Got Gas & Bloating — Even While Eating Super Healthy? These Expert Tips May Help
It's one of the most common complaints of people who've recently tried to healthify their diet: "I'm eating all of these so-called good-for-me foods, but I'm so bloated and gassy!"
It seems unfair that a loaf of white bread can somehow sit well in one's stomach while a plateful of kale can cause a mini Mount Vesuvius eruption, but luckily, there are a few common reasons for the discomfort—and more importantly, a few easy ways to fix it.
Do an elimination diet.
"The best way to see what is causing issues for you is to do an elimination diet to get to the root of the issue," explains Diana Rodgers, R.D., founder of Sustainable Dish. "For some, onions and garlic are the culprit, and for others, it's dairy, beans, or any type of grain. This often is caused by SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)."
Swap garlic for ginger.
Phoebe Lapine, mbg Collective member and host of the SIBO Made Simple podcast, agrees. "Many people with IBS symptoms have SIBO, a gut imbalance where bacteria is overgrowing in the small intestines [the acronym stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth]." An easy swap to see if your bloating or gas gets better, according to Lapine, is simply nixing garlic in favor of ginger.
"One of your gut bacteria's favorite foods is garlic, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating should that bacteria be too high up in your digestive tract in too great an amount," she explains. "Ginger, on the other hand, is thought of as a natural prokinetic, meaning it helps encourage your gut's housecleaning wave to move food through your system." Making the swap also ensures that your formerly garlic-rich dishes won't end up completely flavor-free.
FODMAPs are another common culprit behind gas and bloating symptoms in healthy diets, and SIBO can actually cause FODMAP intolerance. "FODMAPs stand for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols and are short-chain sugars," explains Will Cole, D.C., mbg Collective member and author of Ketotarian. "They can be excessively fermented by your gut bacteria, which releases hydrogen gas—causing that feeling of gas in your stomach. Some of these include artichokes, garlic, onions, apples, watermelon, and grains."
According to Cole, the goal isn't to remove these foods forever but to deal with the underlying SIBO so you can reintroduce them—this time, with a much happier belly. For a full explanation of what life looks like on a low-FODMAP diet, check out this writer's account of her experience.
Boost your digestion.
Outside of changing your diet, there are a few small bonuses you can add in that make a big difference in your overall digestion. The first one? Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning. "I think there's nothing more important or helpful than starting the day with a tall glass of filtered or spring water before you eat anything," says Ellen Vora, M.D., mbg Collective member and founder of EllenVora.com. "This is the best way to prompt your body to have a thorough bowel movement and start the day with a calm stomach."
Sophie Jaffe, mbg Collective member and founder of Philosophie Superfoods, also recommends adding a few drops of chlorophyll to that water. "It can instantly boost your digestion and support a healthy gut," she says. "Chlorophyll has been shown to be antibacterial, meaning it removes harmful bacteria that might be irritating your gut from the body while maintaining healthy microbes. They're amazing for gas!"
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.