Bloating is uncomfortable, and in some cases, the pain is extreme. Although bloating affects both men and women, women suffer from it more. The causes of bloating differ from person to person, but, it has been established that making changes to one’s diet significantly helps with beating belly bloat.
It has been established, that certain foods cause bloating just as there are foods that reduce bloating. We will go over the worst foods for bloating but, before we get there, we need to learn what causes of bloating and gas.
What causes bloating in the stomach?
True, you can get bloated from eating foods that cause bloating, but, other issues cause bloating in the stomach, and some of them are harder to deal with.
Of all the causes of bloating, constipation is most common. Faeces are mostly made up of bacteria, and when you are backed up for a long time, stool begins to ferment. When this happens, toxins will start building up in the colon, and gas will be produced. This is according to a study that was published in the Journal of Applied Bacteriology, conducted at the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre.
The buildup of the gas will eventually cause abdominal pain and bloating. Excess gas will be released from your body, in the form of flatulence.
2. Celiac disease
Celiac disease and celiac disease are two different things. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, and when someone suffers from it, the intestines are damaged in a way that they cannot absorb gluten. Gluten is basically a type of protein which is found in wheat barley and rye.
The effects of celiac disease are long term. If you persistently suffer from gas, bloating, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, vomiting and swollen tummy, then you should test for celiac, as these are some of the symptoms.
On the other hand, while the symptoms of gluten intolerance might be the same as that of celiac, gluten intolerance doesn’t cause long term effects like damaging the lining of the intestines. If you are in doubt which one of the two you have, you can do blood tests.
3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a condition that presents symptoms such as bloating, constipation, abdominal pain and stomach cramps. Although the cause and cure of IBS aren’t known, doctors can perform a colonoscopy exam to determine whether you have IBS or not.
The symptoms usually come and go but can last for up to 3 months at a time, for a lifetime.
I have IBS, and my symptoms only show up during menstruation. During this period, I become bloated quite badly, have diarrhoea, cramps and severe abdominal pain. I have had these symptoms since the age of 13, when I had my first period, until today, at 39 years old. To alleviate my symptoms I avoid dairy products during this period.
Another condition that causes bloating is gastroparesis, which is a chronic disorder that makes food move slower from the stomach to the small intestines.
As a result of food staying longer or not emptying properly in the stomach, you may develop abdominal bloating, vomiting, nausea, a feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites, loss of appetite and weight loss. You can read more on gastroparesis in this article by the Mayo Clinic.
5. Lactose intolerance
It is common for people with lactose intolerance to suffer from bloating, gas, indigestion and abdominal pain. When you have this condition, it means that your body is not able to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.
Other causes of bloating
Along with the conditions highlighted above, how you eat your food may also make you gassier or bloated.
Eating food too quickly, swallowing excess air during eating, drinking, chewing gum, or smoking and overeating may also trigger bloating.
Foods that cause bloating and gas
Alright, by now you may have ticked one of the boxes on what is making you bloated. If not, it could be because of what you are eating. Let’s look at foods that cause bloating.
1. Fatty foods
High-fat foods like fries, processed meats and fried chicken are some of the foods that cause bloating. Fatty foods stay longer in the stomach because fat slows down digestion, and it usually takes about 72 hours, instead of 24 hours, to breakdown fat.
Because of its low calorie and high fibre content, popcorn has been lauded as a go-to healthy snack, but, it comes at a cost.
Unlike other foods, popcorn causes bloating merely because of the volume it takes up in the stomach. You can eat 3-4 cups of popcorn in one sitting eat in one sitting, without even realising. For instance, each serving of popcorn is about 3-4 cups. That amount will cause the stomach to expand and lead to bloating or abdominal discomfort.
3. Salty foods
Not only is eating a diet high in salt cause bloating and gas, but it is also dangerous to your health. Salt causes the body to hold extra water, and this will make you feel bloated. You will need to drink more water and eat foods rich in potassium, such as spinach, oranges, bananas etc., to debloat.
Speaking of foods high in salt, pickles, especially dill pickles, contain an alarming amount of salt. If you have been sold on the idea that pickles are good for gut health, you also need to know that pickles pose a greater health risk because of the high sodium content.
One of the health issues you will run into because of eating too many pickles are increased blood pressure and of course, a bloated belly as a result of retained water.
Beans are one of the worst foods for bloating because it ferments in the gut and causes the production of gas which is released as flatulence. But, not all beans are the same, baked beans and pinto are two types of beans that cause the most gas.
Other legumes like peas and chickpeas are also known to cause bloating. If you have to eat beans, prepare it by soaking it in water for at least 12 hours. Drain out all the water before adding fresh water for cooking, to reduce the gas-producing compounds that are found in beans.
6. Sodas and sparkling water
Carbonated beverages like soda, energy drinks and sparkling water often cause bloating. Consuming these fizzy drinks means that you are ultimately transporting those bubbles, which are pockets of air, into your stomach.
The excess gas will remain trapped in the stomach for quite a while, and cause gas and bloating.
Drinking any beverage with a straw draws in excess air, which can cause bloating.
Burp! While we are still on drinking, we need to understand that drinking beer doesn’t only cause a beer belly but may also cause bloated stomach pain. Beer is also a carbonated drink that releases carbon dioxide into the body. The trapped air in your stomach will cause belching and bloating.
Another important note to remember about beer is that it is often made with barley and wheat, both contain gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, you should avoid such beers, and consider trying the gluten-free brands.
8. Onions and garlic
Although we rarely eat onions raw or in large quantities, even the smallest portion can make you bloated and gassy if you are sensitive to it. Onions contain a natural sugar called fructose, and if you are intolerant to it, it will cause you a lot of discomforts and sometimes pain. Fructose intolerance is a genetic disorder where the liver fails to absorb or digest fructose properly.
9. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Bok choy (Chinese cabbage), cauliflower, kale collard greens, radishes and turnips.
These vegetables contain a sugar called raffinose, which cannot be digested in the stomach. Raffinose will pass through to the large intestines, where gut bacteria will ferment it. The produced gas will trigger flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating.
10. Milk and dairy products
For people who are lactose intolerant, milk remains one of the worst foods that cause bloating and inflammation.
Other products like yoghurt whey, cheese and ice cream also contain lactose which can’t be fully digested if you have lactose intolerance.
I am lactose intolerant and, before I switched to lactose-free milk, I would get terribly bloated within minutes of eating dairy products.
If you are intolerant to lactose, your best substitutes will be almond, soy and coconut milk.
Final thoughts on foods that cause bloating and gas
By now you have figured out which foods are causing bloating for you, or identified any health condition that might be responsible.
If you are looking for a bloating remedy drink, you must try out this belly bloat detox water recipe.
If bloating persists, please remember to visit a doctor.
Susan Chanda is a professional content writer/journalist with over 20 years’ experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from University of South Africa and a diploma in Journalism and Public relations.
Susan has been writing evidence based fitness and health articles since 2016 for Fitness Chat, and is a certified fitness trainer, and diet and nutrition coach.
Fitness Chat is one of the several other websites that Susan owns, or co-owns with her children.
You can read more about Susan here.