Have you ever had a meal that you can physically feel for hours after you’ve finished? If you’ve ever been bloated, you know the uncomfortable feeling of having a full, distended stomach that looks like a “food baby.” But what foods might make you bloated?
The thing is, if it just happens sporadically, you may not even know what foods make you bloated. Was it the pizza? Your morning smoothie? Sugar-free gum? It can be hard to understand what your digestive symptoms are telling you. Get a handle on your digestion issues once and for all by reading up on what foods make you bloated.
Symptoms of Bloating
- Swollen or bloated stomach after eating
- A “stuffed” feeling after you drink or eat
- Your stomach may protrude or look bigger
How Does Bloating Work?
Many factors can cause bloating, including:
- Food intolerances
- A buildup of gas in your gut
- Imbalanced intestinal bacteria
- Eating too quickly
- Underlying gastrointestinal issues1,2
While bloating isn’t always food-related, there’s a good chance it could be.
What Foods Might Cause Bloating?
In general, “gassy foods” contain certain hard-to-digest sugars (FODMAPs) and/or soluble fiber. Certain drinks, like carbonated beverages, or habits, like smoking, can cause bloating too.
Food is a common trigger for digestive issues. Specifically, foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates can cause bloating, gas, and stomach pain. These types of carbs are known as
What Are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.3 Good thing there’s a handy acronym, right? FODMAPs are a group of carbs that are made of short chains of sugars. They are not easily digested by your body.
How Do FODMAPs Cause Bloating?
Instead of being absorbed in your bloodstream, FODMAPs make it to your large intestine and mingle with your gut bacteria. Once they reach your colon, they get fermented, turned to gas, and make you feel bloated.4 FODMAPs also draw water into your colon, which may cause more bloating and diarrhea.
Although not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs, many people are.5
Common FODMAPs Include:
Fructans: Found in many foods, including onions, garlic, leeks, wheat, and chicory root6
Galactans: Found in legumes
Lactose: Found in dairy products
Fructose: A natural sugar found in many fruits and vegetables
Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol, found in sugar-free candy and diet products7,8
Beans contain high amounts of protein, healthy carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They’re considered a healthy food to eat for a variety of diets.9
However, many types of beans contain sugars called alpha-galactosidase, which belong to the group of carbs called FODMAPs.10
Fully cooked beans cause fewer digestive issues than undercooked beans. So, if you love beans, cook them thoroughly.
Lentils, with their high fiber content, can cause bloating in some people. While fiber is generally considered to be an important part of a healthy diet, too much fiber can cause problems for some. A diet higher than 70g of protein a day can cause fermentation and gas build-up, which can lead to bloating.
Some studies show that a sudden increase in fiber – as might happen if you change to a vegan or whole foods diet – can cause uncomfortable side effects.11
Carbonated drinks, like soda, champagne, and even plain sparkling water can cause bloating. These beverages contain high amounts of carbon dioxide. When you drink them, you swallow carbon dioxide, which can get trapped in the digestive system and cause bloating or cramping.12
Some people swear off wheat and other grains because of a problem with gluten. For people with celiac disease (coeliac disease if you’re in the UK) or gluten sensitivity, this is a no-brainer. It can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea for those with an allergy to it.13,14
But does wheat cause gassiness and bloating in everyone else too? It depends.
Wheat is a major source of FODMAPs.
So for those who are sensitive to high fodmap foods (even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity), it could be causing stomach bloat.15
Broccoli And Other Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous veggies are a class of vegetables in the Brassica family. They’re a healthy bunch, boasting high amounts of fiber, vitamins C, E, and A, carotenoids, folate, and minerals. But they also contain FODMAPs, which can cause bloating in some people.16
Here are some popular cruciferous veggies:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens17
Cooking these vegetables may aid in digestion and help reduce bloating.18
Onions are used as a base in all types of sauces and types of cuisine. Although they are often consumed as a small component of a dish, they contain high amounts of a fructose chain called fructans.
