Bloating: Causes, Relief & Foods to Avoid

Published April 13, 2021

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Woman sitting on couch holds her stomach in pain

Are there moments when you have to undo the top button of your jeans after a meal and you feel uncomfortable like there is an inflated balloon in your stomach?

Bloating after eating is common and is usually caused by something you ate or drank.

Common causes of bloating

Bloating occurs with the digestive system gets stretched, whether it’s from liquid, gas or food sitting in your gut.

Causes of a bloated stomach can include a change in your diet such as consuming a meal that is quite rich.  It is also thought that eating different foods can change the type of bacteria found in your gut which can lead to bloating of the stomach and gas.

Consuming a large quantity of carbohydrates or salty food are also causes of a bloated stomach as well as eating too quickly or drinking carbonated beverages.

 

Other conditions which can cause bloating

Regular bloating can be caused by other digestive problems, including:

If you get persistent bloating, please see your GP to investigate these potential other conditions that can cause bloating of the stomach.

Foods that commonly cause bloating

If you experience an occasional bloated stomach it may be linked to the food you eat.

Certain foods are more difficult for the body to digest and can lead to an uncomfortable feeling. However, foods that cause bloating in some people won’t necessarily cause it in someone else. It depends on how well an individual digests certain components of food and the type of bacteria in their digestive tract.

What foods cause bloating?

  1. Cruciferous vegetables —Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower may cause bloating in some people. This is because the body cannot fully digest the carbohydrates in these foods, which are fermented by the bacteria in the large intestine. This process causes a build-up of gas and associated bloating.
  2. Legumes —The human body lacks the enzymes needed to break down “galactans”, which are found in chickpeas, black‐eyed peas, kidney beans and lentils, and may cause digestive distress and bloating in some people.
  3. Garlic and onions —Garlic and onions are high in fructans, which are difficult to digest and can contribute to bloating, gas and pain.
  4. Certain fruit —Apples, peaches and pears can sometimes cause bloating and discomfort.
  5. Carbonated beverages —Carbonated beverages such as soft drink can cause gas to build up and lead to bloating.
  6. Fruit juices and high‐fructose corn syrup (HFCS) drinks —Fruit juices especially apple and pear and other drinks that contain HFCS can cause abdominal tightness in some people. HFCS is also found in some sauces and syrups.
  7. Milk and milk products —Milk, cheese, ice‐cream, yoghurt, and other dairy products can cause bloating in those who are lactose intolerant.
  8. Chewing gum —Chewing gum may cause bloating because often it contains gas‐producing artificial sweeteners.
  9. Sugar‐free foods —Sugar‐free substitutes such as mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol can lead to bloating in some people as they’re difficult for the body to digest. These are often found in sugar‐free products, lollies, chewing gum, mints and cough drops. If you think these could be the culprit for your symptoms, look out for ingredients ending in –ol.
  10. Whole grains such as whole wheat and bran –Whole grains can sometimes cause bloating. This could be due to the fibre content, which is fermented by the bacteria in the digestive tract, or caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains.
  11. Dried fruit –Eating dried fruit can be problematic for some people. This is because it contains very high fructose levels. The absorption capacity of fructose appears to vary from person to person. When fructose is incompletely absorbed in the small intestine, it’s delivered to the large intestine where it contributes to rapid fermentation and associated abdominal bloating.

If you experience regular bloating after meals, it may be beneficial to keep a food diary to determine which foods may be causing your bloating symptoms. Once you know your triggers, you can either avoid or at least limit your consumption for bloating relief.

Relief for bloating

There are many bloating remedies and most commonly a simple adjustment of your diet can help bloating to resolve. Reducing salty foods, large quantities of carbohydrates and fizzy drinks could result are some bloating remedies, as well as limiting onion or garlic, wheat, rye, lactose products or stone fruit.

Bloating of the stomach caused by constipation can be relieved by adding more high-fibre foods to your diet, drinking more water and regular exercise.

If you have a food intolerance, you may need to try an elimination diet to find out which food or foods are causing your problems. Your doctor or dietitian will advise you.

Bloating and flatulence may be improved by probiotics, but more evidence is needed to support the claim. It also states that recommendations on specific strains, species and preparations cannot but made with the current conflicting and insufficient data.

How to avoid bloating

Many people experience occasional abdominal bloating, which can be bothersome but manageable with simple dietary and lifestyle changes.

How to reduce bloating quickly so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy:

  1. Try peppermint tea Peppermint has a calming effect and helps relax the muscles that allow painful gas to pass, thereby helping to relieve bloating and discomfort.
  2. Drink water It sounds counterintuitive, but drinking water, which you might think would lead to further bloating, will do the opposite. Drinking water supports normal digestive function and helps alleviate water retention and abdominal bloating. Ensure it’s natural and not carbonated water, which can contribute to the discomfort. 
  3. Check your mints and chewing gum If you chew gum or eat mints after meals to freshen your breath, it may be the cause of your bloating or at least worsen your symptoms. Mints and chewing gum often contain sugar‐substitutes such as mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol, which are difficult for the body to digest and can lead to bloating in some people. 
  4. Get moving Although you may feel like having a siesta after a large meal, you can ease bloating discomfort by moving. Going for a 10–15-minute walk may help improve a sluggish digestive system and speed the transit of food and gas through the digestive tract. 
  5. Have ginger Ginger is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine to aid digestion and relieve dyspepsia. Consume fresh ginger tea or take a ginger supplement to help ease digestive discomfort.
  6. Eat mindfully Eat smaller meals and chew your food carefully. Slow down and enjoy your food.
  7. Keep a food diary to identify foods that trigger bloating Many foods cause gas‐build up in the intestines and associated bloating in some people. Common offenders include beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, peaches, pears, carbonated drinks, chewing gum and some whole grains. Write a food diary to identify which foods may be causing your discomfort. Keeping a diary may also reveal some foods that you can tolerate but in smaller amounts. 
  8. Avoid becoming constipated Constipation can often cause bloating so it’s important to stay regular by consuming enough fibre, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and never ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement.

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