Bloating is a common complaint among many people, and it usually comes alongside constipation, excess gas, hormone shifts, or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).1
The foods you eat and drink have a significant effect on digestion and can even be a contributor to a bloated belly. While some foods are universally known to increase bloating, everyone is different, so what may cause bloating in one person may not affect another. This is why tracking your food and meal planning can help avoid or reduce bloating.
In this article, we will address what bloating is, what causes it, and some of our favorite foods to help beat the bloat.
What is bloating?
Bloating is when your belly feels full, tight, or distended because of excess air or gas.2 If you’ve ever been bloated, you know it can cause varying degrees of pain, from minor discomfort to intense pain.
Stomach bloating is commonly caused by digestive issues but may be caused by other factors. Possible causes of stomach bloating include:
Excess intestinal gas
While some gas is naturally produced during normal digestion, too much can indicate abnormal digestion. Excess gas may be from swallowing too much air when eating too quickly or drinking carbonated beverages. Usually, this air is released through burping.
Gas is formed in the large intestine when bacteria digest carbohydrates through fermentation. Eating too fast, food intolerances, and digestive diseases can disrupt the normal digestive process, causing an increase in fermentation and excess gas.
Hormonal changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle may cause bloating. Many women also report having bloating during perimenopause. Estrogen has also been shown to cause water retention. People may notice bloating from fluid shifting when estrogen levels increase, and progesterone decreases around menstruation. Additionally, the volume of the uterus increases during menstruation, which can cause bloating.3
Estrogen and progesterone also impact the gastrointestinal system. These hormones can each cause excess gas by altering the rate of gut motility.4
Digestive problems like constipation, bowel obstructions, altered gut motility, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and IBS have all been associated with increased abdominal bloating.5
Other medical causes
Persistent bloating accompanied by fever and vomiting may be due to a serious medical condition. You should seek treatment from a medical provider to rule out ascites (build-up of fluid in the abdomen due to liver, kidney, or heart failure), pancreatic insufficiency (pancreas no longer makes the digestive enzymes needed for digestion), gastritis or enteritis (inflammation of the stomach or intestines), or cancer.6
Understanding Why Some Foods May Help Relieve Bloating or Trigger It
Your digestive system works to break down the food you eat into energy that can be used to fuel your body’s cells, processes, and functions. However, certain foods are more difficult to digest than others, leaving excess gas in your gut.
Remnants of food that can't be broken down and digested by the intestines are transported to the colon, where bacteria ferment the undigested food, resulting in gas, burping, and flatulence.
Gas may also occur in people who lack certain digestive enzymes, such as those who lack the enzyme lactase needed to digest lactose.
Some nutrients from the foods you eat, like potassium, fiber, probiotics, inulin, and antioxidants, may help to relieve or prevent bloating.
What Foods and Drinks Help Ease Bloating?
Several foods and beverages may help decrease or prevent bloating. Here are 20 foods that can help ease bloating:
Yogurt is rich in probiotics, the good bacteria that support gut health. Studies suggest that probiotics improve digestive health and bowel regularity. Probiotics may also decrease bloating that is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).7,8
Avocados are high in potassium, which helps regulate sodium levels and fluid balance to prevent water retention.9 They are also high in fiber, which helps promote digestive regularity and prevent constipation and bloating.10
Cucumbers have a high water content. Eating foods that are high in water can help you stay hydrated, which may reduce water retention and prevent bloating caused by dehydration.11,12,13
Bananas are high in fiber and potassium, which may decrease bloating. Potassium helps decrease water retention, and fiber helps improve digestive health, which promotes regular bowel movements.9, 10
Ginger is a well-known herb that relieves digestive discomfort. Some evidence suggests that ginger may speed up digestion and prevent feelings of bloating and excessive fullness. Ginger also has an enzyme called zingibain that helps the body break down protein more efficiently and promotes healthy digestion.14,15,16
Asparagus is high in fiber, a nutrient that supports digestive health and reduces bloating. It also contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that may promote gut health and prevent bloating and constipation.17
Celery is another food that has a high water content. Celery also contains mannitol, a sugar alcohol that promotes regular bowel movements by pulling water into the colon and softening stools.18
In addition to these other nutritional benefits, celery has natural diuretic properties that help to increase urine production and rid the body of excess water and sodium, easing bloating.19
Berries are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Eating more fiber can help improve gut health and prevent constipation which can help prevent bloating.10
Not only is papaya high in fiber, but it also has a high water content. Papaya also contains an enzyme called papain which aids the body in digesting and breaking down protein into amino acids. This fruit's fiber and water content, along with the enzyme papain, may promote healthy digestion and ease bloating.20
