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, occurring in the digestive system, in response to eating foods that don’t agree with us on an individual level.
Top 5 Foods Causing Bloating
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 do contain sugars belonging to a group of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols).
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 use a process of fermentation to breakdown and digest certain compounds (such as FODMAPs) for energy so that they can survive. During this fermentation process, gas is produced as a by-product.
As a result, for those individuals who have sensitive gut bacteria (or in some cases, mild irritable bowel syndrome), this can lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts (among a vast number of others).
While these vegetables do contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals important to the healthy function of the body, they are similar to beans in that they also contain a relatively high amount of FODMAPs. This can again lead to bloating and abdominal swelling through gas production associated with the fermentation of this compound.
Onions are a bulb vegetable known for their unique and powerful flavor. While onions are typically used in very small quantities, they do contain large amounts Fructans.
Fructans are a soluble fiber that passes through the gut undigested. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that binds with fatty acids in the gut, slowing digestion and increasing the release of sugars into the digestive tract.
As such, consuming Fructans in moderate quantities, can disrupt bacteria of the gut, causing gas production, and subsequently resulting in the bloating and swelling of the digestive tract.
While dairy products (think milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter) are typically high in calcium, protein, and very nutrient dense, they also contain a type of simple sugar known as lactose. 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 including bloating, swelling, and digestive cramping. It has been suggested that up to 65% of the population are lactose intolerant to some degree, due to their limited ability to digest lactose in the gut.
It is important to note that, the severity of the symptoms is dependent on the severity of the intolerance, with those individuals displaying greater intolerance also displaying the more severe digestive responses.
Wheat has been a somewhat controversial topic of discussion in recent years, ultimately due it containing the protein Gluten. As wheat is used extensively to make breads and pastas, we also see a high concentration of gluten in these foods.
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, which as we know, can lead to additional digestive issues in up to 30% of the population.
Top 5 Foods Relieving Bloating
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 known to cause bloating.
Additionally, pineapple is also an excellent source of the enzyme Bromelain.
Bromelain plays an important role aiding in the digestion of proteins, and it has been theorized that by increasing bromelain consumption, we can improve our digestive system and help in relieving bloating.
The consumption of ginger has been shown to have a host of benefits in regards to digestive health – 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.
Like Ginger, peppermint has long been lauded for its medicinal properties. More recently, there has been research suggesting that the consumption of peppermint leads 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).
This increase in digestive motility speeds up the digestive process, clearing the digestive system and relieving bloating.
Bananas are extremely high in potassium, a mineral that has shown to counteract the effects of sodium within the body. If we have low potassium levels relative to our sodium levels, we 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 our potassium levels back to normal, improving our ability to excrete fluid from our body. This will subsequently lead to noticeable reductions in digestive bloating.
Parsley is an herb that has the capacity to act as a potent diuretic (in which it increases fluid excretion) when consumed in moderate amounts. As a result, eating parsley when we are bloating can speed up the digestion process by flushing our system of those proteins and fiber causing digestive issues.
It is important to note that while effective, this fluid loss can lead to loose stool and diarrhea if used excessively.
Take Home Message
While bloating is unquestionably common, it can be avoided. 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.
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