13 Foods That Cause Bloating (and What to Eat Instead)

It’s a struggle to keep your belly fat after eating, right? That’s what we call bloating – the phenomenon when your belly feels swollen or enlarged after eating.

Bloating is a common occurrence with about 16 to 30 percent of people say they experience it regularly. Bloating may be a symptom of a serious medical condition, but it is usually caused by something in the diet.

Here are 13 foods that can cause bloating, along with suggestions on what to eat instead.

1. Beans

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Beans, a legume, contain high amounts of protein and healthy carbs. Beans are also very rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

However, most beans contain sugars called alpha-galactosidase, which belong to a group of carbs called FODMAPs.

FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates that escape digestion and are then fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. Gas is a byproduct of this process.

Healthy people need not be afraid of FODMAPs as they simply provide fuel for the beneficial digestive bacteria and should not cause any problems.

However, for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, another type of gas is formed during the fermentation process. This may cause major discomfort, with symptoms like bloating, flatulence, cramping and diarrhea.

Soaking and sprouting the beans is a good way to reduce the FODMAPs in beans. Changing the soaking water several times can also help.

So, what should you eat instead? Some beans are easier on the digestive system. Pinto beans and black beans may be more digestible, especially after soaking. You can also replace beans with grains, meat or quinoa.

2. Lentils

Source: flickr.com
Source: flickr.com

Lentils are also legumes, too. Like beans, they also contain high amounts of protein, fiber, healthy carbs, and minerals such as iron, copper and manganese.

People who are not used to eating a lot of fiber may experience bloating after eating lentils. Moreover, like beans, lentils also contain FODMAPs. These sugars may contribute to excessive gas production and bloating.

So, what should you eat instead? Light colored lentils are generally lower in fiber than darker ones, and may therefore cause less bloating.

3. Carbonated Drinks

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Carbonated drinks are high in carbon dioxide, a gas. Drinking sodas mean swallowing large amounts of carbon dioxide. This gas gets trapped in the digestive system. Consequently, this can cause bloating and cramping.

Drink plain water instead of sodas.

4. Wheat

Source: pixabay.com
Source: pixabay.com

Wheat is widely consumed. It is an ingredient in most breads, pastas, tortillas, and pizzas, as well as baked goods like cakes, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles.

However, for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, wheat causes major digestive problems like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Wheat is also a major source of FODMAPs, which we know is a cause of bloating.

There are many gluten-free alternatives to wheat, though, such as pure oats, quinoa, buckwheat, almond flour and coconut flour.

5. Broccoli and Other Cruciferous Vegetables

Source: commons.wikimedia.org
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

The cruciferous vegetable family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts among others. They are naturally healthy (good source fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium).

Like beans and lentils, cruciferous vegetables also contain FODMAPs, and can cause bloating in some people.

There are many possible alternatives, including spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, sweet potatoes and zucchini.

6. Onions

Source: commons.wikimedia.org
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Bulbs like onions are sources of fructans. Fructans are soluble fibers that can cause bloating.

There are also other compounds in onions that can adversely affect some people and cause some digestive problems like bloating among others.  

Try using fresh herbs or spices as an alternative to onions instead.

7. Barley

Source: flickr.com
Source: flickr.com

Barley is a nutritious grain that is rich in fiber and contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals like molybdenum, manganese and selenium.

People who are not used to eating protein may also experience bloating when they eat barley. Also, like wheat, barley is also a source of gluten. This may cause problems for people who are intolerant to gluten.

Refined barley, like pearl or scotch barley, may be tolerated better. Barley can also be replaced with other grains or pseudocereals like oats, brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat.

8. Rye

Source: en.wikipedia.org
Source: en.wikipedia.org

Rye is a cereal grain that is related to wheat. It is also nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, manganese, phosphorus, copper and B-vitamins.

Rye also contains gluten, a protein that many people are sensitive or intolerant to. Because of its high fiber and gluten content, rye may be a major cause of bloating in sensitive individuals.

Other grains or pseudocereals, including oats, brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa.

9. Dairy Products

Source: en.wikipedia.org
Source: en.wikipedia.org

Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are excellent source of protein and calcium. However, about 75% of the world’s population can’t break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. This condition is known as lactose intolerance.

For individuals with lactose intolerance, dairy can cause major digestive problems such as bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea.

People who are lactose intolerant can sometimes handle cream and butter, or fermented dairy like yogurt. To be sure,  try lactose-free milk products, or alternative milk products like coconut, almond, soy, or rice milk.

10. Apples

Source: pixabay.com
Source: pixabay.com

Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Apples have also been linked with a range of health benefits.

However, apples are also high in fructose (which is a FODMAP) and fiber. Fructose and fiber can both be fermented in the large intestine, and may cause gas and bloating.

Cooked apples may be easier to digest than fresh ones. If you really abhor bloating more than you love your apples, well you can try other fruits such as bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, mandarins, oranges or strawberries.

11. Garlic

Source: pixabay.com
Source: pixabay.com

Garlic is an undeniably popular spice. But it also contains FODMAPs called fructans. And they can cause bloating.  Allergy or intolerance to other compounds found in garlic is also fairly common, with symptoms such as bloating, belching, and gas.

Cooking the garlic may reduce these effects. Alternatively use other herbs and spices in your cooking, such as thyme, parsley, chives, or basil.

12. Sugar Alcohols

Source: en.wikipedia.org
Source: en.wikipedia.org

Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are used to replace sugar in sugar-free foods and chewing gums. Unfortunately, these are also FODMAPs. They tend to cause digestive problems, since they reach the large intestine unchanged where the gut bacteria feed on them. Similarly, consuming high amounts of sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Alternatively, erythritol is also a sugar alcohol that is easier on digestion. Stevia is also a healthy alternative to sugar and sugar alcohols.

13. Beer

Source: flickr.com
Source: flickr.com

Beer belly? Sounds familiar? Beer belly does not only mean ‘increased belly fat’, but also refers to the ‘instantaneous bloating’ caused by drinking beer.

Beer is a carbonated beverage made from sources of fermentable carbs like barley, maize, wheat and rice, along with some yeast and water. Therefore, it contains both gas (carbon dioxide) and fermentable carbs, two well-known causes of bloating. The grains used to brew the beer also often contain gluten.

Alternatively, if you are looking for alcoholic alternatives then red wine, white wine or spirits may cause less bloating.

A Word to the Wise

If you find that a certain food consistently makes you bloated, then simply avoid it. No food is worth suffering for.

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