Food Side Effects: Possible Negative Consequences Of Eating

Interesting facts. Did you know?..
  • Persons with a history of suicide attempt do not eat enough of polyunsaturated fat and fiber[8]
  • Children often develop tolerance to cow's milk, egg, wheat by school age, whereas allergies to nuts, fish and seafood are generally not outgrown no matter at what age they develop[14]

When you feel like eating something and think of food, what comes to mind first? Probably it's the taste, odor or color. Those who have to look after their weight will think of the portion size, many think of things like energy, fats, sugars, vitamins or other nutrients.

But do you know that the food we eat may cause side effects - something that is usually attributed to drugs and medicines? And we are not talking about spoiled or poor quality food. Freshly harvested or just cooked food may also cause side effects, some are serious, some are just disturbing, and some may put you into embarrassing situation.

However, it doesn't mean that you should avoid the food represented on this list. These foods may cause side effects. Most effects do not occur in everyone and they occur not every time you eat such food. And besides that, the significance of most foods (especially fruits, vegetables and even chocolate) outweighs the possible undesirable effects they may cause.

Here is a list of side effects that may be caused by the food.

1 Allergy

In theory, any food can cause an allergy. But in fact just a handful of them are to blame for 90% of allergic reactions[2]. Most people with food allergies are allergic to fewer than 4 foods. The foods most commonly causing allergic reactions are[14]:

  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Soya
  • Fish
  • Shellfish (including mussels, crab and shrimps)
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts

Other foods that may cause allergy are:

  • Garlic
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Chilli peppers
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Oranges
  • Chicken
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato
  • Pork
  • Beef

2 Food-Drug Interactions

Many foods and beverages may change the effects of medications, leading to the loss of the therapeutic effects or increased side effects. The change is called food-drug interaction.

Some common and significant food-drug interactions are:

  • Grapefruit juice contains flavinoids and compounds called furanocoumarins, which alter the metabolism of medications by blocking the activity of cytochrome P-450. A single glass of grapefruit juice can significantly affect the action of calcium channel blockers, statins, neuropsychiatric drugs, and antihistamines [40]
  • Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale) and other Vitamin-K rich foods interfer with the effectiveness and safety of warfarin [41]
  • Tyramine-containing foods (e.g. aged cheeses; dried, fermented, smoked, and pickled meats and fish) when consumed during treatment with antibiotic linexolid (Zyvox) or MAO inhibitors can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels.

3 Bad Breath

There are specific foods that may cause bad breath. This is because they contain volatile sulfur compounds - the culprit in causing bad breath. These foods have odors which are picked up by the blood system and are exhaled through the lungs up for several days after a meal:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Curry
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy foods (in lactose intolerant persons)
  • Sugars

4 Body Odor

According to research[15], red meat and processed foods have a negative impact on body odor attractiveness.

5 Diarrhea

Many people experience diarrhea after eating the following:

  • Sorbitol containing foods - apple juice, pear juice, and some mixed fruit drinks
  • Unripe fruits
  • Raw vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Fatty foods
  • Spinach
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Sesame seed oils

6 Constipation

The most common cause of constipation are lack of fiber and a lot of animal fat. Constipation may be caused by:

  • Meat - particularly beef, pork
  • Refined grains - biscuits, macaroni, cookies, pastries, bread, pasta, pretzels, rolls
  • Starchy foods - potatoes, rice, corn, beans
  • Dairy products - milk, cheese, ice cream[16]
  • Prepackaged and fast foods - hamburgers, fries, hotdogs, pizza, chips
  • Products heavy in sugar

7 Gas, Flatulence, Abdominal Bloating

Most foods that contain carbohydrates can cause gas. By contrast, fats and proteins cause little gas. Foods that commonly cause gas are[17]:

  • Raffinose containing foods - beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, whole grains
  • Lactose containing foods - milk, cheese, ice cream, bread, cereal, salad dressing
  • Fructose containing foods - onions, artichokes, pears, wheat
  • Sorbitol containing foods - apples, pears, peaches, prunes
  • Starches - potatoes, corn, noodles (Rice is the only starch that does not cause gas)
  • Foods high in fiber - oat bran, wheat bran

8 Frequent Urination

Many foods high in vitamin C have natural diuretic properties and can lead to frequent bathroom visits.

