Written by: Cally Worden
Feeling full after a meal can be very satisfying, but when your belly swells from bloating caused by gas or other digestive issues, that good feeling can soon turn to discomfort. Bloating can be incredibly uncomfortable and in some cases even desperately painful if wind becomes trapped in the digestive system and unable to move easily.
Around 20-25% of people regularly experience bloating, and although it can be the result of a medical condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it can also be triggered by certain types of foods. Here are some of the most common culprits.
Yep, that old myth remains true – beans give you gas. A fantastic source of protein, carbs and fibre, beans also contain a good amount of the sugars known as alpha-galactosides. These space-age sounding sweeteners belong to a group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs (the simple acronym for fermentable oligo- di- mono-saccharides and polyols), which act as fuel for the digestive bacteria in our guts. In some people the fermentation process releases an excess of gas that can cause bloating wind, and cramping. Soaking and sprouting beans can help to counteract the effect.
Wheat contains a lot of the protein gluten, which is widely publicised as being responsible for digestive discomfort in many people. It is also a primary source of FODMAPs in many diets. Yet it is still widely used and consumed. And it tastes good – who wants to give up pizza, bread, pastas, cakes and anything else that has wheat as a primary ingredient? But many people have found that in doing just that they have found relief from painful and uncomfortable bloating. There are many gluten-free products now on the market as alternatives if you suffer after eating wheat.
Broccoli is a super-veg that is rich in many essential nutrients, including vitamin C, K, iron, potassium and fibre. But it is also part of a family of veg known as the cruciferous vegetables. Other members include cauliflower, cabbage, and sprouts. The FODMAPs they contain (yes, those again) are thought to cause bloating in some people. Cooking the veg can help to reduce the impact, or simply replace these types of veg with alternatives such as spinach, lettuce, zucchini and cucumber.
The unique and powerful taste of onions makes them a popular staple in many dishes. Despite the relatively small quantity in which they are consumed onions are one of the main dietary sources of the soluble fibres called fructans. It is known that these can cause bloating, and this may be compounded by an individual’s sensitivity to other compounds found in onions. Fresh herbs and spices can be used as an alternative, and some people find that substituting leeks for a more mild onion flavour can help too.
Rich in calcium and protein, consuming dairy products is a great way to ensure the healthy growth of our teeth and bones. But milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, cream cheese and the like can react badly in the body of a person who has an intolerance to lactose. This condition affects around 75% of people to varying degrees. Cutting dairy from your diet altogether is a dramatic step, but many people who get bloated after eating dairy find they can stomach some dairy foods but not others. Trial and error may be worth a go before ditching the dairy completely.