Bloating is an unfortunate and uncomfortable phenomenon that everyone experiences at one time or another. Ironically, sometimes it seems that it's the healthiest eaters who endure it most. It's true! Bloating is a common complaint in the wellness world. And it can be especially difficult to pinpoint a specific cause when every body is different—what foods agree with your neighbor may not work for you, and vice versa.
Holistic doctors, nutritionists, and functional medicine experts agree that the most common cause of bloating is how your body interacts with what you eat. We spoke to the leading voices in health and nutrition today to find out what types of bloating they see most often in their practices and how to solve them. Here is what they said:
1. Lack of digestive enzymes.
Taz Bhatia, M.D., a holistic doctor and mbg class instructor, believes that the main cause of bloating is "[d]eclining levels of digestive enzymes like lipase that help metabolize our food and stabilize gut bacteria," she said.
2. Inflammatory foods.
Robin Berzin, M.D. mbg class instructor and founder of Parsley Health, maintains that the No. 1 bloat culprit she sees in her practice is foods like sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol, which can cause imbalances in gut bacteria. "Those bacteria can create a lot of gas when they metabolize fibers in healthy foods. So if you're eating a lot of kale, you might be feeding the bugs that love kale so much, they eat it up and make you bloated!" she said.
3. Unknown food sensitivities.
Similarly, Vincent Pedre, M.D., who is part of mbg's functional nutrition training, said that consuming foods that trigger mild food allergies or sensitivities can cause bloating. The most common food sensitivities include wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and legumes (beans). Noted!
4. FODMAPs and SIBO.
Functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., thinks in most otherwise healthy people, FODMAP intolerance and SIBO are to blame for bloat. FODMAPs are fermentable sugars present in plant foods like onions, garlic, apples, pears, and plums, as well as legumes, dairy, and grains. FODMAP intolerance is typically caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This sort of bloating is minimal in the morning and worsens as the day goes on. The solution isn't to avoid FODMAPs for the rest of your life, Cole said, but to deal with the underlying SIBO over time.
How to beat the bloat for good.
If you're consistently bloated, try adding digestive enzymes after your meals. Dr. Bhatia says that taking an enzyme with lipase after your meals, along with a good probiotic, can get rid of bloating. Avocados, vinegar, egg yolks, and coconut cream are all natural sources of lipase as well.
Nutritionist and book author Kelly LeVeque swears by a low FODMAP diet, agreeing with Will Cole's protocol. "By removing the carbohydrates that are poorly digested and easily fermented by bacteria, you can help decrease bloat," she said. If the enzymes aren't working, that's a next step.
Or, take a walk. "Walking helps move the gas through the digestive system and promotes peristalsis (the contractions of the smooth muscle of the digestive tract)," said Dr. Pedre. In addition, he recommends intermittent fasting under doctor supervision to give the digestive system a break.
If none of these are working, it may be time to consult a holistic doctor, functional medicine expert, or nutritionist on a gut-healing plan—an examination and assessment of your gut microbes and a specific diet, exercise, supplement, and rest program. It can really help rebalance the microbiome and put bloating in check.
Want to learn more about what foods are best for your body? Check out our nutrition training!