It is no secret that some foods provide little nutritive value. But the when and how you eat even healthy foods can make a big difference, too. Some otherwise healthful foods can lead to digestive problems if eaten on an empty stomach, and they can also cause a variety of unhealthy issues in the bloodstream.
Few would argue against the health benefits of yogurt. It is an excellent source of healthy bacteria, calcium, magnesium, dairy protein, and other vitamins. However, an empty stomach has higher amounts of acid. Eating yogurt before anything else in the morning can kill off the existing acid and diminish the nutritional boon this creamy food would normally provide. Researchers say it is best to eat yogurt one to two hours after a meal.
Consuming sweet pastries, donuts, and bread containing yeast can irritate the lining of the stomach and lead to flatulence and discomfort for some people, especially if they are eaten on an empty stomach. Not only does the sugar content spike glucose levels and overload the pancreas, but it can also lead to bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These gastric problems could indicate trouble digesting wheat, or a gluten intolerance.
A typical energy drink contains about 40 grams of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Simple sugars interfere with the production of proteins and the growth of beneficial gut microbes. Consuming energy drinks on an empty stomach can damage the stomach lining. Additionally, research shows that recurring jolt and crash episodes are common for those who consume energy drinks.
Some people reach for a stick of gum to ease their hunger. However, studies show it may have the opposite effect. It provides the same gastric output as a meal would, tricking the body into thinking it has nutrients to digest. With no food present, the buildup of stomach acid levels can cause discomfort and indigestion and increase the risk of stomach ulcers.
Many foods contain high amounts of processed sugars. High-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners have negative effects on the liver similar to those that come with drinking alcohol. Additionally, a 2018 animal study found that sugar deterred the development of gut microbiota — beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and boost immunity.
When fruit is juiced, much of its healthy fiber is lost. Fiber slows down the absorption of the sugar in fruit, so consuming a liquid form instead of eating a whole piece of fruit leads to a more rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Large surges of fructose not only become toxic to the liver, but they also put stress on the pancreas, especially when the stomach is empty. Instead, nutritionists suggest eating a whole piece of fruit, along with protein such as a nut butter.
Researchers found that consumption of wine or other alcoholic beverages before a meal or when the stomach was empty stimulated food intake and led to higher calorie consumption. The individuals who consumed wine on an empty stomach also reported higher levels of light-headedness and fatigue. Additional studies show that drinking any type of alcohol before a meal has similar outcomes.
Although bananas contain a wide array of nutrients, including potassium, fiber, and magnesium, they also have lots of natural sugars, which can leave a person feeling drowsy within a couple of hours of eating them. On an empty stomach, their high acid levels can lead to bowel discomfort and bloat. They can also throw off the balance of calcium and magnesium, leading to adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. To reap the many nutritional benefits of bananas, dieticians recommend pairing them with healthy fats and proteins.
The fiber levels in raw vegetables are a healthy addition to a person’s diet, however, eating them on an empty stomach can result in abdominal pain, heartburn, and flatulence. For people who have gastric issues after eating raw vegetables, cooking them first reduces the fiber content and makes them easier to digest. A 2019 study suggests that, from a microbiome perspective, gut bacteria have adapted to cooked vegetables and raw vegetables are not necessarily more healthy.
A 2015 study found that people who ate spicy foods six or seven days each week had a 14% lower risk of dying from cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases. But for some individuals, spicy foods eaten on an empty stomach can irritate the gastric mucosa and increase acid production in the stomach, which leads to a variety of digestive disorders.