Mexican food is delicious, but it has a reputation for causing gas and bloating. If you’ve ever felt gassy and bloated after enjoying some tacos, burritos, or nachos, you’re not alone. Here’s an in-depth look at why Mexican food causes gas and how you can prevent or reduce it.
High Fiber Content of Common Mexican Ingredients
Many staple ingredients in Mexican cooking are high in fiber, which can cause gas.
- Beans: Pinto, black, and refried beans are used in tacos, burritos, nachos, soups and more. Beans contain large amounts of raffinose, a complex sugar that can’t be fully broken down in the small intestine. This leads to bacterial fermentation and gas production when it reaches the large intestine.
- Corn: Corn tortillas and masa (cornmeal dough) are the basis of many Mexican dishes. The insoluble fiber in corn is difficult to digest and can result in gas.
- Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic are aromatic vegetables frequently used in Mexican recipes. They contain fructans, a type of carbohydrate that can cause bloating.
- Jalapeños and chilies: Hot peppers add a spicy kick but are harder to digest due to capsaicin and can irritate the digestive tract.
Spicy Ingredients That Can Irritate The Stomach
Spicy ingredients like chilies, jalapeños, and hot sauces contain irritating compounds that can upset the stomach:
- Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, can inflame the stomach lining.
- Spicy chilies and sauces boost stomach acid production, which can cause indigestion.
- Irritation of the digestive tract leads to intestinal gas and bloating.
- If you already have digestive issues like IBS or GERD, spicy food may worsen symptoms.
Bacterial Fermentation and Gas Production
Gas production after eating Mexican food is due to bacterial fermentation in the large intestine:
- Bacteria and yeasts in the gut convert undigested carbs into gases like hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide.
- Beans, vegetables, and grains in Mexican food provide these bacteria with plenty of fermentable fiber and carbohydrates.
- Ingredients like onions, garlic, and chilies can also cause bacteria to produce more gas.
- Aerophagia, or air swallowing, while eating contributes additional oxygen that feeds these gas-producing bacteria.
Individual Sensitivities to Certain Ingredients
Some people may have intolerances or sensitivities to Mexican food ingredients:
- Lactose intolerance can cause gas, bloating, cramps after eating cheese-laden items.
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity leads to digestive issues with wheat tortillas, flour in sauces.
- Allergies to corn, soy, spices, or food additives like MSG.
- Onion or garlic intolerance.
- Caffeine sensitivity exacerbated by cola drinks.
- Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol can have a laxative effect.
- Histamine intolerance causes problems with beans, avocados, tomatoes, cheese, wine.
Tips to Prevent Gas When Eating Mexican Food
Here are some suggestions to help minimize gas and bloating:
- Avoid carbonated drinks – the bubbles introduce air that gets trapped.
- Limit portions – overeating leads to indigestion and gas.
- Eat slower – rushing can cause excessive air swallowing.
- Reduce high fiber – limit bean, onion, and garlic quantity.
- Pick less spicy options – avoid super hot salsas and chilies.
- Stay hydrated – drink water to help food digest and move through colon.
- Take digestive enzymes – can help breakdown problem carbs like beans.
- Try probiotics – balance gut flora and reduce gas production.
- Avoid triggers – eliminate problem ingredients that affect you.
- Exercise after eating – light movement helps food digest and relieves gas.
Healthy Mexican Meal Choices For Sensitive Stomachs
You can still enjoy Mexican food without suffering later by choosing these gas-friendly options:
- Grilled fish or shrimp tacos or fajitas.
- Chicken or steak with milder green or red sauce.
- Carnitas or shredded chicken tacos with corn tortillas.
- Carne asada without greasy sauce or marinade.
- Cilantro lime rice or cauliflower rice instead of beans.
- Grilled veggies like onions, bell peppers, or zucchini.
- Small portion of black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans.
- Still water with lime instead of soda.
- Unsweetened horchata or agua fresca.
- Light beer like Modelo or Corona without lime.
- Fresh mango or small portion of flan.
- Churros without excessive oil, sugar, and spices.
- Frozen fruit popsicles made with real fruit.
The digestion process and Mexican food
To understand why Mexican food causes gas, it helps to take a closer look at how digestion works:
- Stomach acids and enzymes begin breaking down proteins and carbs.
- The small intestine absorbs most nutrients but has difficulty with compounds like raffinose from beans, lactose, and fructans.
- These compounds reach the large intestine where bacteria ferment them producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gas.
- Ingredients like fiber, fat, and spices influence digestive motility, stomach acid production, and gut microbiota- all of which affect gas production.
- Individual differences in food intolerances, sensitivities, allergies, and digestive conditions also contribute to gas and bloating with Mexican food.
While Mexican food does have a reputation for causing gas, making some simple changes can help minimize discomfort. Being mindful of your personal sensitivities and how different ingredients affect you can allow you to keep enjoying delicious Mexican cuisine without suffering later.
|Reasons Mexican Food Causes Gas||Prevention Tips||Low Gas Food Choices|
|High fiber ingredients like beans, corn, onions||Avoid carbonated drinks||Grilled fish or shrimp|
|Spicy chilies and hot sauce irritate digestive tract||Eat slower and limit portions||Chicken or steak with mild salsa|
|Bacterial fermentation produces gas||Reduce intake of beans, onions||Cauliflower rice instead of beans|
|Lactose, gluten, MSG, onion sensitivities||Pick mild salsas, avoid very spicy||Grilled veggies like zucchini|
|Stay hydrated, take digestive enzymes||Still water instead of soda|
|Eliminate problem ingredients||Fresh mango for dessert|