simple, bland diet that you know is going to be okay.”
  • Take a time-out. Time-outs aren’t just for athletes or unruly children. In fact, all of us occasionally need time on the sidelines to clear our heads and gain new perspective. Call it a time-out, call it meditating, call it whatever you want — just take some “me time” and give yourself a break every once in a while.
  • Pamper yourself. What do you get when you combine candlelight, a warm bath, and soothing music? Instant relaxation! Next time stress has you in a stranglehold, loosen up with this tried-and-true home remedy.
  • Get a massage. Apart from feeling great, massage is a wonderful way to relieve tension and stress throughout your whole body.
  • Walk it off. “Exercise can be a stress reliever and help IBS,” Boland says. For starters, try working a 10-minute walk into your daily routine. Your body and your mind will thank you.
  • Giggle. Sound silly? Well, it is — and that’s the point. Not only is laughter a scientifically proven tension reliever, it’s also free, so use it at will. If your funny bone needs some prodding, rent a comedy or recall amusing stories from the past with a friend.
  • Get adequate sleep. “Good sleep plays into general overall health,” Boland says. Most healthy adults should aim for between 7 and 9 hours of shut-eye per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Learn more about dealing with a sensitive gut.

Ease Travel Stress

After frantic last-minute packing, a heart-stopping round of “Who has the tickets?,” or a two-hour delay spent worrying about connecting flights, stress can tie your insides in knots before you even board the plane. If you’re not careful, travel stress can also cause gastrointestinal flare-ups and wreak havoc on even the most foolproof itinerary.

If you know that anxiety and stress bring on your symptoms, it’s up to you to make your vacation as stress-free as possible. Don’t overbook yourself, get plenty of rest, and take time-outs to relax. If something does go wrong (let’s say your luggage somehow ends up in Antarctica), do your best not to panic. It’s not the end of the world, and you, the savvy traveler, have packed all your necessities — money, medications, toiletries, and a change of clothes — in your carry-on bag. If the airline or hotel drops the ball, a well-packed carry-on will help you surmount any obstacles thrown in your path.

Always Travel With Your Medication

When traveling abroad with a chronic gastrointestinal condition like IBS, take extra care when packing your medicine.

First, make sure you know the generic names of all the medications on which you rely. Unlike brand names, the generic names of drugs are the same in every country. You may not know the brand of antidiarrheal to look for in a foreign pharmacy, but if you know that the generic name, you’ll find it more easily. Your physician, pharmacist, or the prescription information labels will tell you the generic names of your medications.

Using the generic names, make a list of the drugs you are taking and your usual milligram dosage. Pill size may vary in different locales, so recording dosage is important. If one of your medications requires a prescription in the country you’re visiting, you should be prepared with a letter from your doctor stating your condition and your pharmaceutical needs. Though this may sound overly cautious, you’ll be glad of your foresight if you lose your medication.

Find out how to prevent traveler’s diarrhea.

Can Hypnotherapy Help IBS?

One approach that has been shown to help relieve IBS symptoms is hypnotherapy, a type of therapy that evokes relaxation and subconscious change. In fact, a study published in 2012 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reported that gut-directed hypnotherapy improved IBS symptoms in participants after three months and for up to a year.

The practice of hypnosis is not restricted by law in most places in the United States, which means that anybody can become a hypnotherapist without any qualifications or quality assurance. When choosing a hypnotherapist, keep the following in mind:

  • A clinical hypnotherapist should have seven to nine years of university coursework plus additional supervised training in internships and residency programs.
  • The hypnotherapist should be licensed (not certified) in his field by the state.
  • If the person’s degree is in hypnosis or hypnotherapy, rather than a state-recognized healthcare profession, the person is a lay hypnotist and is not qualified to treat your medical problem.
  • Hypnotherapists qualified to treat IBS should have membership in the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH). Also check for membership in the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the American Psychological Association, and other professional organizations.

Find more treatment options for IBS.

