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12 Foods That Cause Bloating & Diet Tips 2023

Heather Freudenthal
by
foods that cause bloating
Learn which foods can cause the most bloating. Photo: Shutterstock

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Bloating, ranging from a mild feeling of fullness[1] to more severe, sharp pains and an inflated stomach , can feel and look extremely uncomfortable. If you frequently find yourself asking, “Why am I so gassy?” the answer may be hidden in your pantry.

In this article we will outline 12 of the most common foods that cause bloating, including foods that cause stomach bloating and those that cause face bloating. You will learn which food groups and specific ingredients to avoid, discover digestion-friendly food substitutes that have similar tastes and textures, and develop eating habits that can reduce bloating.

List Of Foods That Cause Bloating

Because our bodies are unique, what makes one person feel bloated may not make another person feel bloated. However, there are some common foods that, due to their chemical make-up, tend to be the biggest bloat offenders for most people. They include:

  • Beans.
  • Lentils.
  • Grains.
  • Apples.
  • Carbonated beverages.
  • Beer.
  • Cruciferous vegetables.
  • Onions.
  • Garlic.
  • Fatty foods.
  • Dairy products.
  • Sugar alcohols.

Common Foods That Cause Bloating

foods that cause bloating
Apples can cause bloating in some individuals. Photo: Shutterstock

While there are many common foods that cause bloating, some are more notorious than others. Additionally, the severity and location of the bloating can vary from person to person. Review the list of foods below that cause bloating, see if you recognize any of your dietary staples, to uncover the possible causes of your bloating.

Beans

There is a popular song that goes, “Beans, beans are good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you fart!” This is to poke fun at the fact that beans are notoriously gassy foods. Beans contain a type of carbohydrate, or sugar, called oligosaccharides,[2] which humans cannot fully digest.

While the human body produces many digestive enzymes,[3] such as amylase, protease, lactase, and lipase, to help break down certain carbohydrates, proteins, and  fats, we do not make enzymes that specifically break down oligosaccharides. This allows for excess gas and bloating to occur when the bean sugars reach the small intestine.

Lentils

Like beans, lentils are also high in oligosaccharides, which can be difficult for many people to digest. Additionally, lentils are packed with dietary fiber,[4] which, although it has tremendous health benefits, including positively influencing the gut microbiome, can also be challenging for some people to digest when consumed in high quantities.

Cooking your lentils (or beans) with kombu, a type of seaweed, can help reduce gas and bloating, due to a natural enzyme in kombu that helps break down oligosaccharides.

Grains

Some grains naturally contain gluten,[5] a protein found in wheat and rye, which can be difficult for the body to break down, especially for those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity,[6] or those with celiac disease. This can lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. 

Other grains such as  rice, oats, and quinoa do not contain gluten, but may still be difficult to digest, due to their disaccharide,[7] phytic acid,[8] and/or complex protein content. This is highly individual, however, as trigger foods will vary from person to person.

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Apples

They say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but for some people, this may not be the case. Apples have many nutrients, but are also high in fructose,[9] a sugar, which is known to promote bloating. They are also rich in fiber. Both fructose and fiber ferment in the large intestines, producing bloating in many individuals.

Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages, such as seltzer, beer, and soda, can induce belching, reflux, gas, and bloating in many people. It is thought that when the carbon dioxide[10] from the bubbles interact with the gastrointestinal system, specifically the stomach and esophagus, it can produce these uncomfortable symptoms. 

Beer

Beer is a double whammy.  Made with both carbonation and wheat (gluten), two bloat-promoting culprits. Additionally, beer is an alcoholic beverage,[11] which in and of itself, can weaken, inflame, and damage the gut, leading to a sensitized gastrointestinal system. 

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and turnips all fall into the cruciferous vegetable category, because they all belong to the same plant family: genus Brassica.[12] The flowers they grow from have four pedals, resembling a crucifix, hence the label, “cruciferous.” 

Like beans and lentils, these vegetables are high in FODMAPS[13] (various fermentable sugars), which can cause bloating, especially for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. 

Onions

Onions have many nutritional and disease-fighting properties, but they also happen to be high in fructans,[14] one of the fermentable FODMAP sugars. When fructans ferment during the digestive process, this can leading to bloating.

Garlic

Many people who cannot tolerate onions also cannot tolerate garlic,[15] for the same reason. Garlic, like onions, is high in fructans. This makes garlic difficult to digest, especially for individuals who already have gastrointestinal disorders. 

As an alternative to garlic and onions, try hing (asafetida), an Indian spice[16] which tastes similar to garlic and onions, but does not contain the same chemical makeup, making it easier to digest. 

Fatty Foods

Of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), fat is the slowest to digest. Therefore, when too much fat is consumed, it can sit in the body longer and may trigger various gastrointestinal symptoms,[17] including bloating. Reducing fried and fatty foods can help alleviate bloating. 

Dairy Products

If you can tolerate dairy products,[18] you are in the minority. It’s estimated that 65% of people are lactose intolerant, lacking the necessary enzymes needed to break down lactose, the primary sugar in dairy products. When lactose cannot be properly broken down, it produces gas, bloating, as well as other unpleasant symptoms, not only in the gut, but all throughout the body.

Dairy products include cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.

Sugar Alcohols 

Sugar alcohols are common foods that cause severe bloating. They include xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, and are often used in sugar-free foods and chewing gum. These sugars go undigested[19] throughout the gastrointestinal tract until they reach the large intestines, where they ferment. This fermentation process can bring on bloating. 

Other Diet And Eating Tips To Avoid Bloating 

One way to relieve bloating is to avoid or reduce the foods that cause the most bloating, but there are eating habits and approaches to eating that can also help reduce or prevent bloating. Follow these suggestions if you want to debloat fast.

