Foods that cause (and reduce) bloating

Feeling bloated after a big meal is normal. But if you’re battling ongoing digestive woes, read on for some simple diet tweaks that can help keep your bloating at bay.
Published August 3, 2021

It’s typical to feel bloated after a big meal, and not a cause for concern. However, if you notice you are suffering from digestive issues such as gas or bloating after every meal, it may be time to take a closer look at what is going on. Common causes of digestive upset include constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis, the good news is, digestive conditions can often be managed effectively through diet. Here we outline foods that can contribute to bloating and those that can be eaten as alternatives:

Milk and dairy products

Dairy products such as milk and some cheeses can contribute to bloating and gas in individuals with lactose intolerance. This is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, the main type of sugar found in milk products. Many people with lactose intolerance can still tolerate dairy products, although generally in small quantities spread throughout the day.

Try these bloat-busting foods instead: While yogurt contains lactose, research shows it is better tolerated than most other dairy products. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, healthy bacteria that reside in your digestive tract. Probiotics play many important roles in your body, such as improving digestion and stimulating the immune system. To boost your intake of probiotics, it’s best to choose plain yogurt over high-sugar or artificially sweetened options. You can also try kefir, a fermented drink that tastes more sour than yogurt, but provides a diverse array of probiotics to support digestive health.

Carbonated beverages

Carbonated beverages such as pop and bubbly plain or flavoured waters contribute to bloating because they contain carbon dioxide gas. The gas used to make the bubbles in these drinks travels directly to your digestive tract, where it can cause feelings of gassiness and distention of your stomach.

Try these bloat-busting foods instead: Drinking plain or flavoured non-sparkling water is a simple way to stay hydrated and beat the bloat. Water plays an important role in digestion because it helps to break down solid foods and improve the absorption of nutrients. You can also try sipping a soothing cup of peppermint tea. Its leaves contain a compound called menthol, which can help to relax the digestive tract and relieve bloating.

Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils are part of the legume family, and are good sources of protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. However, they both contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols), which are carbohydrates that can be hard for the body to break down, particularly in people with IBS. As a result, they can contribute to digestive symptoms including painful gas and bloating.

Try these bloat-busting foods instead: Before eliminating nutritious beans and lentils from your diet altogether, you can try soaking them in water to reduce their FODMAP content. Pinto beans and black beans tend to be more digestible than other types of beans, especially after soaking. Lightly coloured lentils may also cause less bloating than darker coloured ones, due to their lower fibre content. If you want to replace beans and lentils altogether, try swapping them for more easily digestible whole grains such as quinoa or rice, or other sources of vegetable protein such as tempeh or tofu.

Cruciferous vegetables

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage are cruciferous vegetables that contribute to bloating. This is because they contain a sugar called raffinose that your body does not break down, until it is fermented by bacteria in a gas-producing process in your digestive tract.

Try these bloat-busting foods instead: If you don’t want to give up eating cruciferous vegetables, you can try cooking or lightly steaming which makes them easier to digest than consuming raw. Alternatively, you can replace them with other nutritious vegetables that won’t contribute to bloating, such as celery, asparagus, carrots, spinach, and zucchini.

Onions and Garlic

While they both contribute powerful flavours and aromas to foods, onions and garlic can lead to bloating because they contain fructans. These compounds are FODMAPs that are not properly digested by the body and are instead fermented in the small intestine.

Try these bloat-busting foods instead: Cooking garlic and onion before consuming can reduce their gas-producing effect and make it easier for the body to digest. You can also replace them with fresh herbs and spices in your cooking, such as basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, and thyme.