Bloating is one of the the most common adverse effects that many people experience after eating certain foods. Approximately one in ten Americans report that they regularly suffer from bloating even when they haven’t eaten a large meal.
Abdominal bloating is characterized by the stomach feeling full, tight, or swollen. Oftentimes, bloating is typically caused by one’s diet and is rarely a sign of a serious medical condition. So today I wanted to talk about some foods that can cause bloating and what to eat instead!
What exactly is bloating and what causes it?
We’ve all felt it after our digestive system is triggered by a certain food or beverage. So why exactly do we feel bloated?
Abdominal bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. This is typically caused by a mild intolerance or allergy which causes excessive gas production, and as a result the air gets trapped within the intestines. The most common intolerances are wheat and dairy, scroll on to learn more!
Aside from eating particular foods, simple reasons for bloating can include:
- Overeating: Eating too much can make you feel uncomfortably stuffed. In addition, fats and animal products take longer to digest than proteins, which can keep the stomach feeling full for longer.
- Eating too fast: Drinking or eating too quickly can increase the amount of air that you swallow, which leads to buildup in the GI tract.
- Chewing gum: When you chew gum, you end up swallowing more air than usual which increases bloating. Also, sugar free gums can contain ingredients such as xylitol and sorbitol which can ferment in the gut.
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about what bloating is and some common triggers, let’s talk about some foods and better alternatives!
Top 5 Foods & Beverages to look out for
Wheat contains a protein called gluten which is pretty well-known nowadays as the bad guy. Gluten can cause bloating, stomach pain, gas and diarrhea for some individuals. In addition, sensitivity to gluten can be due to celiac disease which affects about 1 percent of the American population. Although some people are not necessarily gluten intolerant or celiac, it can negatively impact the digestive system.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity affects up to 6 percent of the population according to a report in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Gluten also contains little to no essential nutrients. Foods that commonly contain gluten include bread, pasta and baked goods. It’s also found in many grains such as wheat, barley and rye.
Alternatives to wheat that may not cause bloating include pure oats, quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice and coconut flours. 🌾
Dairy includes a range of products from milk, cheeses, yogurts and baked goods. Although many people consume dairy daily in various foods and drinks, up to 75 percent of the world’s population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy and therefore are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the impaired ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Interestingly enough, affected individuals typically have difficulty digesting fresh milk, but can consume certain dairy products such as cheese or yogurt without discomfort. This is because these foods are processed using methods that break down much of the lactose.
Nonetheless, many people do experience adverse effects from dairy and animal products such as weight-gain, digestive issues and inflammation. In addition, there are much healthier sources of calcium that do not contain animal proteins and cholesterol.
Alternatives to dairy include plant-based milks such as soy, almond or rice milk. There are also plenty of plant-based cheeses and yogurts available so be sure to check your local grocery store! 🥤
Beans are full of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Although beans are very healthy for you, they do cause bloating and flatulence (gas). This is because beans contain raffinose which is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is also found in cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Raffinose is poorly digested due to the the lack of an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase in the digestive tract.
As a result, raffinose can pass through both the stomach and small intestine, and enter the large intestine where it is fermented by gut bacteria. This causes the production of gases and therefore bloating.
But don’t let this discourage you from eating beans! They are still very healthy and can be enjoyed in moderation. Adzuki beans, mung beans and lentils can be a great alternative that is easier to digest! 🍲
4. Carbonated Beverages
Carbonated beverages such as sodas and sparkling water contain carbon dioxide which is what creates the bubbles. These bubbles may be fun and games while enjoying a drink, however the gas goes straight to your digestive tract, where it can cause bloating. In addition, many carbonated drinks contain artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours and colourants.
Alternatives to carbonated drinks include lemon water, fruit juices or tea. You would be surprised by how many tasty teas there are out there! 🫖
5. Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar
We all know that artificial sweeteners and sugars are bad for our health, however did you know that they can also cause bloating? Xylitol and sorbitol are amongst the most popular chemical sweeteners today that can be found in anything from candies to gum. These sweeteners provide no nutritional benefit and are not easily broken down in our digestive system. Therefore, they reach the large intestine unchanged where gut bacteria can feed on them. Research from BMC Obesity links these sweeteners with an unhealthy lifestyle and contributor to obesity. So not only does chewing gum cause bloating, the ingredients do too!
Alternatives to artificial sweeteners include dates, coconut sugar or raw honey. Instead of chewing gum, try a healthier alternative such as eating apple slices or a mint every so often. 🍃
Foods that Reduce Bloating
Since we talked about some foods that cause bloating, I wanted to quickly mention some foods that can naturally reduce the associated symptoms!
Foods that are naturally high in fiber, potassium and water content all have the natural ability to reduce bloating. Fiber is important because it helps to regulate digestion, while potassium helps regulate fluid balance and foods high in water content keep you hydrated.
However, it’s crucial to note that not all foods high in these nutrients reduce bloating. Apples are also high in fiber and water content, but can cause bloating because they contain fructose- a sugar that many people find it difficult to digest.
Pears can also cause bloating because they contain sorbitol which can ferment in the gut.
If you do enjoy apples and pears and they cause you to feel bloated, try boiling them first to make them easier to digest!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you learned something new! If you experience bloating, try eliminating certain foods from your diet and see if you are able to determine the culprit. Oftentimes, minor health problems can be solved with a quick change in diet!
If you’re interested in talking about nutrition or learning new ways to become healthier, feel free to book a free consultation with me! 👩🏻⚕️📲
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Gunnars, K. (2018, June 28). 11 proven ways to reduce or eliminate bloating. Healthline. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4.
Igbinedion, S. O., Ansari, J., Vasikaran, A., Gavins, F. N., Jordan, P., Boktor, M., & Alexander, J. S. (2017, October 28). Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: All wheat attack is not celiac. World journal of gastroenterology. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5677194/.
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Staff, F. E., & Rice, A. (2021, July 7). Bloating – bloated stomach – what causes bloating? familydoctor.org. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://familydoctor.org/condition/bloating/.
Winther, R., Aasbrenn, M., & Farup, P. G. (2017, December 27). Intake of non-nutritive sweeteners is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle: A cross-sectional study in subjects with morbid obesity. BMC obesity. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745623/.