Digestive Issues in College: How to Avoid Common Freshman Complaints


dreamstime_s_44690835Weight gain, frequently upset stomach, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and difficult bowel movements are all common digestive issues college students experience, particularly in the early months of their freshman year.

For many college students, freshman year is the first time they’ve been away from home for an extended period of time.

As a new college student, it may be the first time in your life that you’re totally in charge of what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With no parent-structured menu, college students are free to eat as much or as little as they please of whatever is offered or affordable. There are a few reasons why this new-found freedom can lead to common digestive issues like the ones mentioned above.


Whether your digestive system is sensitive or not, sometimes being in a different environment with a completely new nutritional schedule and menu can really mess with your digestive system. If your body is used to eating the same types of foods, bought from just a few stores, prepared in a similar way – then you suddenly start eating from a school cafeteria, shop, or a kitchen in student housing – chances are you may experience some complaints from your stomach.

Trying new foods and experimenting with cooking when you’re on your own for the first time are great, but if you are having a reaction, it may be best to take it slow and stick with foods you know and that don’t give you digestive symptoms until you get used to being away at school.

Too much and not enough

As stated earlier, without the familiar structure of home, it’s likely that freshman students may have a hard time figuring out how much food they should be eating on a daily basis. With a lifestyle and schedule very different from high school, along with the standard buffet-style cafeterias, over-eating and under-eating are common. The so-called “freshman 15” refers to the 15 pounds or so that many college freshmen gain during their first year away at school where they are free to over-indulge in calorie-heavy foods several times each day.

It’s important to moderate both how much food you’re eating and what type of food you reach for. Most schools are required to provide a nutritional advisor to guide students through these choices, particularly students who have special nutritional needs such as celiac disease or allergies.


Stress and anxiety are well known causes of certain digestive issues such as indigestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Being in a new school environment with completely different expectations and workloads can be a stressful experience. Most college students find that their digestive issues peak during the first few weeks at college when they are still adjusting to new classes, roommates, professors and friends.

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