Common Causes of Gut Sensitivities

Common Causes of Gut Sensitivities

Does your stomach ever feel upset, maybe after eating certain foods or at particular times of the day? Does it feel just a little uncomfortable sometimes?

Your digestive tract is a complex system using many processes to help you break down the food you eat, enable your body to absorb the nutrients, and expel the waste. Each part has to work in harmony with the others to keep you regular and free from discomfort. When an element of this ecosystem is off, it can manifest in a variety of ways.

Here are 4 of the most common causes of gut sensitivity:

4 Most Common Causes of Gut Sensitivity


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) results from an excess of bacteria in the small intestine that disrupts the microbiome balance. This imbalance causes bloating and gas, fatigue, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. It is a condition that can lead to malnutrition as the excess bacteria start to consume your system’s nutrients.

Poor diet and lifestyle choices usually cause SIBO, though chronic stress can also cause it.

Acid Reflux

If you suffer from burning pain in the lower chest area you might have acid reflux. It is caused by some of your stomach contents (including the hydrochloric acid that is secreted by the stomach lining) moving back up into your esophagus.

Commonly known as heartburn, acid reflux happens to most people occasionally but if this occurs frequently, say three or more times a week, you may have developed gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as many as one in five people in the US may have GERD.

Though some instances of acid reflux have no obvious cause, most are caused by chronic stress, spicy, acidic, or fatty foods, alcohol, tomatoes, and coffee.

Enzyme Deficiency

If your body lacks certain enzymes, then it will not be able to digest certain compounds. People who are lactose intolerant are prime examples of enzyme deficiency, as they lack the necessary enzyme to digest lactose.

Lactose intolerance often develops in adulthood, and treatment usually means avoiding dairy products unless they are lactose-free.

Food Intolerance

While we most commonly think of lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance when we think of food intolerances, the body can also be (or develop) intolerances to other compounds in the foods we eat. This can result in some stomach upset and feelings of fatigue when we consume these foods.

If you think you may be intolerant to a food, and many people are, try an elimination diet. Remove the following foods completely from your diet:

  1. Dairy
  2. Wheat
  3. Gluten
  4. Corn
  5. Beans

Avoid them for 2-3 days, then reintroduce them one by one and you will find out which triggers the adverse reaction. You can then eliminate this foodstuff from your diet and allow your gut to function optimally.


Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.