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Why Does Salad Upset My Stomach?

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Trying to eat healthy but finding that your green-packed lunch is giving you a sour stomach? Here’s why.

You just ordered a salad for lunch — instead of the burger you wanted — and feel like you’re killing it at the clean-eating game. So why is your stomach in knots all of a sudden?

Here are a few reasons you might be dealing with some less than desirable reactions, like bloating and heartburn, after making this healthy meal choice.

Reason #1: Kale and other greens are high in fiber.

Research1 has identified 45 different flavonoids in kale, which are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-like effects. But kale, specifically raw kale, is also loaded with insoluble fiber. While that can help digestion for some individuals, others can be sensitive to high-fiber foods2. When in doubt, order a salad that mixes kale with other greens so you don’t miss out on its hefty health benefits.

Reason #2: You’re using a vinaigrette dressing.

Vinegar — a common ingredient in most vinaigrette dressings — is acidic and can be a heartburn trigger3 for some people. If you go heavy on the dressing, you may feel the effects of acid reflux, even if you avoided more known heartburn triggers like tomatoes, citrus, or onions4.

Reason #3: Your salad is actually a big meal.

The cold, hard truth is that just because you start a meal with lettuce doesn’t mean it’s always going to be considered “light.” If your salad is full of add-ons like chicken or steak, cheese, beans, croutons, a heavy dressing, and other toppings like tortilla chips, you’re now eating a pretty big meal, which can increase stomach pressure and add to acid reflux symptoms5. This is doubly true if you’re using a full-fat, dairy-based dressing, as full-fat dairy products can trigger heartburn symptoms6.

Keeping these tips in mind the next time you decide to order a salad for lunch should help this healthy choice treat your body right, but if heartburn symptoms still end up surprising you, make sure to have a bottle of TUMS handy. TUMS provides fast relief for your toughest heartburn, going to work in seconds to neutralize acid on contact1 and get you back to feeling great.