There are many foods that cause bloating and gas including healthy ones like garlic, onion, apples, mushroom, avocado and others. In this episode and blog post, I talk about how these foods cause bloating, the consequences of that, what bloating means for your gut health, and what to do about it. I also discuss the low FODMAPs diet, which helps reduce bloating and gas, and some guidelines when using it.
How do Certain Foods Cause Bloating and Gas?
It’s very likely that you have wondered about what causes bloating. Certain foods contain fibers and sugars that are easily fermented by bacteria in the gut. Fermentation essentially means that the bacteria consumes or eats the sugar or fiber. When that happens, the bacteria produce gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, and others.
In a healthy gut that harbors a variety of good bacteria and other good microbes, these fibers are typically harmless or even good for you. When the food you eat feeds good bugs, these good bugs produce short-chain fatty acids, a type of healthy fats that nourish the cells that line the intestine. Good bugs boost the immune system and help you fight pathogens. They extract nutrients from food and make some vitamins like vitamin K2. They do everything you want to be happening.
In a healthy gut, fermentation doesn’t happen in the small intestine because we shouldn’t have too much bacteria there. Rather, bacteria should start fermenting the fibers after they reach the large intestine (colon). The small intestine is where our cells release enzymes to digest foods and absorb nutrients.
But if your gut is unhealthy, these sugars and fibers become the worst foods for bloating! If you have bad bugs or too much bacteria in the wrong place in your gut, for example in the small intestine as in the case of SIBO, too much fermentation will happen in the wrong place. The excessive gases produced will make these foods cause bloating. You may get gassy or burp a lot as your body tries to get relief from the additional gas production. Gasses will push on the inside of your intestine and cause pain and cramping.
If your bad bacteria feast on these sugars and fibers, they will also produce waste and toxins that increase inflammation and free radicals in your gut. One of these toxins is called lipoprotein saccharides (LPS). This toxin may not send you to the ER right away, but it will lead to gradual problems like joint pain, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, skin issues and more.
The excess gasses disrupt your cells’ ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. Deficiencies are likely to happen, and they will contribute to your other symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, headaches and others.
You have to ask yourself: “Is my bloating normal? Is it just uncomfortable and annoying? Or, is it a sign of something else more serious?” Because bloating could be your gut’s way of telling you that it needs help.
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Which Foods Cause Bloating and Gas?
- Dairy foods and especially those containing lactose like milk (cow’s milk, skim, low-fat, and full fat), soft cheeses (like cream cheese, cottage cheese), yogurt (plain or fruit flavored), and ice-cream.
- Foods that are high in fructose like high fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, honey, agave, molasses, asparagus, snap peas, apples, pears, dates, peaches, watermelon, mango, figs, cherries, dried apricots, dried apples, and dried pears. In general, you can absorb 25-50 grams of fructose at a time and fructose absorption is improved in the presence of glucose. If the cells in your intestine can’t absorb fructose properly, or if you consume foods that have more fructose than glucose (such as apples), fructose will remain in the gut where it can get fermented by gut bacteria, resulting in gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
- Garlic, onion, shallot, and leeks: these contain oligosaccharides, which are fiber molecules made of 3 to 10 single sugars. We don’t have the enzymes to break down oligosaccharides, so they remain undigested and easily fermented in the gut. Foods containing oligosaccharides are considered prebiotic foods (I talked about in episode 11). So, should you eat them or not? Are they good for you or not? Well, if you have adequate beneficial bacteria in the right place in your gut, they are beneficial and a great addition to your diet. However, if you’re bloated, it’s likely that you have overgrowth of bacteria that will feast on these fibers and make the bloating worse. Avoid them to see if you get relief that you can consider re-introducing them few weeks later, preferably after you uncover some root causes and start addressing underlying imbalances.
- Wheat, rye, barley and flours and foods made with them. These food contain fibers called galactans, a type of oligosaccharide. They too can feed the bad bacteria and increase fermentation in the small intestine. These foods also happen to contain gluten, a protein that can trigger an immune response. It’s possible that both the gluten component and the fiber component are contributing to your bloating.
- Beans and lentils, including soy, chickpeas, and hummus. These foods also contain oligosaccharides. In addition, beans and lentils contain lectins, which are proteins that resist digestion and cause scarring and damage to the lining of the gut. In excess, and specially for people sensitive to lectins or have an autoimmune condition, they can be a problem. Lectins can interfere with the intestinal cells’ ability to produce enzymes, which will interfere with digestion, leaving lots of sugars for bad bacteria to feast on.
- Certain nuts like cashews and pistachios contain oligosaccharides. Other nuts can cause bloating too if eaten in excess, for example, eating 1/2 cup peanuts or almonds at a time.