  • Water-melon
  • Melon
  • Cranberry juice
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Anise
  • Celery
  • Lemon
  • Cabbage
  • Coffee (in moderate amounts)
  • Tea

9 Edema, Swelling, Water Retention

Foods high in salt, sodium or sugar may cause the body to retain considerable fluids and worsen edema. The body needs a constant concentration of salt in its tissues. When excess salt is taken in, the body dilutes it by retaining fluid. Foods that commonly cause water retention are:

  • Salty foods - olives, pickles, soy sauce, canned soups, bacon, sausages, ham, salted nuts, processed meats, chips, pretzels, smoked fish
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine (too much of it)

10 Heartburn & Acid Reflux

There is a relatively long list of foods that cause heartburn. Some foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter - a muscle that helps to keep stomach contents out of the esophagus - to become weaker, and some cause the stomach to produce more acid than usual. Both of these problems can increase acid reflux. Other foods can further irritate the lining of the esophagus after it's been damaged by reflux. Most common food triggers for heartburn are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits - lemons, grapefruits and oranges
  • Chocolate
  • Fried and fatty foods[22] - french-fries, potato chips, hash browns, fried clams, bacon, sausage, hotdog
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Carbonated beverages (such as soda)
  • Spicy foods - burritos, tacos, curry, homos, Cajun foods
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Peppermint and spear mint

11 Stress

Interesting facts. Did you know?..

  • People who aren't overweight eat more fruit and fiber than overweight people. Obese people are more likely than normal-weight people to injure themselves
  • Fast food is high in energy and low in essential micronutrient density. Frequent fast food consumption may contribute to weight gain[10]

Certain foods and drinks act as powerful stimulants to the body and hence are a direct cause of stress. These foods are called "pseudostressors" or "sympathomimetics":

  • Caffeine containing foods (coffee, tea, colas and chocolates)
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugar
  • Wite flour
  • Salt
  • Saturated fats
  • Processed foods, such as junk foods and fast foods, contain synthetic additives - preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers and flavor-enhancers

12 Insomnia

There are both foods that can help you fall asleep and the ones that will keep you awake. Sleepy foods contain a chemical - an amino acid - called tryptophan. And foods that can interfere with sleep are:

  • Caffeine containing - coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Fatty or spicy food
  • Food additives (MSG, artificial colours, flavourings)

13 Sleepiness ("Sleepy Foods")

High-carbohydrate, low-protein combination is thought to increase the availability of tryptophan to the brain, which helps it make more melatonin and serotonin. The following foods may produce sleep-inducing effect:

  • Dairy products: cottage cheese, cheese, milk
  • Soy products: soy milk, tofu, soybean nuts
  • Honey
  • Almonds
  • Banana
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Hummus
  • Lentils
  • Turkey
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds
  • Papaya

14 Gastritis, Peptic Ulcers

Tip: Green tea drinking (more than 10 cups per day) prevents chronic atrophic gastritis (CAG)[18]

Although diet does not directly cause gastritis or peptic ulcers, it may increase the risk of developing them and make them worse. Certain foods may increase the stomach acids and irritate the stomach lining. Fast food may aggravate gastritis. These contain sodium and calcium propionate, which, over a period of time, can damage the stomach lining.

Foods that often irritate the stomach lining are:

  • Spicy foods - black and red pepper, chilies, chili powder, and hot peppers
  • Very acidic foods - coffee, lemon, pineapple, orange, tomato
  • Alcohol
  • Fast food such as pastries, buns, pizzas

15 High Blood Pressure

Tip: Dark chocolate may be a mild hypotensive (blood-pressure lowering)[23], while high fruit and vegetable intakes may be associated with a lower increase in BP with aging[24]

Foods that may cause high blood pressure are:

  • Meat[4]
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Fatty foods

16 High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)

High intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol increases blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Saturated fats tend to raise both HDL ("good") and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Trans fats are produced by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen. Trans fats are even worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise LDL and lower HDL cholesterol.

