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Can eating healthy vegetables be causing you stomach pain?

Yes. in fact one of my good friends called me the other day to tell me that every time she eats raw cauliflower or broccoli she experiences stomach pain.

Did you know that one in five are affected with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) causing stomach pain, inconsistent or excessive bowel movements?

If you’ve experienced IBS you know that the stomach pain can be severe and very uncomfortable.


So why do healthy foods cause stomach pain?

What are FODMAP’s?

FODMAP’s ( Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). These short- chain carbohydrates often are not completely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can easily sit and start to ferment causing gas and pain.

Even healthy foods can cause stomach irritation, especially those that are high in FODMAP’s. Lactose from dairy, fructose in certain fruits, coconut products and fibrous vegetables ( cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, onion, asparagus) can be difficult for people with functional gut disorders to digest, and can even cause severe pain and bloating.



Do you have FODMAP intolerance?

While most people with IBS are FODMAP intolerant, consuming FODMAP foods does not actually cause IBS, it only exacerbates symptoms. Each person is different and some will be able to eat more FODMAP foods than others without experiencing symptoms.

If you are sensitive to certain foods you probably have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth otherwise known as SIBO.

When bacteria invades and takes over the small intestine, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption, IBS symptoms, weight gain and may even lead to damage of the stomach lining. This is what contributes to IBS symptoms and FODMAP intolerance.

SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut which is due to eating the Standard American Diet, (SAD), sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy and other inflammatory foods. Antibiotics which deplete your good bacteria also cause disruption in your healthy gut bacteria and can lead to IBS and SIBO. For more information about SIBO click here

Risk Factors for SIBO

  • Low Stomach Acid- taking antacids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple courses of antibiotics
  • Celiac disease
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Oral contraception

Common Symptoms of SIBO

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort
  • Bloating/ abdominal distention
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas/beltching
  • Constipation

So how do you treat your tummy issues? Fist, addressing that you have intestinal bacterial overgrowth is key; even if you don’t have IBS, unhealthy gut bacteria can lead to poor digestive function.

Some practitioners recommend a low FODMAP diet, but you also need to address the state of your gut bacteria which may involve cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from your diet so that your gut can heal.

Often times people continue to eat the very foods that are wreaking havoc on their intestines. Taking lactose free pills, or drinking lactose free milk may not be the answer if dairy is causing issues to your gut, it’s simply a bandaid and not really addressing the root of the problem.

 All illness begins and ends in the gut and we are just now learning that the type and quality of our gut bacteria dictates how we feel,  how and what we eat, whether we have difficulty in losing weight, and whether or not we will get cancer, heart disease, auto immune disease or other illnesses.

Links are now being made between the health of our gut and anxiety, depression, cravings, addictions and chronic illness. So perhaps those cravings you are experiencing are actually being ruled by the health of your gut!

It is estimated that somewhere between 10-15% of healthy individuals suffer from SIBO without any symptoms, whereas 80% of those with irritable bowel syndrome have SIBO.

My girlfriend asked me why she could eat kim chi and sauerkraut, but not eat raw cabbage? This is an excellent question. The reason is that the fermentation process pre-digests the vegetables and makes them easier to absorb. Fermented vegetables also contain probiotic microorganisms that help to heal the gut.

Sauerkraut and kim chi do contain cabbage which is high in insoluble fibre and a FODMAP food, but most people who have intolerances to FODMAP foods can eat fermented foods with no ill effect.

What to do?

Finding a good functional medical doctor, naturopath and having a gut bacteria test done is imperative. This can help you address unhealthy gut bacteria and SIBO so that it doesn’t lead to further health problems in the future. Checking into FODMAP foods and knowing which one`s may be affecting your health is also a great idea. I truly believe that our bodies are always talking to us, we just need to listen.


So have you experienced stomach pain or IBS symptoms after eating healthy foods or any foods in general? If so what have you done to alleviate the pain?



