Avocados contain polyols, which can cause stomach ache in people who can’t digest fruit sugars. The natural food chemicals like amines, glutamates, and salicylate in the ripe fruit are also potential stomach irritants for some people. But in 40% of the cases, the stomach pain and nausea is attributable to latex-fruit syndrome, a cross-reacting allergy that makes people who are allergic to latex sensitive to avocado.
Given the health benefits of avocado, many of us include avocado in our daily diet. Avocado, or alligator pear or butter fruit, is a stone fruit with creamy flesh. Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which make up about 16 percent of the fruit, and other nutrients like the rich water-soluble vitamin pantothenic acid, which improves the immune system, the fruit is also rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins C, E, and K. Oleic acid (C18:1), the most prevalent MUFA in the diet, contributes to 58.6 percent of the total fatty acid content found in avocados1 and gives the fruit its therapeutic value in reducing cholesterol and inflammation and aiding in fat burning and weight loss. It meets the definition of a functional food as outlined by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) in that it provides health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
Unfortunately, this fruit does not suit all. Some of us experience intense stomach ache, bloating, gassiness, flatulence, and stomach ache after consuming the fruit in any form.
The simplest reason could be that you are overindulging. However, it could also have to do with your allergies. If you are allergic to latex, there’s a 40% chance you would be allergic to avocados. This cross-reactive allergy, called latex-fruit syndrome, happens when your body cannot distinguish between a latex allergen and an avocado protein that has a similar structure. The immune response usually directed towards the latex allergen is then directed toward the avocado protein. This is what causes vomiting and stomach ache.
The other possible reason could be certain natural chemicals present in the fruit. Many people can be sensitive to certain chemicals that occur naturally in food items. Avocado is rich in glutamates and amines like tyramine and histamine whose levels increase with the ripening and softening of the fruit. While some people tolerate these compounds easily, some are sensitive to them. They could experience abdominal pain accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms like stomach upset, gassiness, or flatulence. Avocados also contain salicylates, which cause gas, bloating, stomach pain, and even diarrhea.
Yet another cause of abdominal pain experienced after eating avocado may be the poor absorption of fructose or fruit sugar. Avocados fall under the FODMAPs (fermented oligosaccharides, disachharides, monosachharides, and polyols) category of fruits, which means that it contains fruit sugars or fruit sugar alcohols that cannot be easily broken down. In patients suffering from the complicated dietary condition known as fructose malabsorption, the fructose absorbs water by osmosis, which propels the bowel contents into the colon, where bacteria act upon it and release gases. This accounts for the bloating or stomach ache one often experiences after eating fruits. Avocados contain polyols or fruit sugar alcohols, which, though not as harmful as fructose is for people with this condition, might prove harmful for many. In such cases, it’s best to consume the fruit in moderation.
Avocado is high in its fiber content, with 100 g of the fruit carrying about 6 g to 7 g of fiber in it. This fiber, too, can be guilty of causing bloating and flatulence after the consumption of avocado. Though fiber is essential for our body, the optimal fiber dose for people suffering from various ailments is not yet known. As a result, people with low fiber-tolerance may run the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction, diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
The best form of prevention is abstinence. Not just the fruit or any other food preparation that contains even a slice of the fruit, you also need to avoid cosmetics like lotions or shampoos that contain avocado extracts. If, on some days, you feel your dish cannot do without an avocado, try the chayote squash instead which is a good substitute for avocado.
If fiber intolerance is the cause of your gas and bloating, you needn’t go off avocados entirely; reduce the amount. Gradually increase the amount of fiber you take in daily to adapt your body to increased amounts. Eventually, you can start eating greater quantities of avocados and other fibrous foods, but please be warned that there will be a saturation point and you will have to find what the optimum amount for you is.
If you have already consumed the fruit by mistake and are in pain, what do you do? Drink plenty of water. As simple a solution as it may sound, water will dilute the effect of the allergen and help you flush it out of your system. You may also try warm ginger tea with honey to soothe your irritated stomach. Eat light food and give your upset stomach some rest.
If you are still feeling too unwell and experience severe stomach pain and vomiting, get medical advice right away before things worsen.