Relieve IBS Symptoms With Exercise

Adding exercise to your management plan can provide significant IBS relief and improve your general health — plus, when done right, it has few side effects (maybe a blister or two). On the physical level, exercise regulates bowel functioning. It stimulates the digestive process, triggering peristalsis, which can be particularly helpful if constipation is your main symptom. In 2011, researchers reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that study participants who were physically active had noticeably improved GI symptoms compared to the participants who did not exercise. In addition, exercise can reduce stress and generate a sense of wellbeing. Aim for regular aerobic exercise, such as a 20-minute walk three days a week.

Adding physical activity into your day doesn’t mean you have to go to extremes with exhaustive workouts, five times a week. It’s actually important to gradually increase exercise, making it part of your daily routine. Begin with low-impact physical activity, such as a brisk walk. Some higher impact activities, such as running, can lead to diarrhea — so the gradual approach is particularly important for individuals with diarrhea-predominant symptoms.

Whatever you choose to do, always remember to consult your physician for advice about what is safe and effective for you. Whether it’s playing your favorite sport or escaping the daily grind for a long run in the country, choosing some form of physical activity can decrease your stress levels, increase your energy, and quite possibly reduce or eliminate your bothersome IBS symptoms.

Check out these tips on how to start a regular exercise program.

Can Probiotics Relieve IBS?

The normal human gastrointestinal tract contains hundreds of different species of beneficial bacteria (intestinal flora). In order to provide a healthy environment within the gastrointestinal tract, your body requires proper amounts of these “friendly” bacteria. So how can you help your body maintain the proper amount of the much needed “friendly” bacteria? Consider probiotics.

Probiotics are living, direct-fed microbials that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. They come in two types: food (check out your grocery store’s dairy case and refrigerated section for probiotic-rich yogurt, kefir, or raw sauerkraut) and dietary supplements. Probiotics work by colonizing the intestinal tract and crowding out disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and yeasts. Strong evidence shows that probiotics help lactose intolerance and diarrhea, decrease the risk of colon cancer, ease the symptoms associated with IBS, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and boost the immune system. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying probiotics.

Learn about other alternative remedies for IBS.

Journaling: Hidden Help for IBS?

Some people with IBS find it beneficial to keep a journal to track their symptoms and how they’re feeling. And whenever you feel like you need emotional clarity or a good de-stressor, writing can help. If you’re new to journaling, start by buying a notebook. Write continuously for 20 minutes a day — don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

Make note of any strong feelings that arise during the day. When pressed for time, try using one adjective that sums up your day and a second to describe how you want tomorrow to be. Don’t give up if you haven’t written for a few days.

Reading previous journal entries may put your current health problems in perspective. For example, you could determine that a week-long bout of diarrhea was just the result of bad dietary choices, not a flare up of your condition.

Discover more about the benefits of journaling.

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This is a sidebar to Allergic Living’s main feature: Red Meat Allergy: How One Tick Bite Can Upend Your Diet and Your Life

Photo: Getty

When should I suspect that I’m allergic to alpha-gal?

People with the allergy will have symptoms that range from hives to flushing and abdominal distress. Patients can have quite mild symptoms (itchy hives are common) or experience a full anaphylactic reaction including loss of consciousness. Abdominal symptoms tend to be severe, and can be in the form of cramping, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, says Dr. Erin McGintee, an allergist in Southampton, New York.

Another telltale alpha-gal sign: the symptoms come on three to eight hours after consuming mammal’s meat, or a by-product like gelatin, which is found in foods from gravies to desserts and in some medications. Risk of the allergy is higher in the southeastern and eastern United States.

How do I confirm the allergy?

Get a referral to an allergist who will review your history of symptoms and conduct a blood test that looks for IgE antibodies to the alpha-gal carbohydrate. Skin-prick testing hasn’t been reliable for alpha-gal allergy, so it’s not commonly used.

I have the red meat allergy. How did I get it?

