Can Popcorn Cause Stomach Problems? (And Other Popcorn Health Facts)

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: December 1, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Popcorn is often the pinnacle of snack time: it’s crunchy, salty, and oh-so-satisfying. But can popcorn cause stomach problems?

Popcorn doesn’t cause stomach problems but can worsen symptoms from pre-existing problems. Also, the toppings and additives contained in popcorn can cause issues. Your best bet to avoid complications is to know the possibilities ahead of time.

Is Popcorn Hard on the Digestive System?

No, popcorn is not hard on the digestive system unless you have problems processing insoluble fiber.

This type of fiber can be difficult to digest for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions. Insoluble fiber particles can get caught in your intestines’ small pockets, causing inflammation and irritation issues such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

But isn’t fiber a good thing?

Yes, it is. However, soluble fiber is what your body needs, not insoluble fiber. Your body can break down soluble fiber just fine. Still, insoluble fiber creates a sort of net in your digestive system that your body struggles to break down, creating irritation and blockages.

But…moderation is key.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid popcorn – and other sources of insoluble fiber – altogether. It simply means you shouldn’t overdo it by overeating in one sitting or eating it every single day of your life.

Why Does Popcorn Upset My Stomach?

Popcorn can upset your stomach for a few reasons:

  1. You have an underlying gut or stomach issue that’s exacerbated by popcorn, such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, diverticulitis, or colitis
  2. You follow a diet high in fiber
  3. You consume your popcorn alongside other high-fiber foods
  4. Your popcorn of choice is chock full of fats, salt, dairy products, and processed ingredients
  5. You’re eating too much popcorn (well over a suggested serving)

If one or more of these factors are true, then popcorn can upset your stomach. You can avoid this by choosing a non-buttered variety (or popping it yourself), eating it as a standalone snack, and ruling out any underlying issues.

Does Popcorn Raise Blood Sugar?

No, popcorn does not raise blood sugar. Popcorn is a low-sugar, low-calorie snack that is safe to consume without worrying about your blood sugar levels. The only exception will be if you’re consuming kettle corn instead of popcorn, as it contains sugar.

Can Diabetics Eat Popcorn?

Yes, diabetics can safely eat popcorn. The snack does not increase blood sugar levels, as long as it’s not topped with sugary ingredients. Avoiding varieties such as caramel corn and kettle corn and snack mixes with candy or chocolate is a good idea to keep it a safe snack option.

Can People with IBS Eat Popcorn?

popcorn health issues - can you eat popcorn with gastritis

People with IBS should not eat popcorn. Regular or over-consumption can cause or worsen symptoms of IBS. These symptoms, such as inflammation or pain, can be difficult to eliminate once they begin.

Does it matter what type of IBS?

Yes and no. Since your body can’t efficiently digest insoluble fiber, your intestines absorb and pull in more water when you consume it. This causes your bowel movements to take longer and become larger, which could be a big problem for those suffering from IBS-C (regular constipation).

Can Popcorn Upset your Stomach?

Eating too much of any food can upset your stomach. If you do like to eat popcorn regularly, check out some of the healthier options available.

Can popcorn cause stomach pain? Popcorn shouldn’t cause stomach pain if eaten in moderation. However, if slathered in high fat and sugar toppings, popcorn can aggravate certain stomach problems as the stomach struggles to deal with digestion.

If you experience stomach pain after eating popcorn, go see your doctor.

What Are The Side Effects of Popcorn?

You’ll see the side effects of popcorn mostly in those with underlying gut or stomach problems, such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, IBS, or diverticulitis. That doesn’t mean people without those underlying conditions can’t have any side effects; it’s just more common.

Common side effects from popcorn (depending on any pre-existing conditions) include inflammation, constipation, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.

Does Popcorn Cause Inflammation in the Body?

Popcorn can cause inflammation in the body if it is heavily salted. While popcorn is a whole grain and is a healthy snack when served plain, it is often manufactured with lots of salt and additives. Furthermore, if you have a pre-existing health condition, the insoluble fiber in popcorn can aggravate and inflame your bowl.

However, if eaten in moderation, popcorn should not cause inflammation in the body.

Is Popcorn Good for Gastritis? Does Popcorn Aggravate Gastritis?

Yes, popcorn can aggravate gastritis. It can cause gastric irritation as well; popcorn gastritis is actually a condition that emerges from eating popcorn.

If you have gastritis, eating popcorn is not the best idea. The high fiber level paired with the irritants often found on the popcorn – such as butter and salt – can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, indigestion, and constipation.

Thankfully, popcorn won’t make acid reflux worse, so if you suffer a combination of these issues, it shouldn’t worsen those symptoms.

What Happens When You Eat Too Much Popcorn?

If you don’t have any medical conditions that affect the gut, such as IBS or gastritis, it’s perfectly fine to indulge in a popcorn binge every once in a while. Popcorn is quite filling, so it’s difficult to eat too much of it. You shouldn’t experience any serious symptoms from simply eating a lot of it unless you have an underlying gut condition.

Okay, but, worst case scenario?

Eating too much popcorn could develop something called popcorn gastritis, although that’s much more likely if you have an underlying gut condition. This condition presents stomach pain, indigestion, bloating, gas, and constipation.

Can Popcorn Cause Constipation?

Popcorn can cause constipation, but this is usually only true in two cases:

  1. You’re consuming microwave popcorn (versus popping it yourself from plain kernels)
  2. You overconsume popcorn until you’re feeling very, very full

Microwave popcorn can cause constipation versus popping it from plain kernels because of the fats contained in most varieties. That fat is actually what causes constipation, not popcorn.

If you overconsume popcorn, you may also experience constipation due to the overconsumption of the insoluble fiber in every kernel. Take a peek at the serving size suggestion, and don’t go too crazy to avoid this issue.

Is popcorn good for constipation in normal amounts, then?

If neither of the above cases is true, and you choose a healthy variety without a ton of fat, then popcorn shouldn’t cause constipation. It can help you with regular bowel movements in this case.

Can Popcorn Cause Diarrhea?

Popcorn consumption alone is unlikely to cause diarrhea, although it can contribute to the problem. If your diet is already high in fiber, or you’re eating your popcorn alongside other high-fiber foods, then diarrhea could result since it passes through your body quickly.

Another possibility?

Lactose intolerance. Many people suffer from lactose intolerance without even realizing it, and microwave popcorn nearly always contains dairy products such as butter or cheese. These ingredients – not the popcorn – can cause diarrhea for those with some level of this intolerance.

When you know better, you can do better. As it turns out, popcorn doesn’t cause stomach problems. Thank goodness!

If you have underlying issues with your gut, stomach, or digestive system, it may be best to avoid popcorn as it could worsen symptoms. However, if you don’t have any of these issues, snacking on popcorn can be a healthy way to bridge your hunger between meals.


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