22 responses to “Healthy Vegetables Causing You Stomach Pain?

  1. Thanks Shirley! This article is very informative. I recently learned about FODMAP intolerance . Great information and so few people know about it! I am very sensitive to these foods, and now I know I need to get my microbiome healthy.

  2. Last year gave up gluten . This year started all organic and cooking at home. Everything from vegetables, meat, fruits to milk , everything certified organic. Now a sever stomach ache from last 10 days , on medication , but the gut is not healing faster . Just thinking why did this happen when I am eating the healthiest food on the planet

    1. It could be for many reasons. You could have a bacteria in your stomach. Were you recently ill? You could try probiotics or digestive enzymes that help you to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You might of developed a food sensitivity, but if it persists you should see your doctor or naturopath to find out what is the cause of your sore stomach.

  3. Hi

    Really helpful information, I too end up having severe stomach pain when I eat raw salads and I want to lose weight. so could you help me understand how I can go about it.. I have included Quinoa, fruits and other fiber rich foods in my diet. Is there any blood test I should get done to check intolerance to different food types. Also please suggest what other food types I can include in my diet to lose weight,

    1. Lightly steamed vegetables are probably better for you Shally. Keep it simple, have most of your plate be healthy non starchy cooked vegetables, some lean animal or plant protein and lots of water. Exercise is key in losing weight. There are blood IgG and IgE tests you can have done to check for food allergies and intolerances. Happy to jump on a call with you if you need more help.

  4. I appreciate this article but I still have more questions. The only veggies I can’t tolerate are broccoli and cauliflower. Both adult onset and at different times…about 10 years apart. Cooked or raw, they both make me ill. I get gassy with Brussel sprouts, but no pain. Is it just that my body can’t tolerate those 2 at all? I would love to find a way to correct this as I love both of those vegetables and follow a ketogenic diet, and not being able to include them really limits a lot of recipes for me. Thanks in advance.

  5. Hi Becky there could be so many reasons why. You could have a sensitivity to those two vegetables or you might be sensitive to that food family,. you could have a leaky gut or other health issues.
    Happy to work with you further if you need help.

  6. Hi this was a great article so insightful and I had so many aha! moments I had steamed cabbage with rice and coleslaw yesterday I haven’t had it in a long time I couldn’t remember why I didn’t have it in our time but I’ve woken up this morning with burning sensations in the middle of my tummy and it made me think about what I ate and as soon as I came across this article I suddenly realised why I stopped eating it in the first place. Thank you so much

  7. Hi Shirley

    Thank you for your article. You seem like the right person to ask if someone has a lot of stomach issues, primarily cramping and painful bowel movements, what type of doctor is best in helping to figure out the issue? Thanks for helping us in need!

  8. Interested to read your article, thanks. It might have some bearing on my stomach issues…. I thought my gluten intolerance had got worse but it is not that. I have been eliminating foods for a year now trying to work out why the stomach pain and inflammation / bloat? Gas? So far I am realising that when I go ‘too veggie’ for me, it causes bowel pain. Reading your article I also realise when I start a ‘healthy /detox’ chapter I then lean on coconut products quite a lot, and spinach. Can spinach fall into this category of foods you talk about??

  9. Ok now I’m really confused!… I just found your link above that takes you to the list of FODMAP foods that are good and bad to eat when correcting such a problem. On the ‘do not eat’ list is sauerkraut’, on the DO eat list are things like brocoli – both these are direct contradictions to the information above! Goodness, trying to get it right always seems so difficult to know what to eat! Could you comment on this as how to find a way forward. Thanks.

    1. it really depends on your body. Are you eating raw spinach or cooked spinach, anything raw can fall into the category. But what I recommend is for people to keep a food diary and write down all the foods they are eating and any symptoms they have. Foods can cause issues for up to 72 hours so it’s hard to know what food it is if you are not keep track. It also is about the inflammation in your gut. Are you eating gluten free grains? they can cause an issue? How do you do with bone broth? I suggest you see a Naturopath or book a consult with me so we can go over in depth what is causing your issues.and get tested and start to take some supplements to heal your gut. As long as your gut is inflamed you will have issues.

