Why Does Pho Upset My Stomach? Understanding the Causes of Diarrhea

If you’re a fan of Vietnamese cuisine, you’ve probably heard of pho. This soup, typically made with rice noodles, meat, and herbs, has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, for some people, eating pho can lead to unpleasant digestive symptoms, including diarrhea. In this article, we’ll explore why does pho give me diarrhea and provide tips on how to prevent it.

What is Pho?

Before we dive into the causes of pho-induced diarrhea, let’s briefly discuss what pho is. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that typically consists of broth, rice noodles, meat (usually beef or chicken), and herbs. The broth is typically made by simmering bones (usually beef or chicken) for several hours, which releases the flavors and nutrients from the bones.

Who is Affected by Pho-Induced Diarrhea?

Who is Affected by Pho Induced Diarrhea
Who is Affected by Pho Induced Diarrhea

Not everyone who eats pho will experience diarrhea. However, some people are more prone to digestive issues than others. For example, those with sensitive stomachs may be more likely to experience diarrhea after eating pho. Additionally, if the pho is contaminated with bacteria or other pathogens, it can cause diarrhea in anyone who consumes it.

Why Does Pho Give Me Diarrhea?

What Causes Pho Induced Diarrhea
What Causes Pho Induced Diarrhea

There are several possible causes of pho-induced diarrhea:

1. Food Sensitivities

Some people may have sensitivities or intolerances to certain ingredients in pho, such as gluten or MSG. If your body is unable to properly digest these ingredients, it can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea.

2. Bacterial Contamination

If the pho is contaminated with bacteria, it can cause food poisoning, which often leads to diarrhea. Bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella are common culprits of food poisoning and can be found in contaminated food.

3. Spicy Broth

Pho broth is often seasoned with spices like ginger, cinnamon, and star anise, which can irritate the digestive system and cause diarrhea in some people.

How to Prevent Pho-Induced Diarrhea?

How to Prevent Pho Induced Diarrhea
How to Prevent Pho-Induced Diarrhea

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent pho-induced diarrhea:

1. Choose High-Quality Ingredients

When making pho at home or selecting a restaurant, choose high-quality ingredients to decrease the likelihood of bacterial contamination. Look for restaurants that use fresh ingredients and clean cooking practices.

2. Ask for No MSG

If you have a sensitivity to MSG, ask the restaurant if they use it in their pho broth. If they do, ask if they can make your pho without MSG.

3. Start with Smaller Portions

If you’re new to eating pho or have a sensitive stomach, start with smaller portions to see how your body reacts. This can help you avoid overeating and digestive discomfort.

4. Avoid Spicy Broth

If you know that spicy foods upset your stomach, opt for a milder broth when ordering pho. Alternatively, you can ask the restaurant to make your broth less spicy.

Pros and Cons of Eating Pho

Like any food, there are both pros and cons to eating pho:


  • Pho is rich in nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • The broth in pho may have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Pho is a flavorful and satisfying meal that can be customized to suit individual tastes.


  • Pho can be high in sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues.
  • Depending on the restaurant, pho may be made with low-quality ingredients.
  • Some people may experience digestive issues like diarrhea after eating pho.

Alternatives to Pho

If you’re looking for alternative dishes to try that won’t cause digestive issues, here are a few options:

  • Bun Cha: A Vietnamese dish made with grilled pork and noodles.
  • Banh Mi: A Vietnamese sandwich made with meat or tofu, pickled vegetables, and herbs.
  • Bo Kho: A spicy beef stew typically served with bread or rice.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Pho

If you’re interested in making your own pho at home, here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Roast beef bones in the oven until browned.
  2. Place bones in a large pot and add water, onion, ginger, and spices like cinnamon and star anise.
  3. Simmer the broth for several hours, skimming off any foam that forms on top.
  4. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  5. Cook rice noodles according to package instructions.
  6. Slice cooked beef into thin strips.
  7. Assemble bowls of pho by placing noodles, beef, and herbs in each bowl and pouring hot broth over them.

Tips for enjoying Pho Without Digestive Issues

Tips for enjoying Pho Without Digestive Issues
Tips for enjoying Pho Without Digestive Issues

If you love pho but want to avoid digestive issues, here are a few additional tips:

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking water before, during, and after eating can help aid digestion and prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate digestive issues.

2. Eat Slower

Eating too quickly can lead to overeating and digestive discomfort. Take your time when eating pho, and chew each bite thoroughly to aid digestion.

3. Add Probiotics to Your Diet

Probiotics can help improve gut health and reduce the risk of digestive issues like diarrhea. Consider adding probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or taking a probiotic supplement to your diet.

Comparing Pho to Other Noodle Soups

Pho is one of many noodle soups out there. Here’s how it compares to some other popular noodle soups:


Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup that typically uses wheat noodles and a meat-based broth. Unlike pho, ramen often includes toppings like eggs, pork, and seaweed.

Tom Yum:

Tom Yum is a Thai soup made with lemongrass, chili peppers, and shrimp or chicken. It has a spicy and sour flavor and is typically served with rice.


Udon is a Japanese noodle soup made with thick, chewy noodles and soy sauce-based broth. It often includes toppings like tempura and tofu.

The Best Pho Restaurants in the US

If you’re a pho lover looking for the best places to try this delicious soup, here are a few top-rated options:

1. Pho 79 – Garden Grove, CA

Pho 79 is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving up delicious pho for over 30 years. Their broth is made with beef bones and spices and simmered for over 24 hours.

2. Pho Saigon – Houston, TX

Pho Saigon is a popular spot in Houston known for its flavorful pho broth and generous portions of meat and noodles.

3. Pho Hoa – San Jose, CA

Pho Hoa has been serving up delicious pho since 1983. Their broth is made with high-quality beef bones and includes traditional herbs like coriander and star anise.


So, why does pho give me diarrhea? While pho is a delicious and nutritious meal, it can cause digestive issues like diarrhea in some people. By understanding the possible causes of pho-induced diarrhea and following our tips for preventing it, you can enjoy this tasty soup without any unwanted side effects.


  1. Can pho be reheated? Yes, pho can be reheated. However, if you’re reheating leftovers, make sure to heat them to at least 165°F to kill any harmful bacteria.
  2. Is pho gluten-free? It depends on the type of noodles used. If rice noodles are used, then the dish is gluten-free. However, some restaurants may use wheat-based noodles.
  3. Can I freeze pho? Yes, pho can be frozen. However, the texture of the noodles may change slightly upon thawing.
  4. Does pho have MSG? Some restaurants may use MSG to enhance the flavor of their broth. However, many restaurants now offer MSG-free options.
  5. Is pho healthy? Pho can be a healthy meal option as it is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, it can also be high in sodium, depending on the preparation method.
About Mai Tran

As Mai Tran, the author of the Bunker Vietnamese website specializing in Vietnamese food, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all my readers. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I have always had a deep appreciation for the rich and diverse flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Through my website, I aim to share my passion for cooking and my cultural heritage with the world. From traditional recipes passed down through generations to modern twists on classic dishes, my website is a celebration of the vibrant and delicious world of Vietnamese food. Join me on this culinary journey and discover the beauty and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine.

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