By: Camryn Murray, Winthrop University Nutrition Student
Picture this: you have a big dinner and finally sit down on your couch after a long day when all of the sudden your stomach feels like it might explode. You have to unbutton your pants just to make it through the unpleasant sensation of abdominal tightness and fullness, also known as bloating. Most of us have experienced bloating in our lives, so it is important to understand what it is and how to manage it.
What is bloating?
Bloating is a symptom that usually occurs due to air and gas buildup in your digestive tract or your “gut.” Some people describe bloating as feeling like they are blown up like a balloon, meaning that they feel full of air and bigger than usual. It can cause people to be very uncomfortable, gassy, and it can produce some loud rumbling noises in the digestive system.
Why does it happen?
Bloating can happen for many reasons! Usually it is a normal part of digestion, but painful and chronic bloating can be a bit more problematic. Sometimes it occurs as a result of constipation, food intolerance, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and in more extreme cases from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and acid reflux.
Some tips for bloating:
● Limit how much gum you chew, since the repetitive chewing can bring air into the digestive system
● Avoid talking while you chew or drink
● Eat slowly and mindfully- avoid eating in a rush
● Exercise regularly and stay hydrated
● Eat small, frequent meals and try not to eat too much at once
● Maintain good posture
Do certain foods cause bloating?
If a food causes bloating, it is usually because it takes longer to digest it. Here is a non-conclusive list of foods that can potentially cause bloating:
● Beans and lentils: they have a lot of fiber, so they travel all the way through the digestive tract and are fermented in the large intestine, which can cause air to build up
○ Tip: try soaking these foods in water before cooking them to help prevent bloat
● Dairy: many people with lactose intolerance become bloated after eating dairy
○ Tip: try low-lactose dairy foods like hard, aged cheeses or dairy alternatives
○ Bonus Tip: try lactase supplements, probiotics, or eat fermented dairy like greek yogurt to help with digestion
● Carbonated drinks: fizzy drinks like soda can create gas in the belly
○ Tip: try drinking more water, you can even add flavor to it to make it more interesting
● Fructose: some foods with high fructose levels can cause bloating
○ Tip: if you suffer from IBS, a low FODMAP diet can help to assess your triggers
● Sweets: some candies, gums, or foods ending in “-ol” like mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etcetera
Everyone is different, so foods that make some people bloat may not affect other people. It is important to maintain a balanced diet and to try and find your own bloating triggers. Try using a food diary or the notes app on your phone to document your body’s reaction to different types of food throughout the day.
Bloating. NHS choices. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bloating/. Published March 3, 2022. Accessed October 7, 2022.
Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Gas in the Digestive Tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract/eating-diet-nutrition. Published June 2021. Accessed October 7, 2022.