Bloating or gas: always unwanted, often at inappropriate times. When it does happen, you can frequently be left trying to figure out why? More often than not – it’s what you ate, and there are certain foods that are notorious trouble-makers. Here, we delve deeper into them.

By Pransi Verma

Does your belly balloon after you finish your meal? Or it can even happen just after you exercise. Stomach bloating is all-too familiar for many of us, and it turns out what we eat may be the culprit. 

Regularly affecting around 30% of us, stomach bloating is rather common.1,2 Still, abdominal discomfort due to bloating isn’t limited to the occasional holiday feast, but is quite often also a result of the specific foods you eat, and how you eat them. Typically, it arises as a result of gas build-up in the abdomen, about half of which is swallowed air and the rest is produced by bacteria in the gut that help digest food. Sometimes, it can also be a symptom of a serious medical condition.3 

So, how can this gas build up? Overeating or devouring your food too quickly is a known cause. Besides that, there are certain food groups – even those generally regarded as nutritious – that can make you more prone to bloating. Here, we’ve compiled a list of suspected culprits, as well as suggestions on what to eat instead. 

1. Sugar Alcohols/ Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

Sugar alcohols are widely used as additives in sugar-free foods and chewing gums. Commonly used sugar alternatives include xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. Sugar alcohols fall under a broader category of fermentable sugars and soluble fibers called FODMAPs. FODMAPs cause digestive problems, as they reach the large intestine unchanged and act as fuel for the gut microbiota. In the process of fermentation, gas is produced as a byproduct. A diet high in FODMAPs leads to production of high amounts of gas thus causing bloating. These sugar alternatives also cause digestive issues, such as diarrhea. Healthy alternatives to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners include: stevia, coconut nectar, cinnamon, nutmeg, liquorice, vanilla.

2. Carrageenan

Another category of food additives is carrageenan. Carrageenan, a food stabilizer, can be found in foods like ice cream, soft-serve, frozen yogurt, and yogurt. It is used to create the thick dairy texture, but can cause gut inflammation, intestinal permeability and bloating. The only option for you here is to eat freshly made ice-creams and yogurts with no additional preservatives and stabilisers. 

3. Beer and Other Carbonated Drinks

Ever heard the term “beer belly” before? It refers to not only increased belly fat, but also to the bloating caused by drinking beer. This category shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. These drinks contain high amounts of the gas carbon dioxide. When consumed some of the gas gets trapped in the digestive system, which can cause uncomfortable bloating and even cramping. Additionally, beer is a beverage made from fermentable carbs like barley, maize, wheat and rice, along with some yeast and water. Therefore, it contains both fermentable carbs and gas, two well-known causes of bloating.

4.Dairy Products

About 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, so they cannot break down lactose, the sugar found in milk.11 For a lactose intolerant person dairy can cause major digestive problems, including bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea.

What to eat instead: Lactose intolerant people can sometimes handle fermented products like yogurt, and cream or butter.12 These days, there are many plant-based options available such as coconut, almond, soy or rice milk.

5. Cereal grains: Wheat, Barley, Rye

Although, consumed widely and rich in fiber and with high amounts of vitamins and minerals like molybdenum, manganese and selenium manganese, phosphorus, copper and B-vitamins. Grains have been highly controversial over the past few years, mainly because it contains a protein called gluten. This causes major digestive problems for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Just like beans, the high fiber content and FODMAPs in grains can cause digestive problems in many people.5,6

What to eat instead: Refined grains are tolerated better. However healthier alternatives include pseudocereals like oats, brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat. When compared to conventional options, they have much better nutritional profiles.

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

This vegetable family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and several others. Known for their health benefits, due to presence of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and potassium, they also contain FODMAPs, that causes bloating in some people. To make them more digestible and easier on your gut, rather than eating them raw try cooking cruciferous vegetables.

Alternatively, people can replace them with other vegetables that are equally rich in vitamins and minerals but will not cause bloating like spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, sweet potatoes, zucchini asparagus, carrots, ginger, and celery.

7. Allium: Onions & Garlic

These flavourful underground bulb vegetables, are popular in cooked meals, side dishes and salads. Though eaten in small quantities and are usually cooked, they are the main dietary sources of fructans. These soluble fibers are FODMAPs and hence causes bloating.7 Additionally, some people are sensitive or intolerant to other compounds in garlic and onions, especially when eaten raw.8

What to eat instead: Try using fresh herbs or spices to flavour your food as an alternative.

8. Apples

Apples, among the most popular fruits in the world are high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. Even though they have been linked with a range of health benefits.9,10 Apples have also been known to cause digestive issues for some people. The reason being the fructose and the high fiber content, both known causatives of bloating.

What to eat instead: Other fruits, such as bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, mandarins, oranges or strawberries.

9. Beans & Lentils

Beans & lentils are types of legumes that are rich sources of not only healthy carbs and proteins but also fibers, vitamins and minerals like iron, copper and manganese.4 However, most beans contain sugars called alpha-galactosides, belonging to FODMAPs. As mentioned, FODMAPs are big culprits when it comes to bloating. Particularly for sensitive individuals, such as those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the gas is formed in much higher quantities, and this may cause major discomfort, with symptoms like bloating, flatulence, cramping and diarrhea.

What to eat instead: Consider substituting with beans that are easier on the digestive system. Puy lentils, pinto beans, black beans, adzuki beans and mung beans are some options. A trick to reducing FODMAPs in beans is by soaking them overnight, or sprouting them.  

If you’ve found yourself experiencing bloating or excess, and don’t know what to do about it, try eliminating one of these food groups and see if the symptoms disappear! 

If you want to know more about personalised diet reset, check out GUTXY’s RESET intervention plan to see how your microbiome changes in response to a healthier diet. Follow us on Instagram to get quick and easy recipes to feed you and your microbiome.


References

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  6. Heizer WD. et al., The role of diet in symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in adults: a narrative review. J Am Diet Assoc.2009;109(7):1204-14.
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  8. Almogren A. et al., Garlic and onion sensitization among Saudi patients screened for food allergy: a hospital based study. Afr Health Sci.2013; 13(3):689-93.
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  10. Hyson D. A. et al., A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health. Advances in Nutrition, 2011; Volume 2, Issue 5, Pages 408–420.
  11. Di Rienzo T. et al., Lactose intolerance: from diagnosis to correct management. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci.2013;17 Suppl 2:18-25.
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