- Foods that contain polyols, such as mushroom, cauliflower, avocado, coconut, apple, pear, apricot, watermelon, celery, and sweeteners that end with -ol like mannitol, xylotil, sorbitol, etc. Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols, and they are small chains of carbohydrates that found naturally is the mentioned fruits and vegetables, as well as synthesized as sugar alternatives. We don’t have enzymes to digest polyols, so they stay in the gut and don’t get absorbed. That’s good thing if your goal is weight loss and sugar reduction. However, if you’re bloated, these carbohydrates get fermented by the bacteria in the gut, causing gas, bloating, and even diarrhea.
These foods are collectively known as FODMAPs; Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. Monash University in Australia has lead the research on these fermentable carbohydrates. By removing the foods high in FODMAPs and eating a low FODMAPs, you reduce the fermentation load in the gut, which can help reduce bloating, gas, and other digestive problems like diarrhea, cramps, or constipation.
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
Download My Free Guide. →
Should you Eliminate Foods that Cause Bloating and Gas?
After reading this (or watching the episode), you may decide the next step is to to eliminate foods that cause bloating. It’s not a bad idea and it may provide you with some relief. Here are my tips for how to best eliminate these foods and what to do next.
- Try to cut out these foods for 2 weeks. When you follow a diet that removes almost all fermentable carbohydrates, you’re likely going to notice relief of symptoms. The gut can usually tolerate a certain amount of fermentable carbohydrates before they start causing problems, but each person may have a different threshold. Following the diet strictly will get you better results and will help you determine if this is the only trigger, or if there are other triggers too like food sensitivities or histamine intolerance.
- Know that eliminating these foods is NOT a long term solution and can affect your overall gut health NEGATIVELY. Many people get a sheet at their doctor’s office with a list of these foods without a long-term plan. You’re eliminating healthy foods and healthy fibers, among other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants! Following a diet low in FODMAPs long-term has been shown to reduce the diversity and count of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which will have negative effects on your gut, immune system, and other aspects of your health that depend on a beneficial microbiome. This is only a short term solution to get you immediate relief so you can focus on the root causes.
- Look for underlying root causes. If removing these foods for 1-2 weeks helps reduce bloating, then you have to ask yourself: “Why can’t my digestive system handle them? What is going on? What imbalances do I have?” Without getting complete answers, you’ll have to stay on a diet long term and that’s no fun. Plus, the root cause will keep your gut inflamed and potentially lead to more serious conditions and more painful symptoms in the future.
- Look for other reasons that may be causing the bloating if the diet doesn’t work. If removing these foods for 1-2 weeks doesn’t help you get rid of bloating, then you definitely have something else going on. If it’s important to you to solve the problem, you have to get proper testing to eliminate the root of the problem. And if this is your case, reach out to me privately and we can talk.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bloating
- What are some foods that don’t cause bloating?
After reading this, you might be wondering about what to eat when bloated or gassy. There are still lots of options on a low FODMAPs diet! You can eat protein foods like chicken, fish, turkey, and lean red meats. You can eat zucchini, carrots, green beans, kale, spinach, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, cantaloupe and oranges. You can eat gluten-free grains like rice or quinoa, and use lots of herbs and spices like ginger, scallions, basil, oregano, turmeric and others. Ideally, the foods that don’t cause bloating for you need to be customized as there may be other reasons why you’re bloated. Limiting the foods listed above is a good place to start.
- What causes bloating other than FODMAPs foods and fermentable fibers?
If you followed a low FODMAPs diet and still have bloating, it’s possible that you have a more complicated issue in your gut. This may include food sensitivities, leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, slow motility, and low hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. Without a full assessment and proper testing, it may be difficult to truly identity what causes bloating for you. If you’d like to learn more about what I do and how I help my clients, you can learn more here.
Yes absolutely! If you have had bloating for a long time, it may seems that you will never be able to resolve it. However, I’ve helped hundreds of patients eliminate bloating (and related gut issues) with the right elimination plan, supporting digestion, and balancing gut flora. First, you have to ask yourself why bloating happens for you and what the root causes are for you.
- Can bloating cause weight gain?
The air trapped in your gut is not going to add pounds (or kilos) to your scale. However, bloating can be indirectly related to your weight. First, your clothes may feel tight because of the gasses, not because you accumulated fat around your belly! Bloating may cause water retention, and if you don’t have a scale that measures body composition, you won’t know where the additional weight is coming from. If bloating makes you frustrated, irritable, or moody, it can lead to emotional and mindless eating. And finally, if bloating is caused by bacterial or yeast overgrowth, you will experience sugar cravings that also may lead to weight gain.
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