Scientific studies have shown that there is a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person consumes and their blood cholesterol levels. However, for some people, reducing the amount of cholesterol in the diet has a small but helpful impact on blood levels[35]. And the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. And if you have heart disease, the recommendation is to limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams.

Foods high in saturated fats:

  • Fatty meats (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Lard
  • Skin and fat of poultry
  • Processed meats (bologna, hotdogs, bacon, sausages)
  • High-fat dairy products (whole milk, cream, ice cream, whole-milk cheeses, butter)
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Egg yolks

Foods high in trans fats:

  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils, vegetable shortenings, margarines
  • Bakery goods (cookies, crackers, cakes, donuts)
  • Fried foods (French fries, chips)

17 Kidney Stones

In general, certain foods increase the risk for stones, but only in people who have genetic or medical vulnerability. People whose diets are high in animal protein and insufficient in fiber and fluids may be at higher risk for stones.

A number of foods contain oxalic acid, but there is no proof that such foods make any major contribution to calcium oxalate stones in people without other risk factors. However, several studies have shown that increasing dietary calcium and restricting salt, animal protein, and foods rich in oxalate can help prevent calcium oxalate stones from returning[26].

Foods associated with an increased risk of kidney stones are:

Interesting to know: A high dietary calcium intake is strongly suspected of increasing the risk of kidney stones. However, a high dietary calcium intake appears to decrease the risk of symptomatic kidney stones, because calcium can reduce the urinary excretion of oxalate[28]. Consumption of coffee, tea, beer, and wine decreases the risk of stone formation[29]

  • Rhubarb[25]
  • Spinach[25]
  • Beets[25]
  • Swiss chard
  • Wheat germ[25]
  • Soy foods
  • Peanuts[25]
  • Strawberries[25]
  • Chocolate and cocoa foods[30]
  • Black Indian tea[25]
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fructose[27]
  • Apple juice[29]
  • Grapefruit juice[29]
  • High sodium foods
  • Meat protein[31]
  • Salt[31]

18 Migraine & Headache

Foods may trigger not only migraine but also tension type headache attacks. Studies that linked food with the migraines date back to the 1920's when researchers began to examine and manipulate the diets of people suffering from migraines. Certain foods often cause headache because of their high content of the amino acids tyramine and phenyethyamine. The tyramine increases blood flow to the brain which can lead to a headache. Other foods cause headache in most vulnerable people because nitrites are added.

"Headache foods" are:

  • Beer[20]
  • Red wine[20]
  • Aged cheese[20] - Swiss, Blue cheese, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Stilton, Parmesan
  • Chocolate (high contaent of phenylethylamine)[20]
  • Ice cream, milk
  • Citrus fruits - lemons, grapefruits, oranges[1]
  • Bananas, figs, raisins, papayas, avocados (especially if overripe)
  • Chicken liver
  • Herring
  • Vinegar and pickled food
  • Fatty foods
  • Nitrite-containing foods[21] - bacon, hot dogs, salami, sausage, bologna, lox
  • Nuts (especially cashews or almonds)
  • Eggs
  • Yeast
  • Wheat
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)[21]
  • Aspartame[21]

19 Arthritis, Gout

Gout, a type of rheumatoid arthritis, gets aggravated when sharp crystal shards of uric acid collect between joints and cause painful inflammation. The body breaks down foods containing purines - an organic substance - into uric acid, usually a neutral but unnecessary chemical that is then filtered out of the bloodstream by the kidneys. Frequent and high intake of purine-rich foods can cause or aggravate gout.

Research has shown that higher levels of meat and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout, whereas a higher level of consumption of low-fat dairy products is associated with a decreased risk. Moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables or protein is not associated with an increased risk of gout[3].

  • Fatty red meats (beef, lamb), pork
  • Organ meat (kidney, heart, and liver)
  • Certain seafood (sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, anchovy)
  • Beer[5]
  • High-fat dairy (whole milk, ice cream, butter, cheese)
  • Fried and orocessed foods
  • Synthetic sweeteners

20 Acne

Some foods have inflammation-inducing properties. Foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids increase the sebum production in the body, which in turn increases acne.

