Relieving bloating starts with identifying the foods that cause it then finding better alternatives – those that offer relief.
Bloating describes the sensation of your stomach being swollen or enlarged after eating. This is generally caused by the accumulation of excess gas in the intestines and is most commonly thought to be the result of undiagnosed food allergies or intolerances.
Bloating has been suggested to occur in up to 30% of the population on a regular basis. Although it can be a symptom of a more severe medical condition, it is much more likely a reaction of your gut to foods that don’t agree with you.
Top 5 Foods Causing Bloating
Wheat has been a somewhat controversial topic of discussion in recent years, ultimately due it containing the protein gluten.
There are individuals within the population that are sensitive to gluten and as such, are unable to digest it effectively. As a result, the consumption of gluten can lead to bloating and swelling of the intestines, among a host of other digestive problems.
It is important to note that, wheat is also a source of FODMAPs.
FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested in the gut, and are actually fermented by gut bacteria. The gut is lined with billions of bacteria that ferment compounds (such as FODMAPs) for energy so that they can survive. During this fermentation process, gas is produced as a by-product.
It is estimated that up to around 30% of the population is sensitive to FODMAPs and experience digestive symptoms when they consume them.
So, though certainly not the case for everyone, wheat can certainly promote bloating in some people.
Dairy products (think milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter) are typically high in calcium, protein, and very nutrient dense. But they also contain a type of simple sugar known as lactose, which can cause bloating.
Lactose is broken down in the gut by an enzyme known as lactase, which is produced in the small intestine. After infancy, the vast majority of the population experience a significant drop in lactase production, reducing their capacity to breakdown and digest lactose.
Due to this reduction in the digestive enzyme lactase, the consumption of dairy can lead to major digestive problems. These include bloating and swelling as well as digestive cramping.
Research suggests that up to 65% of the population is lactose intolerant to some degree.
It is important to note that, the severity of the symptoms is dependent on the severity of the intolerance. Individuals with greater intolerance experience more severe digestive responses.
Onions are a bulb vegetable with a unique and powerful flavor. While their strong flavor leads most people use onions in very small quantities, even small amounts of onions contain large amounts fructans.
Fructans are a type of soluble fiber that passes through the gut undigested. This slows down digestion and increases the release of sugars into the digestive tract.
As such, consuming fructans in moderate quantities, onions can disrupt bacteria of the gut, causing gas production. This, then, can result in bloating and swelling of the digestive tract.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts (among a vast number of others).
These are some of the healthiest veggies on the planet. They contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals important to the healthy function of the body.
But they also contain a relatively high amount of FODMAPs. This can, again, lead to bloating and swelling through gas production.
While beans are an excellent food choice (due to their high fiber content, high nutrient density, high protein content, and their high probiotic content), they contain large amounts of FODMAPs.
As a result, for those individuals who have sensitive gut bacteria (or in some cases, mild irritable bowel syndrome), beans can lead to severe bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Top 5 Foods Relieving Bloating
As a result, eating parsley when you are bloating can speed up the digestion process by flushing your system of those proteins and fiber causing digestive issues.
It is important to note that while effective, this fluid loss can lead to loose stools and diarrhea if used excessively.
Bananas are extremely high in potassium, a mineral that can counteract the effects of sodium within the body.
If you have low potassium levels relative to your sodium levels, you are likely to retain more fluid in the gut (as a result of sodium’s fluid retaining capacity). This fluid retention can lead to bloating and swelling of the digestive tract.
The consumption of bananas can return your potassium levels back to normal, improving your ability to excrete fluid.
This then leads to noticeable reductions in digestive bloating.
Peppermint has long been lauded for its benefits for digestive health and recent research is starting to put some teeth to those claims. New studies suggest that the consumption of peppermint can in fact lead to an increase in digestive motility.
Digestive motility describes the repeated contraction of the smooth muscle tissue within the small and large intestine that causes the movement of its contents through the digestive tract (essentially describing the physical process of digestion).
Increasing digestive motility speeds up the digestive process, clearing the digestive system more quickly and relieving bloating.
Eating ginger has a host of digestive benefits – one of which relates to its role in improving our ability to digest complex compounds such as fiber and protein.
This is thought to be the result of an enzyme found in ginger known as zingibain, which is known to promote the breakdown of fiber and protein molecules. This improved digestion has shown to result in relieving bloating and discomfort.
Pineapples are a fruit consisting mostly of water. As a result, pineapples have the capacity to flush the digestive system, removing fiber and other indigestible matter that may be causing bloating.
Additionally, pineapple is an excellent source of the enzyme bromelain.
Bromelain plays an important role aiding in the digestion of proteins.
Scientists theorize that by increasing bromelain consumption, we can improve our digestive system and help in relieving bloating.
Take Home Message
While bloating is unquestionably common, it is avoidable. As bloating and abdominal swelling is commonly the result of food intolerances and allergies, relieving bloating is possible by avoiding foods that act upon those intolerances and allergies.
Furthermore, including the top 5 foods that help in relieving bloating into your diet, will support the digestion of complex fibers and proteins, improve digestive motility, reduce water retention, and speed up digestion in its entirety. By consuming these foods, we can reduce the likelihood of abdominal bloating considerably.