Nothing is more annoying than experiencing belly bloat. Even though bloating is capable of making you feel puffy and uncomfortable plus making it just about impossible to zip up your skinny jeans, it usually is not serious. It can be due to a variety of things – eating too fast or too much or drinking through a straw. All of these actions can lead to gas buildup in the tummy and that can spell trouble.
But another common cause is our food choices. Both healthy and not so healthy foods can cause belly bloat. There can be several reasons for this but knowing and understanding the causes of why certain foods do this can lead you to knowing how to avoid and reduce the chance of an extended tummy.
Here are foods that are commonly known to be belly bloat troublemakers:
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Yes, you are supposed to eat cruciferous vegetables – these veggies are the workhorses of promoting our health high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants so you really don’t want to pass them up. But, they can be instigators of causing gas and bloating. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and turnips contain a non-digestible carbohydrate (trisaccharide) called raffinose. The way to avoid belly bloat and still be able to enjoy cruciferous veggies is to let your digestive system adjust over time to get used to them. Start with smaller portions gradually working up. Other tricks are to eat them slowly, try steaming them, and take a walk after eating. Moving helps prevent gas build up in your intestines helping to free trapped gas and reduce vegetable-related bloating.
You know what I’m talking about – beans! Dry beans and lentils also contain raffinose so be careful as eating these nutritious nuggets can also result in gassiness causing belly bloat. Like with cruciferous vegetables, start off with small portions slowly building up the amounts you eat. Taking a digestive enzyme such as Beano, can help you digest carbohydrates found in legumes reducing bloating related to bean consumption. Products containing simethicone, an over-the-counter medication to treat painful pressure, fullness and bloating are useful products for reducing gas bubbles.
3. Carbonated beverages
Any beverage containing carbonation – soft drinks, beer, energy drinks – can give you that uncomfortable belly bloat feeling as a result of swallowing too much air. The fizz in carbonated drinks (even diet drinks) can cause gas to get trapped in your belly. Belching can help but no one will be impressed and the bloating can still linger afterwards. Drinking a carbonated beverage too fast can be another contributor to a bloated belly. To combat carbonated beverages belly bloat, reduce the number of these drinks opting instead for drinking water with lemon, lime, or cucumber for a refreshing and healthier treat.
4. Foods containing sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits. The carbohydrate in these plant products are altered through a chemical process and are used as sugar substitutes in various foods providing fewer calories than table sugar as they are not well absorbed. If you read the ingredient list of foods you may see the words sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates – these are different types of sugar alcohols. Even though they are called sugar alcohols, they contain no alcohol.
Sugar alcohols can cause a bloated feeling because you don’t digest them well so they get fermented by bacteria in your digestive tract. Common products using sugar alcohols include sugar-free chewing gum, hard candy, frozen dairy desserts, and baked goods. If you suspect sugar alcohols are contributing to your belly bloat, start reading the ingredient list on food labels avoiding products that contain them.
5. Greasy foods
High-fat foods can make you feel very bloated. The reason is fat takes longer to digest slowing down the rate at which your stomach empties into the small intestine. That is why a large greasy meal of a double cheeseburger and large fries can make you feel like the Goodyear blimp. Next time, make healthier food choices and reduce your portion size.
6. Dairy products
Belly bloat associated with dairy foods is due to lactose intolerance. This is an inability to digest the milk sugar known as lactose. Certain ethnic groups have a much higher degree of lactose intolerance than others – American Indian, African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos. However, dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and protein. To avoid missing out on these key nutrients, the solution is to drink lactose-free milk, take lactose pills with dairy products or choose calcium-rich dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt where the lactose is already broken down.
Other tips on reducing belly bloat
7. Smoking is a nasty habit and bad for our health but it can also lead to belly bloat. When a person sucks in the excess air as smoke when inhaling from a cigarette, it can build-up as belly bloat. The answer – quit smoking.
8. Slow down when eating – eating rapidly causes air to get trapped in the stomach and has to be released in some manner.
9. Ditch drinking through a straw. This can lead to more air being trapped inside your stomach causing extension.
10. Eat more probiotic foods to maintain a good balance of good gut bacteria which can help relieve abdominal discomfort.
11. Drink some extra water as this can help move the process of digestion along quicker beating belly bloat.
12. Exercise on a regular basis – 30 to 60 minutes every day – may help reduce bloating. The increased blood flow to your gut can keep digestion running more smoothly.