Hydrate

Among other health benefits, drinking water flushes out your body. This helps move toxins, bacteria, trapped air, and undigested food particles through the body faster, leaving less time for these elements to contribute to bloating.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Eating large meals can lead to bloating. When we eat, we naturally produce gas from the food. Additionally, air can be swallowed during eating and drinking. When the meal is large it increases the amount of food consumed, therefore increasing the gas produced, as well as air swallowed. Instead of three big meals a day, lighten the load by eating smaller meals more often.

Reduce Stress

Stress can impede digestion[20] in numerous ways. When digestion doesn’t function optimally, undigested food can pass through the digestive tract and/or stay stuck in the system longer than it should. 

Actively relax before each meal and practice mindful eating. Take a few deep breaths before starting, pause before each bite, look at and smell your food, and practice gratitude.

Exercise & Stretch

Bloating can be as simple as trapped air inside the body. The more we move and stretch, the more opportunity we allow for air to leave the body. Make exercise part of your regular healthy lifestyle routine, or take the time to stretch before and after each meal. 

Chew Your Food

Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing[21] is the first stage in the digestive process, and is one of only a few instances of mostly mechanical digestion (the later stages of digestion are mainly chemical, orchestrated by hormones, bacteria, and enzymes). 

When we chew food properly, enzymes in our saliva start to break down the food, while our teeth mash the food into tiny pieces, preparing it to be swallowed and received by the stomach.

Chewing food properly (until it is a pudding consistency) helps reduce the amount of undigested food that your stomach and intestines receive later, thereby reducing gas and bloating. 

Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live organisms[22] that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer health benefits on the host (us). Probiotics can help break down food, decreasing various digestive symptoms, including bloating. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, or taken in supplement form.

While probiotics can reduce bloating, this is bio-individual. Some individuals may experience more bloating when taking probiotics, rather than less. Before taking a probiotic, discuss it with your doctor to find a brand and strain that is suitable for you.

Decrease Fiber

Fiber is essential to health, helping to improve the function of the digestive system, but it is possible to have too much fiber. If you are one of the many Americans who don’t get enough fiber,[23] increase it. But, be sure not to have it in excess, as having too much fiber can cause bloating.

Fiber comes from whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables. If you find yourself consuming too many of these plant foods and feel bloated, reduce your fiber intake and this may alleviate your symptoms.

Ask For Sauce & Dressing On The Side

Many sauces, condiments, and dressings contain bloat-inducing ingredients, such as garlic, onions, sugar, and dairy. Many people take for granted that they are healthy eaters, but forget about their dining out habits and may not be aware of all the ingredients going into the food on their plate.

Next time you dine out, ask your waiter for your dressing, condiments, or sauce on the side, or to leave it out entirely. See if you notice a difference in how you feel afterwards. Portion sizes matter, as well, so you may choose to have your sauce on the side and add just a little to your dish.

Substitute Foods

Don’t be afraid to make food and ingredient substitutions. Instead of wheat spaghetti, make zucchini noodles. Instead of cow’s milk, switch to almond milk. Instead of garlic and onions, choose hing, the Indian spice.

For every food that makes you feel bloated, there are many similar, healthy options or alternatives that look, feel, and taste similar, if not better!

Read Food Labels

Don’t blindly put food in your shopping cart without reading the labels. There may be ingredients in your packaged food that are responsible for your bloating. Get in the habit of looking at the ingredients list on the back of food packages.

Cook With Kombu

Kombu, a type of seaweed, has natural enzymes that break down hard-to-digest sugars found in beans, lentils, and grains. If you don’t want to avoid these foods, eat them, but prepare them at home and add a strip of kombu to the pot while the food is cooking. This will help you digest the foods better and reduce the chances of bloating.

Conclusion

Bloating is an uncomfortable and embarrassing sensation. For some, bloating feels like sharp gas pains, while others may experience flatulence or a protruded abdomen. Either way, bloating can be reduced or avoided entirely with simple adjustments to diet and lifestyle. 

Certain foods are known to be difficult to digest and produce gas, leading to painful bloating. 

Limiting these common bloating foods in your diet will help alleviate and avoid discomfort. Additionally, eating too quickly, not chewing your food properly, and eating under stress can increase the likelihood of bloating, so be sure to slow down and relax during meals. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the worst foods for bloating?

Beans, grains, sugar alcohols, dairy products, beer, carbonated beverages, garlic, onions, and apples are some of the worst foods for bloating.

Can bread cause bloating?

Yes. Both the wheat and gluten in bread can give many individuals adverse reactions, including bloating. This is especially true for those with gluten or wheat allergies or sensitivities and those with celiac disease.

Do bananas cause bloating?

Not usually. However, everyone is unique and some people may have a hard time digesting the sugars in bananas, especially very sweet, ripe bananas. 

What fruits are most bloating?

Any fruit with fructose and polyols (FODMAP sugars) such as apples, pears, cherries, plums, prunes, and avocados can cause bloating in some people. 

Can yogurt cause bloating?

Yes. Dairy can be difficult to digest, causing bloating, especially for people who have lactose intolerance.

What if my bloating doesn’t go away?

If you have adjusted your diet to reduce bloating foods and adopted healthy lifestyle habits and your bloating continues, seek medical advice.

Should I stretch before or after a meal to reduce bloating?

Either will help. Stretching beforehand can prevent bloating, while stretching after a meal may help reduce bloating. Either way, stretching in general is great for everyday health.

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EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A Health Coach specializing in Integrative Nutrition, I approach wellness with a holistic and functional medicine perspective. As a writer, I simplify intricate topics such as nutrition, gut and hormone health, mental well-being, and spiritual health,… See More

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