Fructans, like other FODMAPs, cannot be fully digested in the bodies of many people. For people who lack the proper digestive enzyme, fructans reach the large intestine mostly undigested. There, they mix with naturally occurring bacteria and become fermented.19
This process can produce gas and discomfort for some people. As they ferment, fructans can also pull large amounts of water into the colon, which can cause bloating.20
Fructans occur in other foods, such as:
- Chicory root21
Dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk, are an important source of protein and calcium for many people’s diets. Dairy might be great for some, but it can leave many people feeling bloated.
It’s estimated that as many as 75% of the world’s population has trouble breaking down the main carbohydrate in dairy, lactose.22 People who are lactose intolerant don’t produce enough lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose.
Without this enzyme, lactose moves through your gut undigested and may cause digestive issues like:
- Abdominal pain
If you find yourself feeling bloated after you drink a glass of milk or eat a bowl of ice cream, you may have a problem with lactose.
Eating salty foods, like processed, packaged, or comfort foods like Chinese take-out, can cause stomach bloating. You may not think of it, but canned soups and vegetables can also contain high amounts of sodium. Salty foods may encourage bloating because salt causes water retention.24
If you tend to retain too much water and sodium in your body, talk to your doctor. They may recommend a natural diuretic to help with bloating and expel water and salt.
The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be true for some. But for many others, it does not keep the bloat away. Apples are high in fiber, and they also contain fructose and sorbitol, two types of fruit sugars that some people can’t tolerate.25
Fiber and fructose (which is a FODMAP) can both be fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. This can cause gas, bloating, and problems with digestion.26,27
Other fruits that may give a similar effect:
- Sugar Alcohols
While they naturally occur in fruit, sugar alcohols are also distilled and used to replace sugar in many sugar-free foods. Polyols, another name for sugar alcohols, are FODMAPs. Like other FODMAPs, they can cause gastrointestinal health issues.29
Some popular sugar alcohols include:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols can lead to gas, diarrhea, and digestive issues.30
Other Foods That May Cause Stomach Bloating
- Sugar-free candies made with sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol
- High-fat foods
- Cereal grains like barley and rye
- Protein bars
How To Beat The Bloat
Many foods that cause bloating also contain essential nutrients. So you don’t want to cut them all out, especially without consulting your doctor. As always, consult your doctor if you plan to make any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. Once you’ve done that, here are a few ideas to help you beat the bloat.
Pay Attention To Food Allergies
Bloating can be a sign of a food sensitivity. If a certain food, drink, or ingredient in your diet is consistently causing your stomach to bloat, it may be time to cut it out.
- Get tested for a food intolerance
- Try an elimination diet, under the guidance of your doctor
- Ask your healthcare provider for other strategies
Try A Low-Fodmap Diet
Since high FODMAP foods are responsible for a lot of bloating and digestive issues, you may want to seek out grains, fruits, and vegetables that align with a low-fodmap diet. See a nutritionist, or ask your doctor for an approved list of foods. Here are a few examples of approved foods:
- Almond Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Bok Choy
- Leafy greens, like spinach
- Gluten-free products like quinoa, oats, and brown rice
Sip On Peppermint Tea
In traditional medicine, peppermint has long been used to help soothe digestive issues.33,34Additionally, peppermint oil may help ease bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.35
To try it for yourself, brew a cup of tea with peppermint leaves or buy bagged peppermint tea.36
Snack on Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium-rich foods, like bananas, can help naturally lower sodium levels that could be causing you to bloat.37
So What’s The Best Way To Beat The Bloat?
If stomach bloating is an issue you deal with regularly, it’s time to put your detective hat on. Many of us continue to eat foods that we may have a low-level sensitivity to without even realizing it. While it’s not a big deal once and awhile, it’s not normal (or comfortable) to always feel bloated.
Call your doctor. Make a plan to change your diet or see if you have an allergy to something. If you know you tend to eat a lot of high FODMAP foods, try making a small change on your own. You may find that you’ve been silently struggling with something that can be managed with a diet tweak or the right supplement.