How to Combat Bloating Through Nutrition
By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
Staci Gulbin is a registered dietitian with BumpVitamins.com. She is also a freelance writer, health editor, the founder of LighttrackNutrition.com, and the author of The High-Protein Bariatric Cookbook.
Ms. Gulbin has graduate degrees in Biology, Human Nutrition, and Nutrition Education from New York University and Columbia University, respectively. She has treated thousands of patients across many wellness areas such as weight management, fitness, long-term care, rehab, and bariatric nutrition.
IF YOU’VE EVER HAD a bloated belly, you know the discomfort and pressure it places on your waistline. Not only that, but it can cause abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness that can affect your appetite.
Taking a walk after eating and moving more can release some of that gas and reduce bloating. And by avoiding activities like smoking, you can reduce the amount of air you swallow to rid of the bloat (1).
Along with these tips, there are certain foods and drinks you can avoid to reduce bloating as well as certain lifestyle changes you can make, including consuming certain supplements, that can help combat bloating. Read below to learn more about bloating and how you can reduce it.
What is bloating?
Bloating (or distention) is a common symptom that everyone has likely experienced at one time or another. However, it’s not always clear what causes this distention. Some causes of bloating may include (2,3,4,5):
Functional health issues like:
- Functional, non-ulcer dyspepsia, where impaired digestion can cause heartburn, nausea, and belching
- Gastroparesis, or slow stomach emptying
- Gastric outlet obstruction, or blockage of the path from the stomach to the small intestines
- Irritable bowel syndrome, or a condition of the large intestine that alters bowel movements
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) in which the slowed passage of food and waste products in the intestines causes excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine
Food Intolerance Issues like:
- Celiac disease, which is a chronic immune disorder caused by gluten intake
- Food sensitivities, or reactions to certain foods like lactose (milk sugar), gluten, fructose (fruit sugar), or histamines (found in fermented foods), to name a few
Other causes like:
- Constipation, or infrequent bowel movements
- Belching, or swallowing of air
What foods and drinks can cause bloating?
Bloating can also arise as a result of consuming certain foods and drinks. Some examples of food or drink items that may increase your chances of becoming bloated include:
1) Carbonated drinks
Bubbly drinks like beer, sparkling wine, cola, and seltzer can introduce air into the body. In turn, this air can cause trapped gas and bloating. Therefore, it can help to allow such drinks to set and flatten before drinking to reduce your risk of gas and bloating when drinking them. If you are prone to bloating often, it may help to avoid carbonated drinks altogether and replace them with noncarbonated alternatives like water, tea, lemonade, and coffee instead.
2) Chewing gum and hard candy
As you chew gum or suck on hard candies, you may not realize that you are swallowing air. When you swallow air without immediately releasing it (burping), you are directly causing distention and bloating.
3) Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage contain sulfur-based compounds known as glucosinolates that produce isothiocyanates and indole compounds when chewed or cooked. These resulting compounds can cause gas (6). Furthermore, cruciferous vegetables contain a complex sugar known as raffinose for which the human body cannot break down (7). In turn, raffinose is fermented in the intestine and can produce gas and bloating.
4) High-fiber foods
Fiber-rich foods are good for your gut. However, since the body does not digest fiber, such fiber can produce gas when fermented in the gut. Examples of high-fiber foods include whole-grain bread and pasta, beans, lentils, certain fruits and vegetables, wheat bran, and certain dried fruits like prunes and raisins. If adding fiber to your diet, it is best to start with small portions and gradually increase your daily intake as tolerated.
What else can I do to reduce bloating?
Besides avoiding those foods that can cause bloating, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce bloating like (3,8,9,10,11):
1) Following a low FODMAP diet
Starting a diet that eliminates certain complex sugars, like the low FODMAP diet (fructooligosaccharides, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) can help reduce gas and bloating, especially in those who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This type of diet involves cutting out foods high in such complex sugars like onions, garlic, apples, and beans, to name a few.
2) Drink plenty of water
When eating more fiber in your diet, it’s important to drink plenty of water to help it move through the intestines so that it has less time to ferment and cause gas and bloating. Therefore, try to drink plenty of non-carbonated fluids like water or tea with high-fiber meals and snacks to reduce bloating.
3) Exercise daily
Moving more can help improve the transit of digested food through the gut and in turn reduce gas and bloating. Just a simple walk after mealtime can help reduce bloating.
4) Start taking a Probiotic supplement
Research shows that for some people, adding a daily probiotic can help reduce gas and bloating, especially in those with IBS. A 2019 study reports that multi-strain probiotic shows promise in reducing common IBS symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating after more than eight weeks of daily use on average. Including strains like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium may be especially useful in reducing bloating.
5) Try Magnesium
Since constipation can cause bloating, supplements that help manage constipation can help reduce bloating. Magnesium works by increasing the amount of water in the intestines, thus helping with bowel movements.
Health experts suggest that taking magnesium daily may help reduce constipation. Typical magnesium tablets contain about 500 milligrams each. Taking more than 2000 milligrams daily may cause symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
A 2019 study shows that taking 500 milligrams of magnesium three times daily for 28 days helped those with mild to moderate chronic constipation have more frequent bowel movements and increased transit time of bowel movements. In turn, such improvements could help reduce bloating in those that suffer from constipation.
The Bottom line on bloating
Bloating is uncomfortable and may not always be preventable. But in those cases where function of the digestive system is not causing bloating, avoiding or adding in certain foods and drinks can help reduce bloating. And by adding certain nutrients to your daily routine, you can help manage or prevent bloating.
- Belching, gas and bloating: Tips for reducing them – Mayo Clinic
- Wilkinson, M.D., J.M., Cozine, M.D., E.W., and Loftus, M.D., C.G. (March 2019) “Gas, Bloating, and Belching: Approach to Evaluation and Management.” American Family Physician, 99(5): 301-309.
- Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Managing Gas and Bloating for Cancer Treatment | Stanford Health Care
- Gastroparesis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Cruciferous Vegetables | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
- Feeling Bloated? Here Are 5 Foods That Cause Gas | The Well by Northwell
- pdf (umich.edu)
- Probiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review (nih.gov)
- Airaksinen, K., et al. (July 2019) “The effect of a probiotic blend on gastrointestinal symptoms in constipated patients: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled 2-week trial.” Benef Microbes,10(6):617-627. doi: 10.3920/BM2018.0163. Epub 2019 May 27.
- Mori, S., et al. (2019). “A Randomized Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial on the Effect of Magnesium Oxide in Patients With Chronic Constipation.” Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 25(4), 563–575. https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm18194