  10. Hi Shirley, I have had IBS for about 6 years now and unfortunately I still have bad bouts at least once every week to two weeks. Some bouts cause me to feel as though I am going to pass out due to the pain as well as I get very sweaty and feel faint. I do try really heard to pay attention to what I eat and many of the foods you mention do indeed bother me and I try my best to avoid or to steam them. I also have a very hard time losing weight, one would think as much as I am in the bathroom I would be thin :). I recently noticed that Asparagus which has never bothered me before, does so now like many vegetables seem to do. Squash, Zucchini, cauliflower, pineapple, shellfish (stomach issues, not allergic) mushrooms, raw broccoli. Dairy bothers me some times but not always and it is so hard to pinpoint what it is that bothers my stomach due to this. Anyhow, is there anything you might recommend that I take to help my stomach? I do see a Digestive doctor in which I have not been to in about 2 years due to no longer having health insurance. In the past the only medication I have taken and still do is dicyclomine and ranitidine for my acid reflux. I only take the dicyclomine after I have a bout and it helps to ease my cramps. I have tried probiotics in the past but after a couple of weeks taking them, I did not notice a difference so I stopped. Would you recommend that I try something, do you recommend that I see someone other then a digestive health doctor? I know I need to get back to seeing the doctor and just not worry about the $.
    Any thoughts, direction/guidance you might be able to provide to me is greatly appreciated.

  11. Hey Cathleen lets jump on a quick call as I have some suggestions for you, email me your phone number and a couple of time slots and your time zone, happy to help

  12. I’ve suffered from stomach pain since a little girl. All this information is helpful. I have no gal bladder and I was told that my pancreas and liver over work
    I do need to know how can I clean my gut. Is there a diet to follow? Will fasting help ?

  13. I’ve suffered from stomach pain since a little girl. All this information is helpful. I have no gal bladder and I was told that my pancreas and liver over work
    I do need to know how can I clean my gut. Is there a diet

  14. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had intolerance for eating raw broccoli . . . or even if it’s cooked, it must be cooked very well or mixed with other veggies. I am O.K. with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. No fail, I thought I was in the clear by adding finely chopped broccoli to some rice, only to have stomach cramps start within an hour after eating. Over the following 3 hours, I tried taking digestive enzymes, a homeopathic remedy for “upset stomach” by Hylands (usually works for an upset stomach), a shot of raw apple cider vinegar, and probiotics. What actually worked was making tea with fennel seeds (I use fennel seeds in certain recipes): about 1 Tablespoon to 6 ounces of water and let steep about 10 minutes. Drinking the tea, and massaging my stomach finally relieved the discomfort.

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Shirley Plant

About Shirley

I'm Shirley Plant, nutritionist and cookbook author. My passion is helping you figure out which foods fuel your body and which ones deplete it.

Appearances By Shirley

  • CTV News
  • Rogers TV
  • The Eat Real Food Health Summit
  • Menopause Wellness Summit
  • The Parenting TeleSummit

Appearances By Shirley

  • CTV News
  • Rogers TV
  • The Eat Real Food Health Summit
  • Menopause Wellness Summit
  • The Parenting TeleSummit

Shirley's Cookbooks

Finally... Food I Can Eat!

Finally... Food I Can Eat!

A dietary guide and cookbook featuring tasty non vegetarian and vegetarian recipes for people with food allergies and intolerances. Recipes free of gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, nightshades, sugar and yeast.

Finally... Paleo Food I Can Eat!

Finally... Paleo Food I Can Eat!

Paleo recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and dessert. Recipes free of grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, eggs and almonds. Plus, chapters on the mind body connection by Dr. Eva Selhub M.D and healing your body from chronic illness with Dr. Terry Wahls. M.D.