Eating oatmeal every morning can be a great way to promote digestive health and fight bloating. Oats are high in fiber, particularly beta-glucan, a type of fiber that has anti-inflammatory properties.21
This herbal tea can help you stay hydrated and stave off bloating. Green tea is high in antioxidants that can decrease inflammation. The caffeine in great tea also has a natural laxative effect, stimulating bowel movements and lessening bloating.22
Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is high in probiotics and antioxidants. It is often made from green or black tea. Drinking kombucha can increase hydration, support a healthy gut, and fight inflammation, all of which can help ease bloating.23
Peppermint tea is often used to treat digestive symptoms. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and ease IBS symptoms like bloating, stomach discomfort, and constipation. It might also inhibit muscle spasms in the digestive tract which might help calm bloating.24
Pineapple is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and contains over 80% water. Pineapple also contains an enzyme called bromelain, which has been used in traditional medicine to help alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders. Some studies show that bromelain may also fight inflammation, which can help with symptoms like bloating.25
Turmeric contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin, which may help support gut health and alleviate symptoms of IBS, including bloating.26,27
Quinoa is high in fiber and antioxidants, which may help decrease bloating. Quinoa is also gluten-free, which may benefit some people who experience bloating after eating gluten-containing foods like pasta, crackers, and bread.10,28
Apples are high in water, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients help regulate fluid balance, keep you hydrated, and promote regular bowel movements.9,10,12
Rhubarb is high in fiber and contains a substance called sennoside. Sennosides, often found in stool softeners and laxatives, have a natural laxative effect that stimulates bowel movements.10,29
Kiwi contains several nutrients that can ease bloating, including fiber and potassium.9,10
More than one study indicates that kiwi may have digestive benefits that decrease bloating, stomach discomfort, and constipation.30,31,32
Fennel is closely related to celery and shares its ability to increase urine production and decrease water retention. It also has antispasmodic properties that may help relax the muscles in your gut and ease symptoms of gas and bloating.31
Other Ways of Preventing Bloating
In addition to adding more bloat-fighting foods to your diet, there are other steps you can take to prevent bloating.
Daily probiotics can help restore your gut bacteria and promote better digestion. Some probiotics will improve digestion; others may increase the absorption of excess gas. It may take several days or weeks of consistent use before you notice any changes.7,8
Chewing Slowly and Thoroughly
Chewing is the first part of the digestive process. It is important to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Chewing thoroughly improves digestion and reduces excess gas that can cause bloating. Food not chewed completely takes longer to move through the digestive system, which can increase bloating.
Regular exercise can help decrease excess gas and bloating. Studies show that being physically inactive may increase the risk of poor digestive health and aggravate gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating.35
Getting enough sleep can help prevent bloating. Poor sleep quality can negatively impact various aspects of your health, including digestion. Lack of sleep can also alter hormone levels that affect gut health and digestion.37,38
Foods And Drinks That May Cause Bloating
Many foods and beverages may cause digestive issues like bloating. Here are six things you may want to avoid if you’re experiencing bloating:
Beans and lentils
Legumes contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols) which some people may have difficulty digesting. These short-chain carbohydrates escape digestion and are then fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. Gas and bloating are a common byproduct of this process.39
These beverages are high in carbon dioxide, a gas that gets trapped in the stomach and causes pressure. This may lead to stomach discomfort and burping.40
Sugar alcohols are also FODMAPs. These artificial sweeteners may cause digestive problems in some individuals. Consuming high amounts of sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.41
For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, wheat causes serious digestive problems, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Wheat is also a source of FODMAPs, which may cause gas and bloating in some individuals.42
For those who are lactose intolerant, dairy may cause gas, bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables contain FODMAPs and may be a source of digestive upset for some people. Cooking these vegetables makes them easier to digest and less likely to cause gas and bloating.
Making a De-Bloating Diet Part of Your Lifestyle
To make lifestyle changes that will help reduce bloating, you have to first understand the cause of your bloating. Tracking your food and symptoms can help determine how your diet triggers bloating.
If bloating is persistent, painful, or begins to worsen, you should seek treatment from a medical provider to rule out any serious health conditions.
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Topics discussed in this article:
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