Bloating is one of the most common complaints I see in my practice. Abdominal bloat can cause not only severe discomfort, pains and stomach cramping, but is often causes a lot of self esteem issues. I find a lot of my patients who suffer from bloating feel self-conscious and even wear clothes that will hide their bloated stomach.
While bloating can be a result of over eating, large portion sizes or overindulgence, the food based causes can often be more difficult to identify. While I find in clinical practice that a large portion of bloating and digestive discomfort can be caused by food intolerances, there are some foods that will cause bloating regardless of if you are intolerant to it or not or how healthy your digestive system is. The bloating and gas comes from the way that these foods are broken down by the digestive tract.
Below outlines a selection of some of the most common food triggers for bloating.
Lactose- Found in all dairy products, lactose is a milk sugar. It is estimated that up to 90% of adults have a lactose intolerance, as we lose the ability to break down the milk sugars as we age.
Fructose- Fructose malabsorption or fructose intolerance can be responsible for bloating, particularly with gas and trapped wind. The highest fructose containing fruits include apple, banana, mango, papaya, pear, watermelon, rockmelon, grapes and cherries. Lower fructose fruits include all berries, kiwi fruit, orange, mandarins and pineapples.
Sorbitol- Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found in some fruits (like apple, pear, peach, prunes) as well as many ‘sugar free’ processed foods, lollies and chewing gums. It is notoriously hard to digest and causes bloating.
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)- are a type of indigestible carbohydrates found in legumes (lentils, chickpeas) and beans (baked beans, kidney beans, borlotti beans). Most people are aware of the bloating effects of these foods! They will be easier to digest when cooked and soaked overnight to help break down the fibre and GOS.
Cruciferous vegetables- Such as broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts contain compounds that can cause gas and bloating. These vegetables should be served cooked, or eaten raw in small amounts only.
Carbonated drinks- This really is a given- drinking a carbonated beverage that is full of air can lead to gas, bloating and trapped wind. These are best avoided at all times due to their high levels of sugar, caffeine, artificial sugars, colours, flavours and other toxic chemicals that they are made from, but care should be taken by those prone to bloating with even the more natural mineral or soda water.
The best way to determine if these foods are contributing to your bloating is to cut them all out completely for a period of 2-3 weeks. Next, add them back in one group at a time and see what you notice. I suggest you keep a symptom and food diary, so that you can keep track of the types of foods that may be triggering your bloating. Hopefully your bloating can be controlled simply through controlling these foods. If not, the next avenue to explore is food intolerances. Stay tuned for the next article all about food intolerances!