Ah, bloating. Feeling five months pregnant and being constricted by our now-tight jeans is always fun. And it’s usually after eating a delicious meal like pizza.
There are many reasons for belly bloat, many of which are dependent on the individual. But there are a few common foods and drinks that can cause this stomach upset.
“Bloating can be caused by the production of gas, usually due to fermentation of foods in the gut,” nutritionist Fiona Tuck told HuffPost Australia.
We all know the ‘beans, beans, the magical fruit’ rhyme, and when it comes to bloating, legumes like lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans are major culprits.
“Beans contain sugars called alpha-galactocides, which are fermented by gut bacteria in the colon,” Tuck said. “The fermentation process can produce gas in some people, leading to bloating.”
However, there are a few tricks to make legumes more digestible (and less gas-producing). If the beans are canned, rinse them under water using a colander until the 'soapy' film disappears.
"If they're dried legumes, soak them well prior to cooking," Tuck said.
We cook with, and eat, onions on a daily basis and they are often the cause of bloating, especially when raw. This is because onions are high in FODMAPs -- a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives.
"FODMAP-containing foods are quickly broken down by gut bacteria, producing gas which can lead to bloating," nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin told HuffPost Australia.
Like onion, garlic is considered a FODMAP food and can cause bloating and other digestive issues in some people.
"These are high in fructans, which can be more difficult to digest for those with more sensitive digestion, thereby contributing to bloating, gas and pain," Tuck said.
4. Cruciferous vegetables
"Sulphur-containing vegetables including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are extremely gassy and are common culprits of bloating," Bingley-Pullin said.
Other cruciferous veggies include rocket, radish, wasabi and bok choy.
To make these vegetables, including garlic and onion, more digestible, Bingley-Pullin recommends avoiding eating them raw.
"Avoid excessive raw vegetables and opt for lightly steamed. Or cook vegetables well or make into a soup for better digestion."
If you consistently become bloated after eating anything containing gluten -- bread, pizza, cereal, crispbreads, biscuits -- you may have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten.
"Gluten is a protein found in wheat and grains. Some people are more reactive to gluten and can experience side effects such as tummy pain and bloating," Tuck said.
If this is the case, check in with your GP and avoid self-diagnosing.
6. Fruit and dried fruit
Fruits such as apples and pears are high in FODMAPs and, as such, can cause bloating issues for those with IBS or digestive issues.
"Some fruits, especially dried fruits, are higher in sugars which can lead to fermentation in the gut and bloating," Tuck said.
7. Fizzy drinks
Always have a soft drink or soda water when eating? If you feel bloated afterwards, it may be because the air bubbles in the soft drink can increase the amount of air in your digestive tract.
"Carbonated beverages can cause gas to build up and lead to feelings of bloating," Tuck said.
Bloating can also come about due to the way we eat.
“Eating too fast and in a stressed state and not chewing food well can cause bloating,” Bingley-Pullin said.
At meal times, sit down away from distractions (TV, smart phone, emails), slow down and savour every bite.
To help reduce bloating, try these tips:
- Sip peppermint tea after the meal
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Chew each bite until liquid before swallowing
- Avoid overeating at meals and try enjoying 5-6 smaller meals daily instead
- Cut back on sugary food, sugary drinks and alcohol
- Stay hydrated throughout the day to help fibre travel through the gut
- Do gentle exercise like walking to stimulate digestion and alleviate wind
If you experience bloating on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to detail your diet on paper to tease out which foods are causing issues, and get in touch with your GP.
“Keep a food diary and take note of which foods are triggering symptoms,” Bingley-Pullin said. “Speak to your healthcare professional about the trialling the low FODMAP diet if it’s severe.”