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Have you ever felt as if your lower stomach was full of air or swollen? Or maybe you have uncontrollable gas and your stomach feels cramped or painful after eating? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that among people with gastrointestinal disorders, 76% experience some form of abdominal bloating (1).
In rare cases, sometimes bloating can be a sign of a serious medical condition. But more often than not, specific foods are the cause or a significant contributing factor in bloating or cramps.
Here are 10 of the most common foods that are known to cause bloating so you can see if limiting your intake of these culprits leads to relief. And you can also take extra steps to reduce bloating.
Many people find that when they remove wheat from their diet, they no longer experience digestive discomfort or bloating. This may be because wheat contains a protein called gluten. An estimated 18 million Americans are believed to have an intolerance, or sensitivity to gluten.
Studies have found that for those with gluten-intolerance, ingesting gluten can trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, which can mean stomach cramping, diarrhea or constipation, gas, bloating, and fatigue (2).
Wheat also contains oligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that experts call a FODMAP. Some people have an intolerance to these types of carbs, especially people with IBS, and the resulting fermentation of the FODMAPs causes the release of gas which can contribute to cramping and bloating (3).
Beans are one of the most well-known foods for causing bloating and gas. They are rich in fiber and are a high FODMAP food, containing a type of fermentable carbs called galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).
If you’re not accustomed to eating lots of fiber, this can be a trigger in itself for bloating. This especially applies if you don’t drink enough water. The high FODMAP content ups the ante even more. The good news is that if you find beans are one of your culprits, it doesn’t mean you have to stop eating them. Because GOS is water soluble, soaking your beans in water overnight before cooking them can make them much more digestible.
According to a report in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 65 percent of people are unable to properly digest dairy due to an intolerance to lactose (4). Another report found that as people grow older, their ability to digest dairy decreases.
When your body is unable to properly digest dairy, it causes a wide range of digestive symptoms including abdominal pain, gut inflammation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping (5).
To extend shelf life, many types of milk also undergo a process called ultra-pasteurization which involves heating milk to over 280° F which destroys good bacteria, naturally present enzymes that help you digest milk, and this process also denatures some of the proteins, making dairy much more difficult to digest.
Artificial sweeteners are a popular additive in low-sugar or “diet” foods because they don’t contain any calories. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have a negative effect on your weight or health.
A comprehensive study published in Nature International Journal of Science found that artificial sweeteners negatively affect bacteria in the gut, resulting in a glucose intolerance (6). While more research is needed, evidence suggests this kind of glucose intolerance can impact obesity and several digestive issues like bloating or abdominal cramps (7, 8).
Some artificial sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are also high in FODMAPs. As such, they can cause a considerable amount of bloating and gas.
Lentils are also a rich source of fiber and FODMAPs, those tricky fermentable carbohydrates. Both of which can cause bloating, cramping, and gas. If you love lentils, not all is lost. Soaking or even sprouting your lentils before cooking can significantly improve their digestibility.
If you’re a fan of beer, the news gets even worse. Beer contains gas in the form of carbon dioxide, and it contains yeast, and it’s often high in fermentable carbs (FODMAPs). This makes beer the perfect recipe for bloating.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. They are a rich source of disease-fighting compounds, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, fiber, and iron. Under normal circumstances, they are exceptionally healthy superfoods.
But if you have issues with foods high in FODMAPs, cruciferous vegetables could be another cause of your bloating (11). The good news is that by eating smaller portion sizes, most people can still eat cruciferous veggies without problems.
Like many of the foods mentioned here, onions and garlic are high in FODMAPs. While incredibly good for you, some people have a tough time digesting onions which can result in additional cramping and bloating (12).
The same applies to garlic. Some people are intolerant to garlic and will experience bloating and gas shortly after consuming it (13). If you notice that onions or garlic affect your gut, try cooking them. Sometimes this can make a big difference in how well your gut tolerates onions or garlic.
Carbonated beverages like beer, soda, or seltzer water contain large amounts of carbon dioxide gas. When you consume these drinks, a significant portion of the gas can end up getting trapped in your gut. This, in turn, can result in bloating, cramping, and general digestive discomfort.
Both barley and rye are grains that contain gluten even though they aren’t wheat. As a result, they can cause bloating and digestive issues with people who are intolerant to gluten. These grains are also high in fiber which may cause problems with those who don’t drink enough water or are not accustomed to consuming fiber.
Alternatively, you can try these other healthy grains. Just make sure to purchase organic grains, as conventionally grown crops contain harmful pesticides that disrupt your gut microbiome, which can ultimately lead to bloating, gas, and other digestive complications.
Excessive bloating and gas can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. By reducing your intake of some of these gas-inducing foods, you may find welcome digestive relief.