If your recent smoothies have been causing you a bellyache, consider some of the smoothie ingredients that might be hurting your tummy. There’s no need to give up your smoothies if you love them, and I would definitely not suggest doing so. Instead, just be aware that some foods and combinations of foods you put into your smoothie can cause serious digestive upset. Smoothies are highly concentrated in nutrients, and without a nice balance, some people with testy tummies like myself can find that they can cause a nasty bellyache quickly. Consider eliminating certain smoothie ingredients that might be hurting your tummy and instead, add some simplicity and variety to your blender!
1. Too Much Fruit
Fruit is a perfectly healthy and beautiful food, but it is also one of the top smoothie ingredients that might be hurting your tummy. Some people actually don’t tolerate fruit well, due to fructose malabsorption, or IBS. In fact, fructose, the most abundant form of sugar in fruit, is one of the leading causes of digestive woes in women. Fructose sugars ferment in the small intestine, causing gas, bloating and even constipation. When combined with other ingredients in smoothies like acidic yogurt, or fats like flax, chia, almond butter, etc., they can be hard to digest and can cause a large amount of pain. Fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach since the stomach digests it quicker than any other food. Try taking the fruit out of your smoothie to see if it helps, and use stevia to sweeten it up instead. Then, you can either add more greens or ice to bulk it up. After a week, if your symptoms don’t improve, feel free to add the fruit back in. Most people find a little banana or berries are tolerated fine, while other high sugar fruits should be used in moderation.
2. Too Much Fiber
Hey, let’s be honest, green smoothies are great, but they’re very concentrated sources of fiber. In fact, if you have trouble with fiber, I’d go really slow with green smoothies at first. Use only around 1 cup of leafy greens per smoothie at first, and increase over time. Also, if you’re using chia and flax in your smoothies, start with small amounts and progress from there. Fiber is a top healthy nutrient you should be consuming, but if you have a testy tummy, you don’t want to overdo it all at once. Thankfully, your body will adjust over time, and you can continue to add more as your body adjusts. Fiber keeps you full and keeps your blood sugar stable, but you should use it in moderation at first if you're new to it.
3. Dairy Products
Greek yogurt and kefir are two commonly used items in smoothies, and I personally think they’re very good choices if you choose the plain varieties. However, if you find your stomach hurts after your smoothie, consider that it could be the dairy you’re using in your smoothies that’s causing the issue. Eliminate them for one week and replace them with vegan alternatives like coconut kefir and/or coconut yogurt and almond yogurt. Note the changes and make adjustments as needed. Just be aware that vegan alternatives can cost more, and they can have added sugars, so be sure to check labels before buying.
4. High Sugar Ingredients
If any of you read my articles on a regular basis, you’ll already know that I have a huge intolerance to sugar, even natural ones. This mostly stems from the fact I have a seizure condition that’s directly affected by sugar intake (even natural sources), but also because I find it does terrible things for my digestion. If you use a lot of fruit, or natural sweeteners like agave, coconut syrup, or regular dairy alternative milks like regular almond or coconut milk instead of unsweetened varieties, these items might be the reason for your stomach problems. Not everyone has issues with sugar intolerance, but many people find removing it from their diet in these concentrated amounts can do wonders for digestion. Sugar, even natural sources, is also naturally acidic, which can cause an acidic stomach. Always keep your sugars low glycemic, and stick to berries and stevia as your choice sweetener options.
I use protein powders and superfood powders in almost every single smoothie that I make, but I’m careful about which types I buy. Let me give you a hint when using these products yourself: always look on the ingredient label to see what other ingredients are added. At the bottom of the nutrition label, you’ll see a list of “other ingredients”. Always read this! If you see sugar alcohols like erythritol, maltitol, or anything else ending in “ol”, that means it’s a sugar alcohol and you should avoid it unless you want to be bloated, gassy and suffer bad digestion. Another common culprit is inulin, a natural prebiotic sweetener that can cause gas due to fermentation that happens in the gut. Keep your eye out for these common ingredients that cause stomach issues too: fructose, sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, coconut sugar, dextrose, agave, sucralose, xanthan gum, guar gum, psyllium, and aspartame. Artificial sweeteners, gums, fibers, and added sugars can all cause digestive issues for people. Some are fine, while others are basic sugar in disguise, but either way, most people with sensitive stomachs don't tolerate any of them very well. Some people are also sensitive to grains, so if you're consuming a vegan rice protein powder, that could also be the issue, even if it's gluten-free. The best powder options include simple and basic powders like plain, unsweetened hemp protein, or I also like Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Raw Protein in the natural flavor, which is grain-free and has no added ingredients or gums, fibers, etc. There are some brands of whey protein that also contain nothing but whey protein as well. Always check the labels on your powders! They are a common culprit for digestive issues and many people don’t even realize it.
6. Poor Combinations
Another reason your smoothie might be giving you stomach problems is the combination of foods you’re using. If you have a lot of acidic ingredients like sweet fruit, dairy, and whey protein, that could be the culprit - too much acid. Though none of these foods are necessarily bad, they can cause an acid stomach, especially when combined. Or, if you’ve combined a large amount of fruit with fat, there’s another poor combination choice. Also note that melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are digested much quicker than any other fruit, and if combined with lots of ingredients, it could cause fermentation in the gut of these fruits, which leads to gas and bloating. Eat your melons alone, not in your smoothie!
7. New Ingredients
Let’s say you just heard about all these great new ingredients to try in your smoothie and you went a little crazy with buying them. And then, you might have tossed them all in at one time in your smoothie. Oh boy, what a challenge you’ve placed on your poor little tummy! New ingredients are great to try, and so long as they’re clean and low in sugar and additives, I’d say go for it! However, try them one by one to see how you react to them, and start with small amounts. Some ingredients, even the most healthy ones out there, can be difficult for people’s bodies to adjust to, especially when combined with other ingredients. Try one out a week and see how you do from there. Then, add another. Give your body time to adjust to all the healthy new foods you’ve been giving it. As a result, it can adjust accordingly and keep you feeling great!
Have you ever made a smoothie that made your tummy hurt? Oh, let me tell you, I sure have! Share your biggest smoothie faux paux with me, or tell me what ingredients make your tummy hurt the most in smoothies!