We’ve all been there. You had a meal or a snack, then a little while later you notice your waistband has become a smidge tighter, or your belly is suddenly uncomfortably rotund. What happened? Bloating, that’s what.
It doesn’t matter how old you or how fit you are — at one point or another, we all experience and wonder how to stop bloating.
Bloating is pretty uncomfortable and at times can be embarrassing (cue flatulence jokes), but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve got some stellar suggestions for foods that cause bloating as well as foods that help with bloating.
What exactly is bloating?
First off, let’s expand on bloat, or more specifically, why you feel bloated. Unless you’ve eaten an unusually large meal, abdominal bloating is the noticeable swelling of the small intestine due to excessive gas production. Imagine all that healthy gut bacteria in your belly working hard to break down foods in your gastrointestinal tract, with gas a byproduct of all their hard work — the harder the food is to break down, the more gas is produced. Don’t panic! This process is entirely normal and healthy; it just takes a bit of time for bacteria to adapt to new or challenging-to-digest foods.
It’s not just foods that cause bloating. Did you know that eating fast, chewing gum or drinking through a straw can also contribute to belly bloat? The quicker you eat, the more air you ingest in the process, which can lead to — yeah, you guessed it — bloating. You might want to try slowing down by giving mindful eating a go. Also ditching single-use plastic straws, will not only help reduce bloating but also mitigate environmentally polluting plastic waste — two birds, one stone!
Another of the stomach bloating causes can be recurring yeast infections often related to a condition called Candida. Symptoms of Candida usually express themselves in moodiness, brain fog, upset stomach, itchy rashes (commonly in your nether regions) sugar and alcohol cravings and, of course, stomach bloating. If you suspect you may have this condition, then get checked out by your primary medical care professional.
Foods that cause bloating
If you’ve ruled out non-food related stomach bloating causes, then let’s look at what foods are best side-stepped to help prevent or counteract bloat.
If you feel bloated shortly after eating dairy-based foods, this could indicate that you may be lactose intolerant. Symptoms can vary from mild bloating to extreme abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is due to the lack of enzymes that break down lactose (dairy sugars). This means your gut bacteria is producing a whole lot of gas with every slice of brie you eat. If you’re asking how to stop bloating, especially if you need your daily splash of milk in your oatmeal or coffee, fear not there are a host of delicious nut-based milk alternatives out there — as always choose unsweetened variants.
That being said, in the dairy spectrum, yogurt is the exception and can be one of the foods that help with bloating. The reason for this is because the bacteria in fermented dairy products such as yogurt already have the milk sugars partially broken down and promote the healthy intestinal bacteria. Yogurt cultures have already done half the digestive work for you by the time they arrive in your gut.
It seems like good ole gluten has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. This wheat protein is a healthy part of most whole grains; however, gluten intolerance can develop in some people as a result of overconsumption of the same strain of wheat. One defining symptom of gluten intolerance is belly bloat. In other cases, people may be sensitive to genetically modified gluten variants so, as we frequently recommend, select whole grain, unprocessed, and organic foods (if possible).
Should you believe that you might be struggling with gluten intolerance, visit an allergist to get tested. Not only can those with gluten sensitivity or intolerance suffer from gluten-based bloating, but after a while, such intolerances can potentially develop into leaky gut syndrome.
We know you’ve heard it before, but trust our sage advice if you want to learn how to stop bloating, and steer clear of processed foods. You know the ones we mean, think white bread and pasta as well as packaged foods. Remember what Coach Lisa always says, the longer the list of ingredients, the more processed the foods tends to be. When trying to figure out the foods that cause bloating in your body, it’s advisable to avoid anything with additives. How do you know if a product has additives? A general rule of thumb: the harder it is to identify an ingredient by its name in the ingredient list, the higher the likelihood it’s an additive.
It’s also worth mentioning that processed foods also tend to have a lot of added sugar and salt, leading to dehydration; the process of osmosis means you will pull water into rather than out of your body, which in turn may result in belly bloat.
Soda and carbonated drinks
They may be refreshing and oh so tempting, but these bubbly beverages will not only fill your belly up with carbonated air, but the sugar and additives in them will leave you feeling even more thirsty and wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Choose water over soda whenever you want to quench your thirst.
