If you’re suffering the discomfort of the daily bloat, you may be surprised by what’s actually causing it to happen in the first place. It’s a common belief that a healthy diet will prevent bloating, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case! Aside from the common bloating culprits such as high-fat or greasy foods, there are a number of “healthy” foods that could also be causing your flat tummy to bloat up.
You’ve probably heard of the low FODMAP diet at this stage, but just in case you’re not familiar, here’s a quick run-through. Bloating occurs in two instances: when the bacteria in your large intestine can’t break down certain food or when there’s a build-up of gas or fluid in your gastrointestinal tract.
These digestive issues are commonly caused by foods that are high in FODMAPs. So what are FODMAPs? FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that your body can’t completely digest. As a result, they end up traveling to your colon without being digested and the bacteria in your colon starts to ferment them. Although not everyone responds negatively to this fermentation process, it can cause inconvenient gas and bloating in some people that you want to avoid.
Studies have shown that avoiding high FODMAP foods can reduce the uncomfortable issue of gas and bloating and a low FODMAP diet is often recommended to help to manage these symptoms by avoiding these hard-to-digest foods.
The following list includes some high FODMAP foods and other foods known to cause bloating issues. Eliminating or reducing your intake of some of these foods may help to manage your symptoms, so it’s definitely worth a try.
Dairy is often associated with digestive issues due to lactose. Lactose is a sugar that’s found in dairy products and can cause gas and bloating when not digested properly. This usually occurs in people with a lactose intolerance but you don’t have to have an intolerance to be sensitive to this enzyme. Consuming too much lactose can often cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and painful bloating.
If you believe dairy is an issue for you, it’s likely that lactose is the culprit and it’s worth getting tested for an intolerance. In the meantime, dairy products like hard cheeses and yogurt may not cause any issues because they don’t contain lactose. A lot of people with this kind of sensitivity will instead opt for the many dairy-free alternatives now on the market, such as nut and rice milk.
Apples are a super low-calorie fruit and no one can argue their health benefits. However, your apple a day may not keep the bloating away! Apples contain an enzyme called fructose which puts them into the high FODMAP group. If apples are a problem for you, try swapping them for some berries instead which are low in FODMAPs but still super healthy and nutritious.
We often include garlic in recipes without thinking twice, but this is another food that falls into the high FODMAP category and can cause that dreaded bloat. Garlic tends to have a worse effect on bloating when eaten raw but it can still cause issues when it’s been cooked, so the only thing you can do is try it and see what happens. If garlic does cause you digestive difficulty when cooked, try swapping it for chives in your recipes. It’s not a perfect swap but definitely better than suffering the consequences of an uncomfortable tummy for a few days afterward!
4. Beans and Pulses
Beans and pulses are packed full of protein, high in fiber, and rich in minerals, but unfortunately, they also fall into the FODMAP group so they may be contributing to your digestive discomfort. A good trick here is to pick up tinned pulses instead, as some of the galactooligosaccharides (the enzyme that can cause difficulties with digestion) can leak out into the liquid that you generally drain out of the tin. It’s important not to cut out beans and pulses out completely as they’re super nutritious, gluten-free, and don’t tend to cause as many issues as their other FODMAP counterparts.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable alongside Brussel sprouts and cabbage, and it contains another type of short-chain carbohydrate called fructan which isn’t properly digested until it reaches the large intestine. Aside from possible bloating, this also results in the production of a particularly strong-smelling gas called hydrogen sulfide, which you generally want to avoid!
However vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, so if you’re ditching the broccoli don’t forget to replace it with other vegetables which are easier on your gut, such as courgettes, aubergine, sweet potatoes, spinach, turnip, and lettuce. You’ll find a full list of low FODMAP vegetables with a simple Google search.
6. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit may be a super convenient snack but it can also lead to really uncomfortable bloating! Dried fruit is very high in fructose and people who have problems with absorbing this fruit sugar can suffer adverse digestive flare-ups as a result. If you’re in doubt, stick to the fresh food alternative instead and opt for those low on the FODMAP score.
7. Artificial Sweeteners
There has been a lot of debate over artificial sweeteners in recent years, but what’s certain is that they do cause digestive issues for many people. The “why” behind this is often what’s debated most. The sweetener known to cause the most digestive issues is usually sorbitol. This sugar is hard to digest by the body and it’s found in fruits such as peaches, prunes, and apples (see our earlier section). When it gets to the large intestine, sorbitol can create bloating, diarrhea, and gas. If you’ve suffered from any of these issues then it’s always wise to check out the labeling on your food items so you can avoid sorbitol where possible.
Wheat is a high-fiber food with a lot of health benefits that help to control obesity by improving metabolism and providing the body with lots of nutrients. However, it is well known for causing bloating and many people have opted for wheat alternatives as a result. Wheat and other gluten-rich grains are not well tolerated by some people and they can have quite a serious effect on the 1 in 100 people worldwide who suffer from Celiac disease and cannot digest gluten.
But you don’t have to have Celiac disease to react badly to gluten. IBS sufferers often have a wheat/gluten sensitivity too. If you do want to keep these foods in your diet, make sure to drink lots of water with your meal so that the gluten is easier for your body to digest. But if it’s still causing an issue, you may need to eliminate this food group completely. Luckily, there are lots of gluten-free products on the market for people who suffer from this issue, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find tasty alternatives to your favorite foods!
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