Foods affect each of us differently, but there some foods that have proven to cause bloating across the board, and some that are known to stop it. Here's a list of ten foods that cause bloating, and ten the help beat the bloat!
The Bad Stuff
Consuming alcohol often leads to puffiness and bloating, because alcohol actually causes the body to retain water. Alcohol can also cause constipation, which contributes to bloating and discomfort. Not to mention, carbonated alcoholic drinks like beer also contain carbon dioxide and fermentable carbs, two common causes of bloating. On top of that, grains used to brew beer (including wheat, rye and barley), often contain gluten, which is another common cause of bloating.
2. Soft drinks
Soft drinks (and other carbonated drinks) make you swallow a lot more air than usual. Since a lot of bloating is caused by excess gas in the digestive track, so soft drinks are an obvious thing to avoid. In much the same way, chewing gum also has this effect on digestion.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale) are fantastic for your body. They’re high in nutrients including folate, vitamin C, and fibre, and are even thought to help prevent cancer. However, they also contain the carbohydrate raffinose, which causes bloating. Raffinose is difficult to digest because we lack the right enzyme, and is instead fermented by the bacteria in our tummies... Yuck. Don’t stress though, these veggies are easier to digest when roasted or steamed, so give it a shot before you give them up completely!
Coffee is acidic and can irritate the lining of the gut, which leads to bloating, especially if you have a sensitive stomach or have not eaten. This is worsened when combined with sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you’re lactose intolerant or sensitive, putting milk in your coffee will make things even worse.
Your favourite movie snack may be causing your bloated tummy. You may not be consuming a large amount of carbs, but because of its volume, popcorn takes up a lot of room in your stomach and temporarily causes it to expand.
6. Raw spinach
Spinach contains a lot of soluble fibre, which is great for you but difficult to digest. It also has ‘oligosaccharides’ which are a type of sugar that ferments in the stomach. Spinach is far easier to digest when it’s been partially broken down, either blitzed in a smoothie or sautéed in a bit of oil.
Legumes including beans, soybeans, peas and lentils contain large amounts of fibre and protein. Whilst this is good, and makes legumes an important part of a balanced diet, it also makes them hard to break down. Like many foods on this list, because our bodies cannot digest this fibre, bacteria in the gut ferments and causes gas and bloating. Soaking dried beans and lentils overnight to help breakdown fibre is a great way to avoid this.
Like spinach, onions contain oligosaccharides in the form of fructans, that the small intestine cannot break down.
Like alcohol, ingesting too much salt causes the body to retain water and bloat. Be careful, a lot of pre-packaged and processed foods usually contain large amount of salt.
Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream etc.) contain a type of sugar called lactose. Lactase in an enzyme that breaks down lactose, and those with lactose intolerance don’t produce enough of it, which leads to significant bloating among other things. If you think you may have an intolerance or have trouble digesting dairy, try using non-dairy substitutes like soy or almond milk and talk to a doctor.
It’s important to note that lifestyle factors also affect bloating. Stress, smoking and sitting all day are all causes of bloating and discomfort. A good way to check if a food is likely to cause tummy trouble is by finding if it contains ‘FODMAPs’, (the short chain carbohydrates that our bodies have trouble digesting and end up ferment with bacteria). Also, if bloating persists, have a chat to your GP about it.
The Good Stuff
1. Green and peppermint teas
Green and peppermint teas are fantastic digestion aids. As well as boosting your metabolism, green tea is a great source of antioxidants and has diuretic benefits. It also maintains epithelial cells, which reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Alternately, mint helps soothe inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and serves as a mild appetite suppressant.
2. Lemon and water
This is probably a pretty obvious one, as lemons are one of the most popular detox tools. A diuretic, lemon polyphenols also aid weight loss, a hit of antioxidants, and help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Another obvious one – by flushing excess sodium from the body drinking water massively reduces bloating!
3. Apple cider vinegar
This wonder drink helps you break down food by stimulating the production of gastric enzymes. Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the morning will generally reduce bloating. You can mix it with water, or even try putting it in a salad dressing.
Ginger is not only an anti-inflammatory, but also an effective digestive aid with significant carminative properties. Making a homemade tea is a great way to incorporate ginger into your diet. Try combining it with lemon for even better results.
Like ginger, herbs including fennel, parsley, coriander and rosemary all have carminative properties. They help relieve pain, discomfort, and overall bloating. Adding them into salads, smoothies and teas is a simple trick to reduce bloating.
Honeydew, watermelons and rockmelon (cantaloupe) are three great ways to minimise bloating. Being densely packed with water, these melons help flush excess water from the digestive system. Their high potassium levels (honeydew and rockmelon have 400g per cup, and watermelon has 170g) also act as natural electrolyte replacements, a winning combination!
Asparagus contains compounds that act like probiotics (healthy bacteria), which aid digestion. Grilled with lemon or blanched, asparagus makes a great side dish or snack between meals.
8. Dark chocolate
Chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao is packed with fibre and polyphenols, which increases healthy bacteria in the intestine that soothes inflammation in the body.
9. Berries (cranberries & blueberries)
Cranberries have a diuretic effect on the body and don’t affect the body’s potassium levels. Like many foods on this list, the high potassium levels in cranberries helps prevent the body from retaining water. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain a lot of water, which can help alleviate bloating. Blueberries and raspberries are also high in fibre and low in fructose, which decreases abdominal pressure and bloating.
10. Fermented foods
Last but definitely not least, fermented foods are one of the best things to minimise a bloated belly. The fermentation process encourages essential bacteria to flourish, which break down lactose and other sugars and starches. Yoghurt with billions of live active cultures, Korean fermented cabbage kimchi, and the milk and grain drink kefir are all great probiotic options to help significantly reduce gut inflammation.