Struggling with frequent bloating? It could be what you’re eating. Here are some of the top foods and other issues known to cause bloating.
·October 13th, 2021
Bloating is incredibly common and may come from a variety of causes, but dietary changes may help bring relief regardless of the cause.
Some foods that trigger bloating are considered less healthy, like highly processed and fatty foods and those that contain high fructose corn syrup.
Healthier foods, like cruciferous vegetables, beans, and onions may also trigger bloating.
A dietitian or nutritionist can help you identify foods that trigger bloating and modify your diet to improve your symptoms.
If you’ve ever described your post-meal belly as a “food baby,” you know what it’s like to feel bloated. Though often referred to in jest, bloating can cause serious discomfort and abdominal pain, especially if you experience bloat on a regular basis.
Getting rid of bloating isn’t always easy, but knowing what triggers your belly to feel full, swollen, and overextended can help to prevent bloating in the future. Whether you experience occasional gas pains after a heavy or rich meal or experience bloating more frequently, finding relief is possible, especially if diet is the main culprit.
How what you eat impacts bloating
Abdominal bloating is extremely common: Nearly 40% of the general population report symptoms of abdominal bloating and distension, and that rate is even higher among people diagnosed with other functional gastrointestinal disorders, including indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional constipation.
There are many possible causes of bloating, including stress, anxiety, smoking, and gastrointestinal infection. But research shows that it is highly impacted by diet too.
Bloating can sometimes occur when your body has a hard time digesting sugars in certain foods
Intolerance to certain food groups, like carbohydrates, can also cause excess intestinal bacterial growth
Excess bacterial growth in the gut and intestines can then cause excess gas production
Additional gas production ultimately causes the intestinal tract to stretch and distend, causing many of the uncomfortable symptoms of bloat
Though your bloating may be caused by one or more of several causes, recent data suggests that almost 20% of adults experience some form of food intolerance. And even if you don’t have any food intolerances, chances are you could have food sensitivity, a condition that marks a change in your digestive system and gets more common as we age.
The 9 common food triggers of bloat
If you suspect you may have food intolerance or food sensitivity, working with a nutritionist or dietitian is a great way to discover which food groups may or may not be a trigger for bloat or other uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms in your body.
Whether you decide to seek expert help or try an elimination diet on your own to see which foods may cause an adverse reaction, here are the top foods known to cause bloating:
1. Highly processed foods
Salt is one of the biggest causes of temporary bloating. Eating excess salt causes the body to hold onto fluids from what you eat and drink, which can then cause bloat. Unfortunately, highly processed foods are known to contain higher amounts of salt. This includes many American favorites, such as frozen pizzas, fast food, chips, deli meats, sandwiches, and canned soups.
2. Fatty foods
Another reason fast food and many highly processed foods can be a trigger for bloating is their high fat content: eating foods high in fat take longer to digest, which can cause bloating for some people.
3. Carbonated drinks
Lovers of La Croix beware, carbonated drinks including soda and bubbly water can also lead to bloating.
4. High fructose corn syrup
When eaten in large quantities, high fructose corn syrup can cause bloating. Research shows that even 50g of regular fructose can also cause mild bloating, belching, or diarrhea. The bad news? It’s not just sodas and sugary energy drinks that contain the modified sweetener. Many savory processed foods can contain high fructose corn syrup too. When in doubt, read the labels of what you purchase and avoid pre-packaged and processed foods when possible.
Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances, but many people may be sensitive to dairy without even knowing it. Depending on the severity of your intolerance or sensitivity, your body may have difficulty breaking down lactose easily, which is why you may experience gas, abdominal pain, and bloating after eating milk, cheese, ice cream, or other dairy-rich foods.
6. Cruciferous vegetables
When it comes to bloating and digestion, not all vegetables are equal. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, contain raffinose, a sugar that doesn’t break down easily in your gut. In fact, it remains undigested until bacteria can ferment the sugar, a process which can cause bloating and gas.
Rich in fiber and protein, most beans contain sugars called alpha-galactosides, which also remain undigested until fermented by bacteria in your gut. For some people, other legumes, including soybeans, peanuts, and lentils, are not as likely to cause bloating.
Onions and related foods like garlic and leek contain fructans, soluble fibers that can cause bloating.
Research suggests that about 6% of the US population is gluten intolerant, while more may have gluten sensitivity. Though experts aren’t certain what exactly causes gluten sensitivity or intolerance, it’s clear that wheat and gluten can lead to slower digestion and bloating.
Other causes of bloating
For many, changes to your diet may be enough to help stop the bloat. But if your elimination diet comes and goes and you’re still experiencing discomfort, it’s possible that your persistent bloating may be a sign of digestive disorders, inflammatory diseases or another medical condition:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A chronic condition, some of the common symptoms include bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation that lasts for three or more months.
Celiac disease: An autoimmune disease triggered by gluten.
Chronic constipation: Having chronic constipation can also lead to chronic bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
Gastroparesis: A condition that affects the motility of the muscles in your stomach, making it difficult to move food through your digestive tract.
Cancer: Though rare, some cancers, including colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic, can cause bloating.
Have concerns about whether your bloating is caused by a gastrointestinal disorder or underlying medical condition? Reach out to your healthcare provider.
When to pay attention and seek care
In many cases, bloating isn’t cause for concern, especially if you’ve experienced it from time to time throughout your life. However, it’s important to keep an eye out for sudden bloating in old age.
If you’re older and experiencing bloating for the first time, it could be a sign that something in your digestive system has changed. And if sudden bloating lasts more than a few days, reach out to your primary care provider or gastroenterologist, as it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
There’s no getting around it: bloating can be annoying and sometimes painful. Though it may take some trial and error, many people have found which foods, if any, trigger their bloat or make their bloating worse. If you’re unsure of where to start, find a nutritionist or dietitian who can work with you to assess your symptoms and develop an approach that works for you and your body.
If you think you may be experiencing bloating, the right provider can help you build a personalized plan to support your wellbeing. Connect with a credentialed expert who serves your area here.