Many of us have probably experienced the discomfort of having a bloated stomach, especially after a festive holiday or family feast. That’s when your stomach may feel tight, swollen and enlarged after eating – sometimes accompanied by gassiness, abdominal discomfort, and a pressing need to keep visiting the bathroom.
What causes bloating?
Bloating and gas in the stomach are most commonly caused by a poor diet. If you regularly experience bloating and digestive issues after eating, it may be a sign that you need to make some slight changes to what and how you eat.
Some people may have issues with bloat and digestion because of a sensitivity to foods that are high in FODMAPs. That stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols, which are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The byproduct of this process is gas, which in turn leads to symptoms like bloating, discomfort and flatulence.
7 Foods That Can Cause Bloat
If you frequently find yourself suffering from that “too-full” feeling after meals, you may need to cut back on the intake of high-FODMAP foods in your diet.
For most people, FODMAPs aren’t actually bad – in fact, they’re great for your health and help feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
However, if you have an imbalance in your normal flora and aren’t digesting food well, then you may be leaving more food for the bacteria to ferment. If that’s the case, you may need to consider avoiding these foods for a bit, at least until you’ve got your digestion working better and have rebalanced your micro biome.
Top of the list are legumes: foods like beans, lentils, soybeans and peas. These gas-causing foods are high in protein and sugars called alpha-galactosides, which are part of the FODMAPs family.
Some types of legumes, like lentils, also have a very high fiber content, which can cause bloating in sensitive individuals – especially those who may not be used to eating a lot of fiber.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and many others. These are great sources of essential nutrients like fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin C and vitamin K.
However, they also contain FODMAPs, in the form of a carbohydrate called raffinose. Our bodies don’t make the enzyme to allows us to digest raffinose, so it will pass undigested through the small intestine and be fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. This results in a gas buildup in the colon, which causes bloating and smelly flatulence.
3. Dairy products
If you’re lactose-intolerant (like 75% of the world’s population), dairy can cause some major digestive problems.
Those who are lactose-intolerant lack the necessary enzymes in their bodies to break down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). This causes gas to form in the GI tract, which triggers symptoms like bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
4. Apples and watermelons
An apple a day may keep the doctor away – but unfortunately does not help to prevent bloat. Apples are high in fructose (which is a FODMAP) and fiber. These two culprits can be fermented in the large intestine, leading to gas, bloating and sometimes diarrhea.
The same goes for watermelon, a naturally sweet fruit with a high amount of fructose. While it’s refreshing and great for hot summer days, you may want to avoid snacking on this fruit if you’re particularly prone to bloat.
You probably didn’t expect to see this in the list – but there we have it.
Beer is a carbonated beverage, made from sources of fermentable carbs like barley, maize, wheat and rice, along with some yeast and water. This means that it contains both gas (carbon dioxide) and fermentable carbs, two well-known causes of bloating.
These beloved, creamy fruits are a huge fan favorite, but can cause quite a bit of gassiness, as well as some evening bloating. That’s because avocados contain polyols, a nutrient which amps up the puffiness (or gassiness) in a lot of people, thereby resulting in some gastrointestinal discomfort.
Popcorn is more than just a great snack for movie nights. It’s surprisingly healthy and can help with weight loss, being high in fiber and low in calories.
However, popcorn can actually cause bloating due to its volume alone. One serving is about 3-4 cups, which packs the same amount of carbs as one slice of bread. But because it takes up a lot of space inside your stomach, it can temporarily cause you to feel a little bloated after eating.
Tips To Help Avoid Bloating
While your diet can often play a huge role in causing bloat, how you eat can be just as much of a factor as what you eat.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for preventing bloat:
- Eat smaller portions. Eating too much at a time can make you feel bloated. If you often feel uncomfortable after having large meals, switch to eating smaller portions of food.
- Supplement with Digestive Enzymes. When your body isn’t producing enough digestive enzymes or stomach acid, your gut doesn’t have what it needs to break down food efficiently. Food sits around in the digestive tract and begins to ferment, which can lead to bloating, gas, reflux, heartburn and constipation.
- Avoid swallowing air/gas. You tend to take in air whenever you eat or drink. Too much of it in your digestive system can lead to bloat, so try to reduce the amount of air you swallow by eating slowly and chewing your food properly. Don’t use straws, and try not to talk until you’ve swallowed your food.
- Drink more water. Staying properly hydrated is a great way to beat bloat, because drinking water can help the fiber in the food you eat to do its job properly. Make sure you drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. Avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol, or sweet drinks that contain a lot of artificial ingredients and sweeteners.