In the United States, you probably got bitten by a Lone Star tick, which sensitized you to alpha-gal. But alpha-gal allergy is a global problem, with cases in Europe and Australia, where it is triggered by other species of ticks. Dr. Scott Commins, a University of North Carolina researcher, wonders if there are other blood-sucking insects that could also trigger the allergy, like mosquitos, but so far this is just a question to research. Currently under study: figuring out why some people bitten by Lone Star ticks get the allergy, while others don’t.

At the 2018 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology meeting, two new points were raised about the disease:

  1. People with alpha-gal allergy are more likely than others to also be allergic to stinging insects, such as wasps or hornets.
  2. Patients with blood types B or AB are five times less likely to develop red meat allergy than patients with other blood types.
Are there any treatments for alpha-gal allergy?

Currently, alpha-gal allergy is managed by avoiding consumption of red meat. Some people also have to avoid dairy products as well as gelatin. Your doctor will advise you to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of a reaction.

Can you “lose” this allergy?

The allergy to alpha-gal fortunately does resolve for many people over time, as long as they don’t get another tick bite. “We believe that, in most patients, if you can go long enough without getting bitten again, the allergy goes away,” says Commins. He is working on finding a way to desensitize a person to tick saliva, so that future bites won’t bring back the allergy.

I’ve been bitten by a lone star tick. Should I be tested?

McGintee doesn’t advise this, since many people won’t develop the allergy, and even a positive test “doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have an allergic reaction.”

However, since those who do develop the allergy often report symptoms soon after the tick encounter, she recommends avoiding high-fat red meat a month or so after a bite. She calls this the “high-risk window,” and most severe reactions develop from fattier meat meals, such as a burger or a rack of ribs. After a month, McGintee advises adding small amounts of meat back into your diet. If symptoms develop, stop red meat and contact your doctor.


To prevent the bite of the Lone Star (as well as other ticks), experts recommend avoiding wooded and bushy areas. If you are in the woods, walk in the center of trails.

In areas known for ticks:
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. Light-colored clothes help you to spot ticks.
  • Tuck pants into socks, even tape clothes to prevent openings.
  • Use a repellent on skin with DEET, picaridin or IR3535. (Parents must apply to kids.)
  • Treat clothes and boots with repellents with 0.5% permethrin.
Once back home:
  • Shower right away to wash off any ticks.
  • Using a comb, check kids’ hair for ticks, and have someone check yours.
  • Also check in the folds of skin and behind the ears.
  • If you find a tick: Don’t panic. Use tweezers to grasp the whole insect, and pull it out.
  • For washing clothes, either use hot water or spin dry for an extended period.
  • Also check pets and gear closely for ticks.

The CDC’s Tick Prevention Guide
For tick identification, see:

Tick-Based Red Meat Allergy Linked to Heart Disease
Red Meat Allergy Found to be Trigger Behind Many Cases of Anaphylaxis
Life After Meat Allergy Diagnosis: John Grisham a “Pro” At Managing Diet

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In a world where every major restaurant chain is trying to outdo its competitors with promises of more and more meat for your money, it’s not uncommon to find an absurd pile of different animal parts on your plate. Take fast food sandwiches stacked ridiculously high with chicken tenders, turkey, ham, corned beef, brisket, steak, roast beef and and bacon.
Practically every food group is represented — if you’re an obese Tyrannosaurus Rex.
A less extreme example might be a shrimp cocktail served before a bacon-wrapped chicken breast.
Whatever the combination, consuming different types of meat in a single sitting has digestive problems written all over it. Here’s why, according to nutritionist Dr. David Friedman, author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction:

“Fish takes 30 minutes to digest, chicken takes one and a half to two hours to digest and red meat (beef, lamb and pork) takes up to five hours to digest,” says Friedman. “That’s because red meat is protein-dense, and in comparison to fish and poultry, it requires more acid secretion by the stomach’s parietal cells and more active enzyme secretion by the pancreas for optimal digestion.”

