Bloating: What Are the Causes and How Can You Prevent It?
We've all been there, you're bloated, and you're wondering - how can I get rid of bloating as soon as possible? As a nutritionist, I’m no stranger to bloating and the enormous amount of discomfort it can bring. So, to mark IBS awareness month, I’ll be shedding some light on the connection between bloating and nutrition. I’ll also be sharing some of my favourite tips to help alleviate bloating that you can try yourself today!
What is Bloating and Why Does it Occur?
Bloating is a feeling that your tummy is over full or stretched. It happens when excess gas builds up in the digestive system, mainly in the stomach or intestines, causing them to expand. While everyone swallows air when they eat, certain factors can increase the likelihood of bloating, such as eating and drinking too quickly, chewing gum, overeating or drinking fizzy drinks. Bloating can also be triggered by hormonal changes like fluid retention during menstruation, as well as lifestyle factors such as stress, lack of exercise, and poor sleep.
Bloating is also a common symptom of digestive issues like IBS. In people with IBS, bloating can be caused by muscle contractions in the intestines and the production of excess gas by gut bacteria. So, if you're experiencing bloating, it may be a sign that your digestive system needs some extra attention.
What Foods Can Help Reduce Bloating?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing bloating through nutrition, some foods may be particularly helpful in relieving bloating symptoms. The next time your stomach is bloated or your IBS is flaring up, try adding these foods to your diet:
Ginger: Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce bloating and other digestive issues. You can consume ginger in a variety of forms, including ginger tea, ginger supplements, and fresh ginger root.
Peppermint: Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic, which means it can help calm the muscles in the digestive tract and reduce bloating and gas. Drinking peppermint tea can be a simple and effective way to consume peppermint, but peppermint oil capsules can also be taken for more targeted relief.
Bananas: Bananas are packed with potassium, which can help regulate sodium levels in the body and reduce water retention, which contributes to bloating. Bananas are also a good source of fibre, making them an ideal snack for reducing bloating.
Probiotics: Probiotics can help reduce bloating by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and improving overall gut health. Yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut are all rich sources of probiotics, but it's important to check the label to ensure they contain live and active cultures! You could also try taking a probiotic supplement for additional support.
Pineapple: Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can help break down proteins and aid digestion. This can reduce inflammation in the gut and alleviate bloating, as bloating is often caused by inflammation and poor digestion. As well as its anti-inflammatory properties, pineapple is also high in water content, which can help flush out excess sodium and reduce water retention, another common cause of bloating.
High-fibre foods: Fibre is an important nutrient for digestive health, as it helps regulate digestion and prevent constipation. As constipation can contribute to bloating, incorporating high-fibre foods into your diet can be really helpful in reducing these symptoms. Some high-fibre foods to include in your diet include fruits like apples and berries, vegetables like broccoli and spinach, whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, and legumes like lentils and chickpeas. But, it's important to gradually increase your fibre intake and drink plenty of water, as consuming too much fibre too quickly can actually worsen bloating and gas!
Foods That Can Trigger Bloating
To avoid bloating, steer clear of foods that can worsen the problem. Here are some classic culprits to watch out for:
Carbonated drinks: Those bubbly sodas and other fizzy drinks might be refreshing, but they can also cause gas buildup in your digestive system, leading to discomfort and bloating. If you can't resist a carbonated drink, try limiting your intake or opting for sparkling water instead.
High-fat foods: Your body takes longer to digest high-fat foods, which can slow down digestion and contribute to bloating and discomfort. To avoid feeling bloated, try to limit your intake of fried foods, creamy sauces, and other high-fat options.
Sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener that are commonly found in sugar-free gum and sweets. While they can be a great alternative to sugar for those watching their sugar intake, they can also cause gas and bloating in some people. If you're experiencing bloating after consuming sugar-free products, it might be time to check the ingredients list for sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol.
Cruciferous vegetables: While vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are packed with nutrients, they can also be hard to digest for some people, leading to bloating and gas. If you're experiencing bloating after eating these veggies, try cooking them thoroughly or opting for other vegetables that are easier on your digestive system, like spinach or courgette.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.