breakfast cereal upsets my stomach
August 14, 2010 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Why does this breakfast cereal upset my stomach, despite all of its ingredients appearing to be safe for me?

I am lactose-intolerant. A breakfast cereal I was eating was consistently giving me symptoms similar to lactose intolerance, but none of the ingredients are apparent sources of lactose. I emailed the manufacturer and they claimed that this was a lactose-free product. Additionally, all of the ingredients are things that I consume in other products, without recognizable problems. One remote possibility is that lactose could be present on the cereal's manufacturing equipment. But I am skeptical that I'm that sensitive to trace amounts of lactose.

Here's the full list of ingredients: whole oat flour, whole wheat flour, unsulphured molasses, malted barley extract, baking soda, salt, natural vitamin e (mixed tocopherols (soy)), vitamin c.

I was having this cereal with soy milk or hemp milk at around 9am, and getting symptoms in the afternoon. When I gave up this cereal and switched to others, the symptoms stopped.

Do you have any advice on identifying why this cereal with this set of ingredients would cause digestion problems for me? Do you recognize ingredients in this list that could produce such symptoms? My doctor has not been helpful when I bring up food intolerance. Since I was able to eliminate this item from my diet, along with the symptoms it caused, I'm in a better place already. But it would be even better to know what to avoid.
posted by germdisco to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
Molasses has a natural laxative effect. Some people have a hard time digesting whole grains. You could be sensitive to gluten. But the only way you could really pinpoint your sensitivity would be to eliminate one ingredient from your diet at a time and see if your symptoms improve.

I'd start with the molasses. It's probably the easiest thing to avoid on that list.
posted by corey flood at 10:10 PM on August 14, 2010

I agree about the molasses. I have an undetermined irritable/inflammatory bowel disease, and molasses (while I love them) set off diarrhea (sorry to be gross). Mixed with whole grains, that could cause a laxative reaction to me, I know.
posted by xingcat at 10:22 PM on August 14, 2010

People often have problems digesting soy and fructose (in your case, in the molasses), that might be the problem. You could try cutting sources of either of those out of your diet.
posted by scrambles at 10:26 PM on August 14, 2010

Molasses or the malted barley are the two that jump out at me as being likely to trigger symptoms.
posted by scody at 11:24 PM on August 14, 2010

Malted anything would raise a flag.
posted by watercarrier at 12:44 AM on August 15, 2010

Was the cereal by any chance a Kashi product? Kashi-related gas is well documented on the internet. Google Kashi gas for more information.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:39 AM on August 15, 2010

Here's my reply, copied and pasted from this lactose-intolerance related post.

Just wanted to put this out there in case it's not only *lactose* intolerance that is your issue.

I was born lactose intolerant, my whole family is lactose intolerant, and despite strict avoidance of all dairy products, I spent the first 30-odd years of my life getting sick from just about everything I ate. In my early thirties I was diagnosed with fructose intolerance, in addition to the lactose intolerance.

Long story short, it meant the end of packaged/processed food for me, because in the United States, fructose - in other words, High Fructose Corn Syrup - is in just about *everything* that comes in a package. In my mid-thirties, I learned how to cook for myself, and the problem was solved. In short, fructose intolerance means (for me, as mine is severe): no fruit, no sugar, no processed food. Some folks can be more lenient; I am not one of them.

Doctors absolutely *suck* at diagnosing this stuff. Unless you luck out like I did (it took a doctor educated in another country to actually go beyond the usual IBS/lactose intolerance writeoff) your chances of getting diagnosed are pretty slim.

IANAD. Now that that's out of the way, if you want to test for fructose intolerance, here is a pretty good elimination diet to try. If your symptoms improve - voila! - it's the fructose, not (or in addition to) the lactose.

If you try this out and want more info, feel free to MeMail me. Best of luck to you!

Ingredients that stand out to me would be wheat, soy, and molasses. All contain fructose and/or fructans, which would cause problems in a fructose intolerant individual.
posted by chez shoes at 9:01 AM on August 15, 2010

Response by poster: > Was the cereal by any chance a Kashi product?

No, but thanks for mentioning that.
posted by germdisco at 10:04 AM on August 15, 2010

It sounds like it's pretty high in iron (because of the molasses). Multivitamins containing iron always upset my stomach if I take them on an empty stomach. Maybe that's the issue?
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:19 PM on August 15, 2010

It could also just be from an increase in fiber. I'm not sure how much fiber you're usually getting, but it can take time to adjust to that. A high fiber meal (especially coupled with complex sugars) can give you symptoms just like lactose intolerance.
posted by Mamarati at 10:26 PM on August 15, 2010

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