It’s not uncommon to have some stomach bloating after eating a big meal, but if you’re feeling bloated after every meal you eat, it may be time to examine your diet.
Of course, diet isn’t the only thing that can cause you to feel bloated—menstrual periods, pregnancy, and even smoking are all possible culprits, too. But no matter the cause, tweaking your diet can help keep uncomfortable bloating at bay.
For Dr. David R. Heiman, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Florida Medical Clinic, bloating is a common complaint he hears from patients. While it’s very rarely a serious concern, no one wants to live with that kind of discomfort all the time. In this blog, Dr. Heiman explains what causes bloating, what foods can help keep it under control, and what foods to avoid.
First, what is bloating?
Before we talk about treating bloating, it’s helpful to understand what it is and why it happens.
Abdominal bloating is when your stomach feels uncomfortably full due to a build-up of gas or food in the stomach. There are many different things that can cause bloating, including:
- Eating gas-causing foods. Some foods and drinks can cause a buildup of gas in the stomach, which can lead to discomfort.
- Eating too much and/or too fast. Eating too much food can make you feel overly full and bloated, especially if you eat a lot within a short period of time. Having smaller portions and slowing down between bites can help.
- Menstruation. Some people experience bloating before or during menstruation because of hormonal fluctuations. If your menstrual bloating is very severe even with dietary changes, ask your doctor about your options.
- A medical condition. Some conditions—including food allergies, IBS, acid reflux, constipation, intestinal blockages, and even eating disorders—can cause bloating. If you suspect you have an underlying condition causing your discomfort, talk to your doctor.
On its own, bloating isn’t usually serious, but it can be very uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are some ways you can adjust your diet to address bloating.
Foods That Help With Bloating
Probiotics, naturally found in yogurt, kefir, and other dairy-based products, as well as fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, have been found to promote beneficial bacteria in the gut and regulate the digestive system.
However, patients with lactose intolerance may find that dairy products can cause bloating instead of providing relief. If you can’t tolerate the dairy in yogurt, try kefir, which has naturally low amounts of lactose.
2. Low FODMAP Foods
The low FODMAP diet involves reducing your intake of gas-causing foods that can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Examples of low FODMAP foods include:
- Lettuce, baby spinach, and other dark leafy greens
The acronym “FODMAP” stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols”, which is a very technical and long-winded way of saying “carbs that are hard for our bodies to absorb”. High FODMAP foods, like bread and beans, are more likely to cause digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea, so incorporating more low FODMAP foods into your diet can help you stay regular and feel comfortable.
Ginger has been used throughout history to improve digestive health. We have some evidence that ginger can aid digestion and reduce inflammation, but scientists are still studying the exact effects.
To add more ginger into your diet, try drinking ginger tea or adding slices of ginger to your next stir fry or soup.
Note: If you take a blood-thinning medication like warfarin, talk to your doctor before adding ginger to your diet. Ginger also has blood-thinning properties, so taking them together can increase the risk of bruising or bleeding.
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Foods That Can Make Bloating Worse
Foods that are naturally high in fiber and certain sugars can cause gas to build in the stomach or lead to uncomfortable constipation. You don’t have to cut the foods and beverages below out from your diet entirely, but eating or drinking them less often can help.
- Carbonated drinks. The bubbles in sodas and sparkling waters can cause excess gas to get trapped in your stomach, making you feel bloated.
- Cruciferous vegetables and beans. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and beans are notorious causes of gas because they contain raffinose, a type of sugar that stays undigested until it’s fermented by your gut bacteria—this fermentation process is what produces gas and makes you feel full.
- Dairy. If you’re lactose intolerant, things like cheese, milk, and yogurt can cause you to feel bloated even if you only have a small amount. Try switching to plant-based products (like oat milk or vegan cheese) or lactose-free dairy products (like Lactaid).
- High-sodium foods. Eating high-sodium foods can cause our bodies to hold onto water. Even if something doesn’t taste salty, it can still contain lots of sodium. Be sure to check food labels and try to cut back on sodium when possible.
- Gum. Chewing gum can cause you to swallow excessive amounts of air, which can make you feel bloated. Sugar-free sweeteners in some gums can also cause gas.
How a Gastroenterologist Can Help
It’s possible to treat bloating on your own once you know what foods help with bloating and which foods make it worse. However, if you’ve tried changing your diet and you still feel discomfort, it’s time to talk to an expert. It could be an underlying condition, such as IBS or an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, that requires a more specialized diet or medication.
A gastroenterologist like Dr. David Heiman can diagnose the cause of your bloating and help find a solution that works best for you. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Heiman at our Central Tampa location. Telemedicine visits are also available for existing patients.
About David R. Heiman, MD
Dr. David R. Heiman is a board-certified gastroenterologist and the Endoscopy Medical Director at Florida Medical Clinic in North Tampa. He specializes in helping patients find relief from a wide variety of GI issues as well as performing endoscopic exams and colon cancer screenings.
In addition to bloating, Dr. Heiman also treats patients with acid reflux issues, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and hepatitis and liver diseases.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.