Eating cherries is generally good for you and a source of important health benefits, including prebiotic benefits and benefits for gums and teeth health, blood pressure, arthritis pain, constipation and even weight loss. High in water and a source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9, vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and iron, but also dietary fiber and a range of antioxidants, they are one of the healthiest fruits to eat. But no food is devoid of side effects, cherries included. Whether they’re red, yellow or black, cherries can be a source of side effects, albeit generally minor. The bulk of side effects are a result of overeating and are typically self-resolving, provided consumption of the fruit is discontinued. Read on to find out what are the negative health effects of eating cherries.
(1) Stomach upset
Eating cherries can cause stomach upset in some people. If your stomach hurts after eating cherries, then it’s likely you’ve overeaten and/or are simply more sensitive to various components in the fruit such as dietary fiber, the sugar fructose, sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol, mannitol). In rare cases, the stomach upset may be a sign of an allergic reaction to the fruit, in which case other symptoms more specific to an allergic reaction will likely follow (e.g. a rash, wheezing, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, breathing difficulties).
While uncommon, it’s possible to experience heartburn after eating too many cherries. Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest or a burning pain-type of sensation that can be mistaken for a heart attack because of its location. Heartburn is the result of stomach acid escaping into the esophagus where it produces irritation and a burning sensation, hence the name heart-burn. Frequent heartburn occurs in acid reflux disease (also known as GERD) and can be triggered by many foods. While cherries are not normally a trigger food in acid reflux disease, if the condition is allowed to progress and become chronic, otherwise healthy foods such as cherries can, in rare cases, trigger an episode if eaten in excess. The cause might be the high fiber intake from the cherries or, in the case of more acidic varieties, the organic acids present naturally in the fruit.
(3) Gastritis flareup
Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining and can be acute or chronic. If you’re dealing with gastritis, then it’s probably not the best idea to start eating cherries right now, especially not large amounts or every day. It’s known that some of the healthiest foods you can eat can cause gastritis flareups, including cabbage, bell peppers, tomatoes, bananas or cherries and other fruits that are normally eaten with skin. When it comes to cherries causing gastritis flareups, the culprit is the high fiber intake from the fruit and, in the case of more acidic cherry varieties, also the naturally occurring organic acids in the fruit. Both high amounts of fiber and organic acids further irritate the stomach lining, resulting in flareups. Find out what foods to eat and to avoid with gastritis.
(4) Nausea and vomiting
It’s rare and unusual to experience nausea and vomiting as a result of eating cherries. However, these side effects are possible. Nausea and vomiting may occur if, for example, a person has an adverse reaction to pesticides on and in the fruit. Another possible cause is cherry allergy which can progress to anaphylactic shock which is a medical emergency.
(5) Allergic reaction
Cherry allergy is rare when compared to other food allergies such as soy allergy, egg allergy, milk allergy or sesame seed allergy. However, it is possible to have a cherry allergy. Symptoms may be restricted to the mouth and throat in what is known as oral allergy syndrome and include tingling or itching of the lips, mouth and throat, but also swelling of the lips, tongue or throat. The swelling can be so severe it restricts breathing and thus requires immediate medical intervention (similar to anaphylaxis).
Cherry allergy can also present with systemic symptoms including skin symptoms (hives with red, itchy bumps and swelling), symptoms affecting the eyes, nose and ears (itchy, watery, red eyes; itchy and runny nose with abundant clear or white mucus discharge; itchy ears and swelling of the ears), respiratory symptoms (coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, closing of the airways), cardiovascular (low blood pressure, shortness of breath), neurological (headaches, agitation, fainting, seizures, loss of consciousness), digestive (nausea, vomiting, loose stools and diarrhea) and, ultimately, anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical assistance.
(6) Bloating, burping and gas
Bloating, burping and gas are fairly common side effects of eating cherries. Some people experience bloating, burping and gas only after eating too many cherries, while others may experience such side effects irrespective of intake. Possible causes include a high intake of fiber or sensitivity or intolerance to certain components in the fruits such as the sugar fructose or sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol, mannitol).
Diarrhea is a fairly common side effect associated with (over)eating cherries. A too high a intake provides significant amounts of dietary fiber which causes a faster transit and loose stools and even diarrhea. Diarrhea can occur even with otherwise reasonable intakes as a result of a sensitivity or intolerance to various components in the fruit, typically the sugar fructose or the sugar alcohols sorbitol, mannitol etc. In rare cases, diarrhea after eating cherries can be a sign of a cherry allergy. If you experience stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, loose stools and diarrhea, but also a rash, itching or tingling in the mouth or throat, swelling of the tongue or throat, closing of the airways, wheezing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, know these are symptoms of an allergic reaction and you should seek medical help immediately.
Cherries can cause both diarrhea and constipation, but constipation is far less common of a side effect. When it does occur, constipation as a result of eating cherries is caused by overeating, eating cherries with pits (which is not recommended) or a sensitivity or intolerance to components occurring naturally in the fruits (e.g. sugar alcohols). Find out more about cherries and diarrhea and constipation.
(9) IBS flareups with diarrhea
If you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), you might experience flareups in your condition if you eat or overeat cherries. Symptoms most commonly include diarrhea, but also bloating, burping, gas or flatulence, stomach pain, abdominal cramps and non-digestive symptoms such as malaise and fatigue. The negative effects are a result of a sensitivity or intolerance to components occurring naturally in the fruit such as sugar alcohols sorbitol, mannitol and more. Different people may tolerate different amounts of cherries without side effects.