This is all good and fine when you’re consuming each type of meat in separate meals throughout the day, but it’s a bit of a disaster if you eat them in tandem.

“When the body produces excessive acid to digest red meat — which isn’t necessary when eating chicken or fish — it can lead to digestive issues ,” Friedman explains, adding that red meats also hold up the digestion of chicken and fish when they’re all combined in the stomach, which may cause indigestion.
This doesn’t mean you have to swear off meat mashes altogether: Just stick to either red meats — beef, lamb and pork — or fish and chicken (yep, surf and turf is a definite belly bomb).
Alternatively, you could ignore this advice and pound stomach meds before and after every carnivorous meat binge. It’ll be costly, but it may just work.

Oats are low in FODMAP and high in fibre. So you will likely be feeling rather frustrated that they trigger your IBS.

Being on the low FODMAP diet is restrictive enough, without low FODMAP foods also causing you issues. This can leave you feeling confused, frustrated and helpless in what to do.

However, we must always remember, IBS is a multifactorial condition. Simply just going low FODMAP is unlikely to get you the results that you need.

In this post I am going to teach you why oats can trigger irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. I will then explain how to incorporate them in your diet safely. This means you can have 1 less restriction in your diet – making life that little bit easier.

Are Oats low FODMAP?

Oats are naturally low FODMAP. The only time you need to be careful is with oatmeal, which usually made with lactose free containing milk and also flavoured oatmeal.

The safest way to use oats is to buy them plain and make your own foods such low FODMAP ingredients.

For example, overnight oats with lactose free milk and maple syrup. Or low FODMAP cereal bars.

Why Do Oats Cause IBS Symptoms?

So you may be confused by now as you know that oats are low FODMAP, so why do they cause you IBS symptoms?

Please do not forget that irritable bowel syndrome is a multi-factorial condition. So FODMAPs are just 1 element of controlling your symptoms. There are many other triggers and you must factor them all in.

So oats contain 2 elements which may be causing you the problem.

  1. Fibre – (oats contain around 5g of dietary fibre per portion) (1)
  2. Resistant starches (click here to read more)

Before you go and avoid all oats, please note that both of these elements are ‘dose dependant.’ That means you will have a certain tolerance level to them.

What I tend to find with my Take Control members is that they use oats as their go to staple low FODMAP fibre source: oatmeal for breakfast, oatcakes for lunch and then even oat biscuits and bars as snacks.

This becomes a huge load of oats! As with FODMAPs, fibre can have an accumulative affect which means that you can not blindly consume as much as you want to – especially if your gut is just not used to it.

Resistant starches are a type of fibre which is not broken down in the small gut. Instead, they are broken down by bacteria in the large bowel which creates gas and potentially IBS symptoms.

Are Cooked Oats Better For IBS?

Yes! Cooking your oats will reduce the amount of resistant starch that they contain. So avoid raw oats and opt for the cooked versions.

Do I Need To Eat Gluten Free Oats?

When you are on the low FODMAP diet, gluten can be a confusing topic. Gluten is actually a protein found in wheat, barely and rye.

Most oats will have been cross-contaminated with gluten containing products. This is why they can not be classed as gluten free, unless made in isolation specifically and then tested.

The thing about gluten is that it is not a FODMAP. So, unless you are coeliac then you do not need to worry about this! Just by normal oats and save yourself 1 less stress in your IBS diet.

You can read more about the difference between FODMAPs and gluten in my other post here.

Oats do contain a type of gluten called beta-gluten. Some people with coeliac disease are thought to potentially react to beta-gluten as well as the gluten found in wheat, barely and rye (2). However this is very rare and your dietitian will advise you accordingly.

What Quantity of Oats is Safe To Eat With IBS?

There is no known ‘safe’ quantity of oats for those with irritable bowel syndrome. I know this can be a very frustrating answer when all you want me to say is ‘eat X amount and you will have no symptoms.’ But IBS doesn’t really work like this.

IBS is very individual to the person. So I would advise that you play around with your quantities and track your symptoms.

