From a flat to a big balloon-sized tummy. Jeans tight around your waist after a meal. These are the obvious signs of bloating, and the foods that you eat may be causing it.
Common Bloating Triggers
There are many possible reasons behind bloating, but in most cases, it is caused by the foods and beverages you consume. Bloating is also commonly experienced by people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and food sensitivities. During an IBS flare-up, bloating can be accompanied by other IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, flatulence, or nausea.
If you experience bloating after eating, it’s best to find out which foods might have triggered it so you can either avoid or limit your consumption of them in your next eat out. We also included in this post some substitutes for these foods that may be causing this digestive issue.
1. Wheat and Grains
Foods made from wheat and grains like baked products and pasta contain a type of protein called gluten, which may trigger bloating, as well as abdominal pain, excess wind, and diarrhoea for some individuals. This adverse reaction to gluten is often a symptom of coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects 1 in 70 Australians.
Conversely, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is also common. But aside from bloating, other symptoms might also include skin rash, brain fog, headache, anaemia, and joint pain. Following a gluten-free diet is often recommended to minimise these symptoms, but there’s no guarantee it’ll produce the same positive results for everyone. Some patients may still suffer from the symptoms while following this diet. Therefore, it’s best to get yourself tested for both coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity to identify which exactly causes your bloating and other digestive symptoms.
Meanwhile, you can try substituting gluten-containing wheat and grains for wild rice, pure oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and coconut and almond flours and observe how your body reacts.
2. Onion and Garlic
Gas-producing polysaccharides called fructans are typically found in onion, garlic, agave, and leek. Even when consumed in small quantities, these foods can trigger bloating and other digestive problems like gas and stomach cramps.
Consider replacing onions with low-FODMAP vegetables such as collard greens, fennel, or celery. Basil, chives, and other spices and herbs are excellent alternatives for garlic.
3. Dairy Products
While cow’s milk, certain types of cheeses, and yoghurt are excellent sources of protein and calcium, they contain lactase that people with lactose intolerance are unable to digest. This condition contributes to an increased likelihood of bloating, gas pains, diarrhoea, and bellyache.
The European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences reported that approximately 75% of the world’s population will lose the ability to break down lactose at some point in their lifetime. The need to eliminate or minimise the number of dairy products from their diet will depend on the severity of their condition.
While it’s best for some individuals to avoid lactose-containing foods at all costs, some can tolerate them in moderate portions albeit their consumption should be spread throughout the day. In this case, your dietitian may recommend following meal plans that include cheeses that are low in lactose like cheddar, Swiss, or Parmesan. This will help you meet your daily calcium intake.
You may also find yourself stocking up on dairy-free ice cream and yoghurt for dessert. For your daily glass of milk, lactose-free milk products like almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and flaxseed milk are some of the best alternatives to cow’s milk. These lactose-free types of milk are derived from plants and seeds.
Beans are high in oligosaccharides that is known for triggering digestive issues in people with IBS. When the gut flora in your small intestine tries to digest them, they produce gas that can cause stomach pain and bloating. Examples of beans that are high in FODMAPs are black beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and split peas.
As an alternative, you can swap high-FODMAP beans for ones that are easier to digest like mung beans and adzuki. Other substitutes also include quinoa, grains, and lentils.
Additionally, you can make beans more digestible. If they are canned, put them into a strainer and wash with water until the film is removed. Soaked beans simply make them less likely to produce excess gas when digested.
If you still experience discomfort after cooking beans this way, consider eating them in small amounts every day to help your gut flora digest them easily over time. This may help reduce the gas that can lead to bloating and stomach cramps.
5. Brassica Vegetables
This family of cruciferous or brassica vegetables include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, garden cress, cabbage, turnips, and Bok choy. These nutritious vegetables contain fibre, vitamins C and K, and potassium. However, they can trigger some uncomfortable digestive problems, including bloating.
Fortunately, you can make these cruciferous veggies more gut-friendly by cooking them well. You can cook them by way of steaming or pureeing them for easier digestion.
You can also replace them with other equally wholesome vegetables without triggering any potential digestive symptom. These alternatives include carrots, sweet potatoes, ginger, zucchini, and asparagus.
6. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol are commonly used instead of refined sugar in the production of sweet beverages, chewing gum, foods, and baked goods. However, they offer no nutritional value, which is why we do not endorse them for optimal health.
A 2017 study from BMC Obesity showed that the use of these non-nutritive sweeteners can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices, poor dietary habits, and reduced mental and physical health. Moreover, they may also cause gas and bloating.
Some of the healthiest alternatives to artificial sweeteners are vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut sugar, raw honey, liquorice, and stevia.
7. Fruits High in FODMAPs
Fruits such as apples and pears are high in FODMAPs which makes them bloating triggers for some people, specifically those with IBS. Cooking them is one of the best ways to make them easier to digest. You can also swap them for other fruits that are less likely to trigger bloating and other digestive issues. These include bananas, cantaloupe, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, mandarins, and grapefruit.
Additionally, dried fruits have higher amounts of fructose than apples and pears, which means they can lead to excessive fermentation in your gut and cause bloating.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, find out more about our professional Gut & Bowel Health services.