June 23, 2024
My avocado love is real. There’s nothing better than biting into a piece of toast piled high with it…or sipping on a cup of avocado seed tea…or tucking into a bowl of spicy guacamole…or enjoying the salmon-avocado roll from my favorite sushi place. The list goes on and on. In truth, for a long time, if it involved the healthy green fruit, I’d eat it.

Until one day, to my dismay, I felt like I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. No matter how many things I tried (adios to grains, dairy, and added sugars), I couldn’t shake my *ahem* digestive problems. So my doctor recommended I pare down the foods in my diet even further to find the culprit, leaving me avocado-less and a little sad—until I realized it was working. In fact, banishing it (and a bevy of other foods) from my plate left me feeling better than I had in months. Ahead we’re delving into the reasons why avocado may cause an upset stomach, as sad as it may be. 

One day, I felt like I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. No matter how many things I tried, I couldn’t shake my *ahem* digestive problems.

Can avocado irritate your stomach?

What’s the deal? Avocados are supposed to be one of the ultimate health foods (even though the amount of protein in avocado isn’t as much as we may like to think), credited with everything from boosting heart health to revving up your libido. And they keep getting more popular every year—retail sales have steadily increased since 2000, and Americans are filling their carts with billions of dollars worth of ’em (in 2021, $7 billion to be exact), according to the Hass Avocado Board.

The not-so great news? They may be the sneaky culprit behind your stomach irritation. According to Daniel Motola, MD, a gastroenterologist at CareMount Medical, such enthusiasm could actually be part of the problem. For those who can digest them well, the avo-love is totally justified, but they’re definitely not for everybody, which can be attributed to intolerances and allergies that may make this green fruit not-so-agreeable with your digestion. So, if you suspect your avocado intake could be responsible for your digestive issues, you are definitely not alone.

Confession moment: The irony is, I have not always loved avocados. They were an acquired taste for me. You know, one of those foods I had to teach myself to like (hi, broccoli). So did my body just suddenly reject this food I had grown to *finally* love? Dr. Motola suggests it’s more likely that I’d been ill-equipped to digest it all along, and eventually reached a point where I couldn’t tolerate them anymore. (Note to self: Listen to your body.) Here’s why. 

3 reasons why avocado can cause an upset stomach

1. You could be FODMAP-intolerant

This is the category I fall into. FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are sugars that are are poorly absorbed by the intestine so they end up fermenting—hence your digestion and gut issues.

Avocado contains sorbitol, which is a polyol that is also found in peaches, honey, and sugarless chewing gum. So if you’re sensitive to these sugars, like I am, you’re going to have trouble digesting that guac—especially if you’re tempted to polish off a whole tub of it by yourself (same!). Onions, garlic, and apples are other common FODMAPs foods—but it’s unlikely you’re going to chomp into a clove of garlic or eat an entire bushel of apples to experience irritation. 

If you’re sensitive to these sugars, like I am, you’re going to have trouble digesting that guac.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill to cure your avocado-induced digestive probs. (Though there are OTC medications designed to help mitigate symptoms, Dr. Motola isn’t convinced they are particularly effective). Moral of the story: Limit your portion sizes (1/8 of an avocado is considered low-FODMAP), and maybe consider reserving them for special occasions. In other words, less is more if you’re trying to avoid a flare up. Avocado cupcake, anyone?

2. You could have a hypersensitivity

Jessie Lapointe, an NYC-based brand manager, also felt the sting of suddenly developing a negative reaction to avocados. She went from eating whole avocados with a spoon for lunch to getting debilitating cramps one night after a sushi dinner that nearly sent her to the ER. “A few weeks after that awful evening episode, I grabbed a small avocado to toss in a smoothie, and proceeded to consume its contents at warp speed before work,” Lapointe says. “Moments later, I was projectile vomiting. Lesson learned.”

After meeting with her general practitioner and discussing her (seemingly unrelated) latex allergy, Lapointe was diagnosed with “latex fruit syndrome.”

Approximately 30-50 percent of people who are allergic to natural rubber latex also have a hypersensitivity to avocados.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 30-50 percent of people who are allergic to natural rubber latex also have a hypersensitivity, including bananas, kiwis, bell peppers, and—you guessed it—avocados.

Keep in mind, however, hypersensitivities are different from FODMAP intolerances in that they do not involve the fermentation process in the gut, but can provoke gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, abdominal cramping, and vomiting. Hypersensitivities typically involve an immune response against an antigen or allergen.

“Some will say what I have is not actually an allergy, but an intolerance or sensitivity,” Lapointe says. “If I touch avocado, or it’s in beauty products, there is no ill effect. However, even the slightest bit ingested causes gastrointestinal issues.” When in doubt, however, it’s best to consult a medical professional or dietitian to ensure there are no underlying issues and determine the appropriate treatment or dietary course of action. 

3. You could be allergic

Hypersensitivities are tricky because they can present themselves in many ways, but according to Dr. Motola, the symptoms of simple intolerances and allergies are different enough that it should be fairly easy to tell them apart. An intolerance will provoke digestive problems (think: constipation, diarrhea, gas, etc.) that might not manifest for several hours, while an allergic reaction (different than seasonal allergies) triggers more immediate symptoms such as flushing, hives, or swelling of the lips and throat. “Allergy is completely separate from intolerance,” Dr. Motola says. “Allergies invoke the immune system. Digestive intolerances have nothing to do with that.”

Who should avoid avocados?

Dr. Motola strongly recommends seeing a doctor if you notice chronic bouts of diarrhea or other severe reactions after eating because it could be a sign of a more serious issue—such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease—especially if your symptoms persist after decreasing your avocado intake. Additionally, folks with hypersensitivities, allergies, or intolerances to the fruit should also limit or reduce consumption to avoid avocado-induced upset stomachs. 

That said, if you’re like me and you end up limiting (or completely cutting out) your intake of the creamy, decadent fruit, you don’t have to disavow your avo-love altogether. Thanks to tons of equally tasty avocado substitutes to chose from. From pesto to hummus to silken tofu to edamame, there are tons of delicious ways to garnish your morning slice of toast that don’t call for avos. Frankly, you may not even miss them after all.

If you do tolerate avocados well, here are a few surprising health benefits of ’em:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Wagner, S, and H Breiteneder. “The latex-fruit syndrome.” Biochemical Society transactions vol. 30,Pt 6 (2002): 935-40. doi:10.1042/bst0300935


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