Another beverage that you want to minimize — or even cut out entirely — is alcohol. We’re aware that this can be challenging within social settings like parties or get-togethers and that cool, crisp pinot grigio on a hot summer’s day may hit the spot, however consuming alcohol opens the floodgate to water retention and stomach bloating. If you want all the fun and none of the pain, why not try a healthy mocktail instead.
Legumes encompass everything from alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, lupin beans, mesquite, and carob to soybeans, peanuts, and tamarind. You might be wondering why they’re considered foods that cause bloating, well this is because legumes are packed with fiber which requires more digestive power from that good gut bacteria and therefore leads to the increased production of gas. Legumes are an integral part of any nutritious plant-based diet, and a those new to plant-based eating need not worry. The body requires a bit of time to transition from former dietary habits and, in time, legume-triggered bloating will subside.
Foods that help with bloating
Now that we’ve covered what foods are best to skirt around, let’s have a quick look at what kind of foods will help alleviate your belly bloat. Here are a few home remedies for stomach bloating you may find helpful.
Hydrating is essential in the battle against the bloat. Drinking enough and eating water-dense foods, that help with bloating by enabling your system to flush out toxins, reduce inflammation, and minimize water retention.
- Lemon water: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice in your water isn’t just refreshing but also promotes digestion, as lemon’s molecular structure mimics that of your body’s saliva and digestive juices.
- Watermelons: The name says it all. This water-dense fruit is comprised of 92 percent water and is a natural diuretic. Along with honeydew and cantaloupe, the potassium content in melons will help balance out any minerals lost through sweating or urination.
- Celery and cucumbers: These two water-rich foods, that help with bloating, are useful digestive aids, controlling gas by reducing water retention.
These probiotic-rich foods contain healthy bacteria that break down and ferment some foods. Certain strains of beneficial digestive bacteria that can be found in fermented foods include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
- Kefir: A fermented drink that’s brimming to the rim with good belly bacteria to help you combat the bloat and will have your digestive system humming like a well-oiled engine.
- Sauerkraut: This unassuming German cabbage dish helps increase good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria — plus, it’s teeming with immune-boosting vitamin C.
- Kimchi: Sauerkraut’s Korean counterpart is rich in vitamins and bacteria that will support healthy intestinal flora and alleviate stomach bloating causes.
Spice up your life
- Rosemary: This aromatic herb is a jack of all trades, helping everything from headaches to high blood pressure. To stop bloating with rosemary, steep it in tea or add it to a nourishing broth.
- Turmeric: A staple of Indian and South-East Asian cuisines, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and digestive superhero. Spicing up a meal with turmeric will settle help settle an upset stomach and reduce bloat. Try our turmeric latte recipe.
- Ginger: Hot on turmeric’s heels is its close relative and medicinal multi-tasker, ginger. Soothing bloating is one of many ailments it remedies by blocking specific enzymes and genes in foods that cause bloating.
- Cilantro: There’s a reason you will often find flavorful cilantro twinned with bean-based dishes in both Mexican and Asian dishes, as it often helps prevent or reduce gassiness resulting from those tasty legumes.
Spill the tea
- Peppermint: Peppermint tea is the most popular of home remedies for stomach bloating or tummy trouble and peppermint oil may help reduce spasms and promote digestion. The eugenol and thymol found in peppermint help break down food.
- Dandelion root: Drinking dandelion root tea can support the digestive system as well as relieve painful bloating, water retention and menstrual cramps, as it has both diuretic and laxative properties.
How to stop bloating tips: Checklist
- Slow down. Eating fast will have you ingesting more air than usual, plus slowing down will also allow your brain to catch up to your body so you can sense when you’re full sooner.
- Ditch single-use straws. Produce less waste, both in your body (gas) and environmentally (plastic).
- Visit a medical professional. Rule out any potential food intolerances, sensitivities, or infections.
- Minimize dairy consumption. If you can, swap out cow’s milk for nut-based milk alternatives.
- Ditch processed foods and those with additives. These foods tend to be high in sodium and sugar, which will lead to dehydration, water retention and eventual bloating.
- Up your hydration. Drink more water and eat water-dense foods. This will flush your system of inflammatory toxins and relieve water retention.
- Eat more probiotics. Pump up your probiotic intake by consuming unsweetened yogurt or fermented foods.
- Use spices in every meal. Add flavor and nutrients with healing, aromatic herbs and spices to reduce bloat and inflammation.
- Make time for tea. Peppermint, fennel and dandelion root will ease tummy troubles, plus tea time is a wonderful self-care routine.