1 portion of oats is around 40-50g.

Bottom Line

Oats can trigger irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. But you can still include them in your diet in small quantities to gain the multiple health benefits without the symptoms.

Want more help? Sign up for my free GUIDE TO BLOATING – click here.

by Dr. Will Cole

William Cole, leading functional medicine practitioner, is an expert at identifying the underlying factors of chronic conditions and offering natural, holistic approaches to optimal health. This week, we’re thrilled to share his series on the elimination diet and how it can improve your overall well-being. To learn more, check out his new course, The Elimination Diet: A 60-Day Protocol to Uncover Food Intolerances, Heal the Gut, and Feel Amazing.

This is Part II of the Elimination Diet series. Read Part I.

Digestive issues are a big deal. They can go far beyond temporary constipation or the occasional bloating or stomach ache. Problems like chronic stomach pain, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, GERD, constipation, diarrhea, and IBS can wreck lives. In fact, a staggering 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases, incurring $141.8 billion every year in medical costs.

My job as a functional medicine practitioner is to find the root reasons why patients are experiencing health issues and GI issues are some of the most common problems people face.

We are all different, with different digestive systems, microbiome compositions, and food intolerances. For each one of us, the foods we eat will either feed digestive problems or feed a healthy gut. The problem is knowing which foods do which things for you. Food intolerances are highly individual, but over the years in my practice, I have seen some common food culprits that tend to be to blame, and that, when eliminated, often solve many digestive issues that seemed intractable. Here are the likely offenders:

1. Grains

By now, most of us are aware of the possible negative impact of gluten for some people. However, I believe that in a few years research will find a similar – and possibly even worse – harm from even gluten-free whole grains. Grains contain an abundance of amylose sugars which could cause inflammation, may unfavorably skew microbiome balance, and which contain anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytates, which bind to the intestines and can hinder nutrient absorption in the body. I recommend removing all grains for a time, during an elimination diet, and then slowly reintroducing them to see how they work for your system, or whether you are particularly sensitive to certain kinds.

2. Alcohol

Regular consumption of alcohol can potentially negatively influence almost every system in your body. For the gastrointestinal system in particular, alcohol can be a trigger for leaky gut syndrome and gut inflammation in some people.

3. Legumes

Peanuts in particular contain aflatoxin (toxins produced by a mold) and lectins, while soy also contains phytoestrogens. All of these could irritate the digestive system. While other legumes may not be as bad, I’d still recommend removing them for awhile to let your gut heal. Reactivities are highly individual and may be limited to certain legumes and not others.

4. Dairy

In most major dairy farms, cows are given hormones and antibiotics, live in unhealthy conditions, and are fed GMO corn instead of grass. Their milk is then pasteurized and homogenized and the fat, with all its beneficial fat-soluble vitamins, is removed. That’s why I consider most dairy in the U.S. to be junk food.

In addition to this, many people with gut issues can be sensitive to casein, even in organic milk. Casein is the main milk protein and a common irritant. If you have digestive problems, try removing dairy for a while to let your digestive system heal. See if it makes a difference for you. Fermented dairy, such as grass-fed kefir and yogurt, is usually better tolerated and also offers beneficial bacteria for the microbiome, but some people can’t tolerate dairy in any form.

5. Sugar

Obvious, right? But do you know why? Sugar is the favorite food of more pathogenic gut bacteria that can cause many gastrointestinal problems, so when you eat sugar, you are feeding the bad guys so they can crowd out the good guys that do nice things for you. An imbalance of bacteria in your gut can also lead to negative effects on your body’s metabolism and immune responses, and overgrowth of bad (sugar-loving) bacteria can also cause inflammation, which can eventually lead to an autoimmune-inflammatory response. Don’t think artificial sweeteners are the answer, though – research shows that they also decrease the good bacteria in the gut, which could also cause glucose intolerance and lead to diabetes.

