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Digestion


"Oooh, my stomach hurts". Sometimes it's just gas, and sometimes, well, it's not.  Often people check the internet to avoid asking embarrassing questions.  Reading about the possible causes of your digestive symptoms is just the start.  Ask your healthcare provider if your symptoms persist, and don't be embarrassed - because they aren't.  

Bloating is when the stomach becomes swollen, which can often occur after eating. It is rarely a sign of a serious medical condition, but it can cause pain and discomfort.

Bloating may affect up to 13 percent of the general population in the United States. People who have frequent bloating often find that their diet is to blame.

In this article, we discuss 10 foods that commonly cause bloating. We also provide suggestions for alternative dietary options that are less likely to have this effect.

1. Beans

Foods that cause bloating beans
Beans have a high fiber content and contain sugars that the body can find difficult to break down.

Beans are full of protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Beans may cause bloating because they have a high fiber content and contain oligosaccharides, which are sugars that the body can find difficult to break down.

People can opt for beans that are easier to digest, including adzuki and mung beans, or they can try using alternatives, such as:

Soaking beans before cooking them can make them less likely to create excess gas on digestion.

Another way to reduce the discomfort and flatulence that consuming beans can cause is to eat small amounts each day to gradually build up good gut bacteria and reduce gas.

One study found that most of the participants who ate beans daily for 8–12 weeks noticed a reduction in their digestive symptoms across that period.

2. Carbonated beverages

Carbonated beverages, including sodas, have carbon dioxide gas in them to create the bubbles.

This gas goes directly to the digestive tract, where it can cause bloating. The over-consumption of these beverages can also cause other health issues. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that sodas increase the risk of diabetes and contribute to obesity.

Alternatives that are more healthful and will not cause bloating include:

  • plain or flavored water
  • fresh fruit and vegetable juices
  • seltzer water with fresh juice, lemon, or lime
  • milk
  • hot and cold teas, especially green tea

Choosing these healthful options can help with bloating and weight loss. However, it is advisable to make sure that substitute beverages do not contain large quantities of sugar.

3. Wheat

Wheat contains a protein called gluten, which may cause bloating, gas, stomach pain, and diarrhea for some people. Bread, pasta, and many baked goods contain gluten.

Sensitivity to gluten can be due to a condition called celiac disease, which affects about 1 percent of the American population.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity might affect up to 6 percent of the population, according to a report in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

Alternatives to wheat that may not cause bloating include:

  • pure oats
  • buckwheat
  • wild rice
  • almond and coconut flours
  • quinoa

4. Rye and barley

oats are an alternative to foods that cause bloating
Replacing rye and barley with oat-based foods may reduce bloating.

Rye, which is related to wheat, and barley are both cereal grains.

Both grains are nutritious, rich in fiber, and full of vitamins and minerals.

However, their high fiber and gluten content can cause bloating in some people.

People can replace rye and barley with other grains, such as oats and brown rice, or with gluten-free cereals. They could also consider using pseudocereals, such as buckwheat or quinoa.

Pseudocereals are tiny, grain-like seeds from non-grass plants, which people can consume in the same way as regular cereals.

The nutritional profile of pseudocereals is superior to that of conventional cereal options, as they contain more protein and dietary fiber.

5. Onions and garlic

Onions contain fructans, which are soluble fibers that may cause bloating.

Fructans also occur in garlic, leek, agave, wheat, and a range of other gas-producing foods. Even in small quantities, onions and garlic can cause bloating and other digestive issues.

Some people may have an allergy to garlic or onions, which further increases the likelihood of bloating, belching, and gas after consuming them.

People can substitute celery, collard greens, leeks, and fennel for onions. Alternatives to garlic can include other spices and herbs, such as chives and basil.

6. Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, garden cress, and many others.

These are healthful foods that contain many essential nutrients, including vitamins C and K, fiber, and potassium. However, they can cause some undesirable digestive symptoms, including bloating.

Cooking cruciferous vegetables makes them easier to digest. Alternatively, people can replace them with other healthful vegetables that are equally rich in vitamins and minerals but will not cause bloating. These include:

  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • sweet potatoes
  • asparagus
  • carrots
  • ginger
  • celery

7. Dairy

Dairy products, which include milk and a range of cheeses and yogurts, are an excellent source of calcium and protein. Some people have a condition called lactose intolerance, which means that their bodies are unable to break down lactose, the sugar in milk products.

According to one report in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, up to 75 percent of the world’s population will lose the ability to digest lactose during their lifetime. If people have lactose intolerance, consuming milk is likely to cause bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

Some people who have lactose intolerance can eat some lactose-containing products, including cheese and yogurt, or can manage them in small quantities.

Lactose-free milk alternatives are available, including:

  • lactose-free milk
  • almond milk
  • soy milk
  • rice milk
  • flax milk

People can also purchase lactose-free cheeses, yogurts, and ice creams.

8. Non-nutritive sweeteners

coconut sugar is an alternative to foods that cause bloating
Coconut sugar is a healthful alternative to artificial sweeteners that have no nutritional benefit.

Non-nutritive sweeteners, or artificial sweeteners, replace sugar in sweet beverages, foods, and chewing gum.

They include sorbitol and xylitol, among others. These sweeteners have no nutritional benefit, and experts do not recommend them for optimal health.

Research from BMC Obesity links these sweeteners with an unhealthful lifestyle, poor diet habits, and declining physical and mental health.

Moreover, non-nutritive sweeteners may cause digestive problems, including gas and bloating.

Healthy alternatives to artificial sweeteners and refined and processed sugar include:

9. Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol is an inflammatory substance, and consuming it may cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining.

Beer is particularly likely to irritate the gut because it is a carbonated beverage. It also contains yeast, which feeds on the harmful bacteria in the gut, and fermentable carbohydrates, such as barley and wheat. Many people are sensitive to fermentable carbohydrates, which can cause gas and bloating.

As alcohol carries other health risks, it is best to drink water or tea as an alternative. However, if people want to drink alcoholic beverages, wines and spirits should cause significantly less bloating and gas than beer.

10. Apples and pears

Apple and pears are both popular fruits that contain plenty of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. They are also known for causing bloating and digestive problems.

This is because they contain fructose, which is a fruit sugar that a lot of people find difficult to digest.

Pears also contain sorbitol, which can cause significant bloating for some people.

Cooked apples and pears can be easier to digest than fresh ones. People can also replace the apples and pears in their diet with other fruits that are less likely to cause bloating, such as:

  • berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
  • citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, mandarins, and oranges
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • cantaloupe

Takeaway

In most cases, bloating will occur as a result of specific foods or beverages in the diet rather than a severe medical condition.

Foods that cause bloating in one person may not affect another person. Therefore, it is important that people only avoid foods that affect them rather than cutting out every food that may cause bloating.

If avoiding certain foods does not help with bloating, it is best to talk to a doctor or dietitian who can address any particular issues. They may also recommend specific supplements, such as probiotics or digestive enzymes, to encourage digestion and decrease the likelihood of bloating.

In the rare instances when the diet is not the cause of bloating, it is possible that a medical condition is responsible.

A consultation with your health care professional is the proper method to address your health concerns. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. This information is designed for educational purposes only and should not be used in any other manner. This information is not intended to be substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider. Rapid advances in medicine may cause information contained here to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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