  • Dairy products[11-12]
    • Milk
    • Cheese
    • Cream
  • High-glycemic index foods[13]
    • White sugar
    • White flour (white bread, french bread pasta, puffed wheat)
    • Jelly beans
    • Waffles, wafer biscuits
    • Potato
    • Cornflakes
    • Doughnuts
  • Foods with high salt content
    • Pre-packaged puddings
    • Sandwich meat
    • Pretzels
    • Crackers
    • Canned soups, stews or vegetables

21 Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the normal yeast in the body. So foods that the yeast is feeding on can promote yeast growth and lead to an infection:

  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Sugars
    • White sugar
    • Brown sugar
    • Syrups
    • Honey
    • Fructose
    • Sorbital
    • Dried fruits and fruit juice
  • Vinegar and condiments containing vinegar (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing)
  • Starches
  • Refined carbohydrates
    • White flour
    • White rice
    • White potatoes
    • Grains
  • Yeast and yeast containing products
    • Beer
    • Mushrooms
    • Bread
    • Cider
    • Fruit skins
    • Malt beverages
    • MSG (often extracted from autolyzed yeast extract or from wheat)
    • Wine
    • Yeast Extract

22 Memory & Cognition Impairment

Interesting facts. Did you know?..

  • Fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids consumption may reduce the risk of impaired cognitive function, whereas intake of cholesterol and saturated fats can increase the risk[9]

Among older adults whose diets are high in saturated and trans fats, a high intake of foods containing copper may cause a fast decline in their ability to think, learn, and remember, according to the study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago[34]. Other research data have linked fat intake, especially that of saturated and trans fats, to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of cognitive difficulties[7].

Foods linked to memory and cognition problems are:

  • Saturated and trans fats[6]
  • High cholesterol food[9]
  • Organ meats (liver, kidneys)
  • Shellfish

23 Tooth Decay (Dental Caries)

Research indicates that a higher intake of sugars increases the probability of caries on all surfaces[33]. Foods high in sugar are:

  • Honey
  • Jam
  • Sticky sweets (dried fruits, sugar-coated cereal, cake, cookies, caramel, taffy, candies)
  • Chocolate
  • Peanut butter
  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Starchy foods (bread, rice)
  • Soft drinks

24 Tooth Staining

Well-known chromogenic foods are:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cola
  • Red wine
  • Berries
  • Curry

25 Nausea

Probably the most well-known nausea-causing "food" is alcohol, especially if overused. Other foods that may cause nausea are:

  • Dairy products (Lactose intolerance)
  • Yeast
  • Wheat products (Gluten intolerance)

26 Photosensitivity

Common foods that contain photosensitizing agents are[32]:

  • Fig
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Citrus fruits
  • Mustards
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips

27 Tears

If you where cooking something with onions, you probably know what this is. You slice an onion and shed tears as a result.

28 Thirst

  • Salty foods - bacon, ham, sausages, beef burgers, smoked fish, pickled foods, salted nuts
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugary foods and drinks (candy, chocolate, pastry)

29 Yellow Skin Pigmentation (Carotenemia)

Eating too many foods high in beta-carotene, can cause a condition called carotenemia. High levels of beta-carotene can cause a yellowish discoloration of the skin, most noticeable on the palms and soles. Unlike jaundice, though, carotenemia does not cause yellowing of the whites of the eyes. Foods containing high amounts of beta-carotene are:

  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Citrus fruits
  • Spinach

30 Pink Urine

Eating beets often results in passing of pink or red urine[37].

31 Fertility Problems in Men

Soybeans and soy products are very rich sources of isoflavone phytoestrogens -- compounds with estrogenic activity. These soy phytoestrogens may interfere with male reproductive function resulting in a small decrease in sperm count and fertility[38-39].

32 Weight Gain

Actually, this is not a side effect, but a direct effect of eating[19], particularly high-energy foods or simply consuming more calories than you burn during the day. Weight gvain probably, the most undesirable food side effect.

33 Urine Smell

After eating asparagus your urine may have strange pungent smell[42].

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Created: August 18, 2006
Last updated: February 27, 2017

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All information is for educational purposes only.
For medical advice and diagnoses consult your doctor.