What Should I Eat to Avoid Bloating?

What causes bloating, and what foods should you eat to avoid bloating and help handle this condition? Sharon addresses some of the top questions on this common GI symptom in her Ask Sharon column today.

Tummy tightness, gas, and discomfort–you know how uncomfortable that feeling can be. In fact, bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) complaints, for people with digestive concerns or just within the general population. The symptom of bloating is considered to be subjective, meaning that the individual experiencing the bloating can feel the discomfort, but it cannot be observed by others. Those who experience bloating have symptoms that vary from person to person, which makes it challenging to measure. Depending on the severity of the pain, bloating may be a result of having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), feeling full, or consuming food that your body is rejecting. Symptoms of bloating generally include tightness, discomfort, gas, and constipation. The good news is that you can help prevent that feeling of being bloated through understanding your diet, as well as staying active in your healthy lifestyle. If you have been experiencing digestive problems, it is best to get treatment from a healthcare professional to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Learn more about ways to reduce and avoid bloating as I answer one of the most common questions I receive as a registered dietitian.

What Should I Eat to Avoid Bloating?

Nourish Lentil Bowl

Question: What is your body trying to tell you if you’re bloated?

Sharon’s Answer:
Bloating is one of the most common GI complaints, for people with digestive concerns or just within the general population. Remember that we are all unique, with a different body composition, metabolism, genetic influence, gut microbiome, and digestion. Here are a few reasons that you may be feeling bloated.

1. Food Intolerances. One reason you may be bloated is because of gas related to food intolerances, such as lactose or FODMAPs. The FODMAP acronym describes a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines. There are five types of carbohydrates that are removed from the diet: lactose, fructose, polyols (mannitol and sorbitol), galactans and fructans. Foods that are high in FODMAPs pull water into the intestines and can lead to an increase in bloating and irregularity. Removing high FODMAP foods can help improve digestion imbalances especially in those who have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and IBS. Following a strict low-FODMAP diet is not something for the long-term. Finding out what foods trigger you, why they trigger you and then building a more complex diet is the best for the long-term digestive health management. Keep track of when you experience symptoms in a food diary to establish which foods you’ve been eating when you experience bloating. You may benefit from seeing a registered dietitian who can help you do an elimination diet (i.e., FODMAPs) to pinpoint food triggers. Learn more about eating a Low-FODMAP diet here.

2. Poor Gut Microbiota. If you have a healthy gut microbiota—one that has a diverse number of healthful microbes in greater volumes—it can help improve digestion and lower GI symptoms. Eating foods that support your gut microbiome, such as prebiotic fibers and fermented foods, as well as probiotics that target your clinical needs may help. Learn more about feeding your gut microbiota here.

Black-Eyed Pea Sweet Potato Chili

3. Constipation. This happens when your bowel movements become less frequent and hard to pass. Constipation can cause bloating, too. The main tools to combat constipation include increasing fiber intake, increasing water intake, and adding daily exercise. Check out these tips on how to increase fiber in your diet.

4. Abdominal Fat. Bloating may be more severe in people who have higher fat levels around the tummy area, so losing a few pounds with a healthful diet and exercise may improve symptoms. Check out my top tips for weight loss here.


French Green Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Learn more about foods that can help reduce bloating:

Eating a Low-FODMAP Diet on a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-Based, Low-FODMAP Diets with Kate Scarlata
The Latest Basics on Fiber
Fuel Your Diet with Fiber with 6 Dietitian Tips

Check out the other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:

How Can I Grill Plant-Based Foods?
How Do I Eat to Keep My Thyroid Healthy?
Why Don’t I Lose Weight on a Plant-Based Diet?
What to Do About Food Sensitivities?

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