6. Nuts and seeds

The roughage of nuts and seeds can be difficult for some people to digest. On top of that, most nuts sold in stores are coated in inflammatory industrial seed oils, like soybean or canola oil. They could also contain partially hydrogenated trans-fats, which can contribute to digestive problems as well. It’s best to buy them raw and lightly toast them yourself to make them easier for your body to digest. However, if you have digestive issues, it’s best to go off of nuts and seeds for awhile to see if your symptoms improve. This can allow your gut to heal. Then you can slowly reintroduce nuts and seeds to see if they’re an issue for you are not. We are all different. Some people can handle them every day; some can only handle them in small amounts.


This funny sounding acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. In other words: fermentable sugars. These short-chain sugars are not fully digested in your gut and can be excessively fermented by your gut bacteria.

This fermentation releases hydrogen gas that could lead to distension of the intestines – which can cause major IBS symptoms in some people like pain, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Most of the high-FODMAP foods are actually healthy, real foods. But even when it comes to natural foods, what works for one person may not be right for everyone.

Here are the foods that should be avoided or severely limited if you have IBS symptoms, to most effectively work toward healing your gut:


Artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, celery, garlic, onions, leek bulb, legumes, pulses, Savoy cabbage, sugar snap peas, sweet corn


Apples, mango, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon


Milk, cream, custard, ice cream, soft cheeses, yogurt


Rye, wheat-containing breads, cereals, crackers, pasta


Cashews, pistachios

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A cashew allergy doesn’t always develop in childhood. You can develop a tree nut allergy at any point in your life. What happens is that your body thinks a substance is harmful – that can be mold, dander, or food. Scientists haven’t figured out why this happens.

Food allergies affect over 15 million people in the U.S. Every year. Cashew and other tree nut allergies impact roughly 90,000 people.

If you think you might have a cashew allergy, keep reading. We’ll go over the symptoms, treatments and food alternatives to cashews.

Cashew Allergy Symptoms

An allergic reaction to cashews typically appears right after being exposed to cashews.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to eat cashews to have an allergic reaction. If your allergy is severe, an allergic reaction can occur by touching cashews.

Symptoms can include:

  • Itchy mouth and throat, eyes or skin
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, or diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction and it can be life-threatening. Your lips and tongue may swell, and you may find it hard to speak or breathe. If that occurs, immediately seek medical help.

When allergic reactions in children have been studied, it was found that 50% have skin irritations such as hives, 25% have a hard time breathing, and 17% have intestinal issues.

Cashew Allergy Treatment

The best treatment for cashew allergies is prevention. That means avoiding cashews and products that may contain cashews. That requires carefully reading labels of products at the grocery store and asking questions when eating out. You can never be too careful.

You may be allergic to other tree nuts as well as cashews. It’s best to seek medical attention so you know exactly what you’re allergic to.

Since nut allergies are one of the top causes of anaphylaxis in the U.S., your doctor may advise you to carry an auto-injector to treat anaphylactic shock.

Food Alternatives to Cashews

Are you looking for an alternative to cashews? There are some options out there to consider.

Other nuts seem like the most obvious alternative to cashews. Check to make sure you’re not allergic to other nuts before you reach for a handful of almonds.

Another alternative is dried fruit such as dates, figs or apricots. Dried fruit can be an excellent substitute for cashews in salads and some baked goods. They can add flavor and fiber to your diet.

Do you like the crunchy texture of cashews? In that case, crunchy granola or seeds can be a good substitute for cashews. Give sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds a try.

Do You Have a Cashew Allergy?

If you think you have an allergy to cashews, don’t wait to get it taken care of. Cashew allergies can be severe and life-threatening if they are not treated.

At Emerald Coast Urgent Care, we provide medical care for non-life threatening injuries and illnesses, including allergies. We serve the Destin and Panama City Beach areas.

Contact us today to schedule your next appointment.

Cashew allergy is common in the U.S. Knowing its symptoms and treatment is key to getting quick relief. Click here to learn more about this allergy.

