People often find that although they’re eating healthily, they continue to suffer from frequent stomach discomfort and ballooning. There’s nothing worse than puffing up after a delicious and healthy meal and ending up feeling like the Michelin Man on steroids.
Most gastroenterologists agree that, provided you’re not suffering from a medical condition, the likely cause of abdominal bloating is a build up of intestinal gas.
To help you narrow down the cause, I’ve compiled a list of ten common foods that can cause belly bloat.
Experiment and take note of how you feel after eating. When you can identify problem foods, you can manage your symptoms and wave goodbye to belly bloat forever.
1. Nut milks
A lot of supermarket varieties of almond milk contain the thickening agent carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed and has been linked to gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers. Try making your own nut milk at home.
Many people have trouble digesting onions, especially when eaten raw. To limit discomfort, enjoy smaller quantities of well-cooked onions or substitute with spices, herbs, and the green part of the spring onion to add flavor to dishes.
3. Granola bars
Many common “healthy” snack bars include protein isolate, which is derived from soybeans, and a common gas-inducing culprit. Read the label to ensure any protein you are getting from these bars comes from the nuts/seeds themselves, or make your own.
Lentils contain phytic acid, which may lead to bloating.
Soaking lentils in plenty of cold water with some added lemon juice or vinegar overnight could significantly reduce their phytate levels, helping to lower their potential for bloating. Once the lentils have been soaked, rinse them thoroughly with filtered water before cooking them well.
5. Chewing gum
Sugarless varieties of chewing gum typically contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol notorious for causing digestive distress. Read the labels to check that any gum if you do consume it is sorbitol-free.
6. Canned soup
When looking to lose weight, it’s common for many of us to turn to soup. However, canned soups generally contain high sodium levels, which may lead to water retention and temporary bloating. Try making a large batch of homemade soup instead.
7. Dried fruit
Dried fruit has a very high fructose (natural sugar) content, which those with a sensitive stomach can find difficult to digest, causing bloating and gas. Fresh citrus fruits and berries are lower fructose fruit options.
8. Pro-inflammatory fats
Dietary fats that are linked with inflammation and can contribute to bloating are:
- Trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils)
- Saturated fats (found in animal products such as red meat)
- Omega-6 fats (found mainly in vegetable oils, poultry, nuts, and wheat)
Despite omega-6 fats being necessary for overall good health, most of us consume too many omega-6s in proportion to omega-3s, and this imbalance can cause inflammation and stomach upset.
Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, wild-caught salmon, and chia seeds.
9. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale
These vegetables are all high in fructans, which are poorly digested in the gut and can ferment in the stomach. Those with sensitive stomachs may experience a broad range of symptoms, including abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, changes in bowel habits, heartburn, nausea and over fullness.
Avoid consuming these vegetables raw. Eat them very well steamed and/or fermented for optimal nutrient absorption and digestion.
10. Other high-fructan foods
Fructans are a type of fiber and are beneficial to our digestion (maintaining regular bowel movements) and overall health. But as these fibers are by definition undigestible by the human body, they can cause flatulence and bloating depending on the bacteria of your gut.
Foods high in fructans include:
- stone fruits
- many beans
Try to limit but not completely remove these foods from your diet, as they provide many essential nutrients and are important for overall gut health.
So you’ve eaten one of these offending foods and are feeling bloated! Now what?
1. Add carminative foods
These foods have been known for centuries to help soothe the digestive tract and reduce bloating and flatulence.
There are many herbs and spices with valuable carminative properties, such as star anise, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon balm, nutmeg and parsley.
2. Peppermint tea
This is a great go-to when you’re feeling bloated and lethargic.
3. Lemon water
Having some warm water with lemon juice may also help soothe your symptoms. It can help reduce the amount of salt retained in the body and reduce bloating due to fluid retention.
4. Eat certain vegetables
There are also a number of veggies like celery, cucumber, spinach and parsley that will help reduce fluid retention in the body.
5. Cook your vegetables
Cook your vegetables when you’re feeling bloated, as the fibre structure is broken down once they’re cooked, making these foods easier to digest.
Getting plenty of probiotic-rich foods or a supplement into your diet will increase your healthy gut flora and can improve symptoms of bloating.
There's light at the end of the stomach bloating tunnel, and with a few minor dietary changes it can be easily managed.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock