Bloating is an uncomfortable experience; that much is obvious. However, many do not know that the foods you eat play a significant role in bloating. There are foods that reduce bloating, and likewise, other foods may promote or worsen bloating. If you want to avoid bloating, you need to know about both. That's why this article will examine bloating, its causes, and the best foods that reduce bloating.
Bloating is a condition that arises when the gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or gas, causing it to feel full and light. Aside from the pressure, tightness, and fullness, the stomach may be noticeably distended or swollen.
The severity of this condition can range from mildly discomforting to severely painful. While bloating usually resolves after a while, it may persist for days for some individuals, necessitating medical care.
There are several different reasons bloating may arise. Below are a few of them.
This is one of the most typical causes of bloating. Constipation is a condition characterized by difficulty emptying the bowels, leading to stool spending longer in the gut. When this happens, the gut bacteria ferment the content of the colon, releasing gas in the process. This gas, in turn, increases the volume of the abdominal region and can cause bloating.
Bloating may result from functional digestive disorders, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and dyspepsia. Both of these disorders affect the way the body digests foods. Scientists cannot say for sure what causes these disorders, but bloating is one of the common symptoms.
Many women notice bloating during their menstrual cycle. Also, women in the perimenopause stage of their lives also report increased bloating occurrences. One common denominator in both menstruation and perimenopause is hormone fluctuation. Female hormones, like estrogen, can cause bloating in the gastrointestinal tract.
The stomach is acidic, which is necessary for food breakdown and subsequent digestion. If there’s not enough stomach acid in the body, food may spend more time in the stomach, which promotes the activity of bacteria in the food. Ultimately, gas buildup results, and bloating may follow.
Gut bacteria are necessary for food digestion, and healthy people usually have them in moderate amounts. However, the bacteria in the colon may overgrow in the small intestine, in a condition known as SIBO. This overgrowth upsets the microbial balance of the small intestine, which may lead to the overproduction of gases in the gastrointestinal tract. One can not only have bacterial overgrowth, but sometimes yeast overgrowth, which also causes excessive gassiness.
Excess inflammation in the body always brings a host of health conditions, depending on the inflamed area. If the gut is inflamed, bloating may arise. Common causes of gut inflammation include food sensitivities and specific digestive disorders, like IBS and SIBO.
Another reason for gut inflammation is a dysregulation of the Inflammation Circuit in the body due to chronic stressors. This circuit is one of the six that make up the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, which is the body’s natural response to stress. Other than bloating, another condition that can result is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), occurring when the body cannot keep up with chronic life stressors.
Other than the causes above, some foods and drinks have been linked to bloating, either causing or worsening them. Here are some of them.
Alcoholic drinks, particularly beer, are a strong risk factor for bloating for multiple reasons. Firstly, alcohol is inflammatory and may cause the digestive tract lining to become inflamed, affecting normal digestive processes.
Also, carbonated alcoholic drinks, like beer, can lead to excess gas in the stomach and also irritate the gut. Beer is also brewed using grains like wheat and barley, which are hard to digest and can promote bloating. Plus, there is yeast in alcoholic drinks, which may upset the gut’s microbial balance.
This will be a surprise to many, considering the several health benefits apples possess. However, apples also contain fructose, which is a type of FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). FODMAPs are poorly-absorbed sugars in the intestine and may cause gas buildup and bloating. Additionally, apples are high in fiber, which can be fermented in the intestine, causing excess gas production.
Also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, these substances have little health benefits, and the body also finds it difficult to process them. Consequently, this may result in digestive issues, like bloating. Examples of artificial sweeteners are saccharin, xylitol, and aspartame.
Legumes, like beans, lentils, and peas, are highly nutritious foods, and they are especially high in protein. However, they are also high in fiber and FODMAPs. The body cannot digest FODMAPs properly, and high fiber content can also promote microbial fermentation in the gut.
The connection between carbonated drinks and bloating is relatively easy to draw. Carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide, which is a gas, and too much gas in the stomach can lead to bloating and other digestive issues.
One of the commonest food intolerance today is lactose intolerance. Studies show that about 75% of the world’s population will have lactose tolerance at some point in their lives. People with this condition don’t have enough lactase in their bodies to digest lactose. Gut bacteria can then act on undigested lactose in the abdomen, causing excessive gas production in the stomach.
Both food substances have many health benefits, but they also have fructans, a type of FODMAPs. The body cannot digest this well, and bloating may arise. Moreover, some people have been found to have a food allergy to garlic, and bloating may also result from this.