Nut and Peanut Allergy

    The allergist may also ask whether anyone else in your family has allergies or other allergy conditions, such as eczema or asthma. Researchers aren’t sure why some people have food allergies and others don’t, but they sometimes run in families.

    The allergist may also want to do a skin test. This is a way of seeing how your body reacts to a very small amount of the nut that is giving you trouble. The allergist will use a liquid extract of the nut that seems to be causing you symptoms.

    During skin testing, a little scratch on your skin is made (it will be a quick pinch, but there are no needles!). That’s how just a little of the liquid nut gets into your skin. If you get a reddish, itchy, raised spot, it shows that you may be allergic to that food or substance.

    Skin tests are the best test for food allergies, but if more information is needed, the doctor may also order a blood test. At the lab, the blood will be mixed with some of the food or substance you may be allergic to and checked for antibodies.

    It’s important to remember that even though the doctor tests for food allergies by carefully exposing you to a very small amount of the food, you should not try this at home! The only place for an allergy test is at the allergist’s office, where they are specially trained and could give you medicine right away if you had a reaction.

    How Is a Tree Nut or Peanut Allergy Treated?

    There is no special medicine for nut or peanut allergies and many people don’t outgrow them. The best treatment is to avoid the nut. That means not eating that nut, and also avoiding the nut when it’s mixed in foods. (Sometimes these foods don’t even taste nutty! Would you believe chili sometimes contains nuts to help make it thicker?)

    Staying safe means reading food labels and paying attention to what they say about how the food was produced. Some foods don’t contain nuts, but are made in factories that make other items that do contain nuts. The problem is the equipment can be used for both foods, causing “cross-contamination.” That’s the same thing that happens in your own house if someone spreads peanut butter on a sandwich and dips that same knife into the jar of jelly.

    After checking the ingredients list, look on the label for phrases like these:

    • “may contain tree nuts”
    • “produced on shared equipment with tree nuts or peanuts”

    People who are allergic to nuts also should avoid foods with these statements on the label. Some of the highest-risk foods for people with peanut or tree nut allergy include:

    • cookies and baked goods
    • candy
    • ice cream
    • Asian and African foods
    • sauces (nuts may be used to thicken dishes)

    Talk to your allergist about how to stay safe in the school cafeteria. Also ask about how you should handle other peanut encounters, like at restaurants or stadiums where people are opening peanut shells. People with nut allergies usually won’t have a reaction if they breathe in small particles. That’s because the food usually has to be eaten to cause a reaction.

    Have an Emergency Plan

    If you have a nut or peanut allergy, you and a parent should create a plan for how to handle a reaction, just in case. That way your teachers, the school nurse, your basketball coach, your friends — everyone will know what a reaction looks like and how to respond.

    To immediately treat anaphylaxis, doctors recommend that people with a nut or peanut allergy keep a shot of epinephrine (say: eh-puh-NEH-frin) with them. This kind of epinephrine injection comes in an easy-to-carry container. You and your parent can work out whether you carry this or someone at school keeps it on hand for you. You’ll also need to identify a person who will give you the shot.

    You might want to have antihistamine medicine on hand too for mild reactions. If anaphylaxis is happening, this medicine is never a substitute for epinephrine. After getting an epinephrine shot, you need to go to the hospital or other medical facility, where they will keep an eye on you for at least 4 hours and make sure the reaction is under control and does not come back.

    What Else Should I Know?

    If you find out you have a nut or peanut allergy, don’t be shy about it. It’s important to tell your friends, family, coaches, and teachers at school. The more people who know, the better off you are because they can help you stay away from the nut that causes you problems.

    Telling the server in a restaurant is also really important because he or she can steer you away from dishes that contain nuts. Likewise, a coach or teacher would be able to choose snacks for the group that don’t contain nuts.

    It’s great to have people like your parents, who can help you avoid nuts, but you’ll also want to start learning how to avoid them on your own.

    Reviewed by: Magee Defelice, MD Date reviewed: August 2018

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