Harvard Intestinal Doctor Shares 8 Foods That Cause Bloating and What She Eats Instead

Harvard Intestinal Doctor Shares 8 Foods That Cause Bloating and What She Eats Instead

In regards to one in 10 people experience bloating after meals, usually in the form of gas or uncomfortable feelings of fullness in the abdomen.

Like a gastroenterologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical SchoolI am often asked: What causes bloating and how can I stop it?

Understanding bloating is tricky because there are so many many potential factors. But a common cause has to do with what we eat, especially foods that are poorly absorbed by the intestine.

If you frequently experience bloating after eating, avoid these foods to reduce stomach pain:

Fructose malabsorption occurs in approximately 50% of the population. This is when the cells in our gut struggle to absorb fructose.

A little fructose is fine, but avoid foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup such as:

  • Candy
  • Bread and packaged baked goods
  • Packaged fruit
  • Sweet dairy products like yogurt
  • Sauces like ketchup
  • Soft drinks and juices

Instead, opt for whole foods and less sugary drinks. Carbonation can cause bloatingopt for plain water or vegetable juices.

If you are sensitive to fructose, avoid (or eat in moderation) sweet fruits like:

  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Nectarine
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • ripe bananas
  • prunes
  • Raisins

To get my fruit fix, I eat blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, tangerines, lemons, or firm, slightly unripe bananas.

Even vegetables can cause bloating, especially if they contain a lot of fructans and galactans (carbohydrates broken down by gut bacteria, which can lead to gas).

These vegetables are most likely to cause bloating:

  • asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Leeks
  • asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • savoy cabbage
  • Fennel
  • Snowball

Opt for less sugary options like carrots, eggplant, avocado, green beans, bean sprouts, celery, cauliflower, and lettuce.

Lactose intolerance affects 68% of the population and becomes even more common with age.

Lactose-free products can replace dairy products (milk or ice cream) to reduce bloating, but not all of your favorites are on the table.

Unsweetened yogurt is tolerated by most people because most of the lactose is broken down. And hard or ripened cheeses (Parmesan, Brie, mozzarella, Swiss and goat cheese) are more likely to be tolerated than soft cheeses.

Lentils, peas and many beans contain raffinose, a type of sugar that the body has trouble breaking down. Beans are also high in fiber and a high intake can increase gas.

Black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and soybeans are most likely to give you gas. Opt for green beans, black-eyed peas, and mung beans instead.

Avoid sugar alcohols (which end in -ol) such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and erythritol. They cause gas and often bloating because we can’t break them down.

Stevia and monk fruit extract are healthier and less likely to cause gas or bloating.

Foods containing gluten can cause bloating in intolerant people. If this is your case, avoid wheat, barley and rye.

Eat less gut-harming foods, such as rice, quinoa, oats, and other gluten-free products.

Fermented foods can strengthen your gut microbiota. But some can cause temporary bloating and gas. I recommend limiting your intake of kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut for a more comfortable stomach.

Besides diet, I tell patients to do four things to further prevent bloating:

  1. Avoid swallowing air. Eat slowly and chew small bites of food carefully. Do not lie down while eating and avoid talking while chewing food or drinking liquids.
  2. Drink plenty of plain water. Stay away from sodas and carbonated drinks.
  3. Take a short walk 10 to 15 minutes after eating. The search found that it helps to speed up the time it takes for food to move from the stomach to the small intestine.
  4. Massage your abdomen to move gas and stool. If your entire abdomen is swollen, massage from your right hip up your right side, over your upper abdomen, and down your left side to your pelvis. If only your lower abdomen is swollen, massage from your right side to your left side and down.

These tips are based on my medical experience and research. But if you have serious or chronic problems with bloating, it is best to consult your doctor.

Dr Jacqueline WolfMD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She is the author of “Women’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach: Take Control of Your Digestive Health” and co-founder of Foodicine Healtha non-profit food education association.

Dr Judy NeeMD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, contributed to this article.

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