These are common grains today, used in many dishes and beverages. Wheat, rye, and barley are high in insoluble fiber. As the name implies, this kind of fiber is not soluble in water, and the body cannot digest them. While they add bulk to the stool and can help promote bowel movement, the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract may also act on them, producing gas in the process. This can then lead to bloating.
As there are foods that promote bloating, there are also foods that reduce bloating. Below is an overview of some of these foods.
Foods high in water content, like cucumbers, can provide a hydration boost in the body and ensure the body’s daily fluid requirements are met. This prevents fluid retention in the body, which is a risk factor for bloating. Also, these foods can help soften stool and prevent constipation, which is also a major risk factor for bloating.
Asparagus is one of the foods that reduce bloating and is renowned for reducing water retention and stimulating urination. Also, asparagus is high in insoluble fiber. However, the fiber here is inulin, which is a prebiotic. While it still cannot be broken down in the gastrointestinal tract, it promotes the growth of certain beneficial bacteria.
Studies have shown that fennel has anti-spasmodic properties, meaning it can help relax intestinal muscles, allowing gas to escape. Another reason fennel is heralded as one of the foods that reduce bloating is its anti-inflammatory properties, which help combat gut inflammation. The useful properties of fennel for reducing bloating are due to its content of the substances anethole, fenchone, and estragole.
Ginger is renowned as a common home remedy for several digestive disorders, and it is also among the foods that reduce bloating. One of the enzymes in ginger is zingibain, which studies have linked to healthy digestion because of its ability to help process protein.
Avocados are an excellent source of potassium. The relation of this to reducing bloating is that potassium helps manages sodium levels in the body, which is crucial for regulating water retention. If fluid retention reduces, bloating may also reduce. Also, avocados are rich in antioxidants, which may help combat gut inflammation.
This fruit is also rich in potassium, which is essential for water retention in the body. A study showed that eating bananas twice a day can also reduce bloating.
Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, which anecdotal reports state is helpful in resolving digestive issues. Research also indicates that bromelain may have valuable anti-inflammatory benefits. Furthermore, pineapples are a good hydration source, which is always a desirable property in foods that reduce bloating.
This tropical fruit is one of the foods that reduce bloating. Papayas contain an enzyme known as papain which research has shown to be anti-inflammatory. This fruit also helps to soothe the digestive process. One study showed that papaya supplements can reduce constipation and bloating.
Oats are an excellent source of whole grains and are also rich in fiber. Studies reveal that oats contain beta-glucan, which is a type of soluble fiber that can stimulate the body’s immune system to fight inflammation.
Foods with high water content help hydrate the body, preventing fluid retention, a risk factor for bloating. Watermelon has more than 90 percent water and also contains the antioxidant lycopene, which has been reported to exert anti-inflammatory effects.
Often taken as a tea, oil, or supplement, peppermint is one of the foods that reduce bloating and is also linked to managing other gastrointestinal conditions. According to studies, peppermint has relaxing effects on the intestinal walls, which may relieve trapped gas in the abdomen.
This is one of the more underrated foods that reduce bloating. Celery has high water content and can help soften stool, promoting regular and healthy bowel movements. Also, studies have shown that celery contains apigenin flavonoid, which is associated with reducing gut inflammation and promoting gut health.
Foods like kefir, kombucha, probiotic yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut are fermented and contain live and active cultures. These foods are rich in probiotics, which are microorganisms that help improve digestion and counter harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Also, studies indicate that some of these foods prevent dehydration and also prevent gut inflammation because of their antioxidants.
Turmeric has long been used as a spice in many dishes. There’s more to turmeric than its taste-improving properties, though. Studies show that curcumin, the substance also responsible for turmeric’s bright yellow color, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Also, the substance may help manage digestive disorders like bloating and constipation.
Aside from these foods that reduce bloating, there are other useful measures that could help prevent and manage bloating. Below are some of them.
There may also be some underlying medical conditions causing bloating, so if you remain bloated for days, you may need to talk to your healthcare provider.
There’s a strong relationship between bloating and food. Some foods can promote bloating, and there are also foods that reduce bloating. These foods are often good for combating inflammation, promoting hydration, and managing digestive disorders as well.
Before switching to these foods, however, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you will be making drastic changes to your diet, especially if you are on medications.
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There are two main types of dietary fibers - soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can help promote digestion and is useful in foods that reduce bloating. On the other hand, insoluble fiber cannot be broken down in the stomach, and gut bacteria may ferment it, causing gas buildup and bloating.