Pretty much everyone has experienced bloating at one point or another. Not only is it uncomfortable, but stomach bloat can also change how your clothes fit and even how you feel about your body. Whether it’s experiencing the “food baby” phenomenon after an indulgent meal or something more persistent—like always feeling full and puffy—bloating is a total nuisance. So what causes it in the first place?
“Bloating is due to undigested food that remains in the digestive tract for longer periods of time than usual,” explains Kameo Snyder, registered dietitian and nutritionist. Certain substances found in a variety of foods like root vegetables, beans, and certain fruits cause bloating and gas, she explains. Bloating can also be caused by water retention and excess sodium intake, as well as gluten and dairy if you’re intolerant of them. Luckily, there are lots of foods out there that can help to prevent bloating from happening and stop it once it’s already started.
Here, find the top foods experts say you should try to beat bloating so you can look and feel your best from the inside out.
“Fennel has a long history of being used as a digestive aid and would traditionally be placed on the dinner table after an Italian meal to help with digestion,” says Megan Faletra, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Essentials. The seeds are often used in Indian culture to fight bloating by chewing on them or using them to make a tea.
And in addition to a rich historical tradition, there’s some science behind this one, too. “The licorice-tasting spice is a digestive stimulant that can speed up food transit time, but it can also boost bile production in the gut to help break down foods,” explains Luiza Petre, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and weight-loss expert. “It also contains a compound that relaxes digestive-tract spasms, allowing gassy cramps to subside and giving you relief from the bloat.”
“Ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties work wonders on bloating,” says Petre. In fact, it’s one of the best natural remedies for all kinds of stomach issues, including nausea. Ginger works well when freshly grated and added to hot water, as well as in smoothies and salad dressings, she says.
Not just a breath freshener, this herb has both anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties that beat bloat, Petre explains. “Peppermint calms down the entire digestive tract and allows gas to pass,” which can help alleviate that not-so-fun full feeling.
“Celery is a natural diuretic, meaning it helps you to release extra water and feel less bloated,” says Megan Casper, registered dietitian nutritionist and and founder of Nourished Bite. It might not be everyone’s favorite veggie, but it can definitely help combat water retention.
Cucumbers also help tackle the water retention aspect of bloating, Petre says. “They contain the flavonol antioxidant quercetin, which has been proven to help fight inflammation in the digestive tract and reduce leaky gut symptoms. Cucumbers also help cleanse the liver (our main detoxifying organ) by removing waste materials and toxins from the gut and blood,” she explains. Lastly, the seeds found in cucumber are great sources of magnesium, which can help keep the digestive lining hydrated and prevent constipation, which can contribute to feeling bloated.
Pumpkin itself is pretty great for you, but Snyder says it’s the seeds that are really the nutritional powerhouses. “A small serving (1/4 cup) of pumpkin seeds contain 50% of the recommended daily of magnesium,” she says, which as explained above, helps move things along in your digestive tract so you don't get stopped up.
This tropical fruit is amazing at fighting that unpleasant full feeling, according to Faletra. “It contains an enzyme called bromelain, which can help aid digestion and reduce bloating,” she explains.
It’s well-known that berries are some of the most potent fruits when it comes to nutritional content and antioxidants, and raspberries are especially great for those who struggle with bloating. “They contain rheosmin, a raspberry ketone that increases enzymatic activity of adipose (fat) cells; decreases pancreatic lipase production, which helps to prevent fat storage; and increases metabolic activity, allowing food to move quickly through the digestive tract,” says Snyder. And those aren’t the only benefits you’ll get from eating these berries. “Raspberries are mostly water, packed with fiber, and contain a large range of concentrated anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that protect the body from illness,” she adds.
Yet another veggie that combats bloating (are you sensing a theme here?), sprouts are natural metabolic boosters and digestive cleansers, says Snyder. “Alfalfa, broccoli, or bean sprouts naturally promote healthy bacterial growth in the digestive tract, which keeps food moving through,” she explains. They’re also packed with brain-boosting amino acids, lots of fiber, and tons of vitamins and minerals that up energy, control weight, and keep your GI fit,” she says.
Another fruit to add to the mix, papaya contains a protein-digesting enzyme called papain that can help aid overall digestion and reduce bloating after eating, says Faletra. “Simply add papaya to your after-dinner dessert and notice the anti-bloating benefits.” Looks like adding a fruit salad to your daily diet could be one of the best anti-bloat remedies out there.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but your body actually flushes out more water when you’re hydrated,” explains Casper. Simply upping your water intake and eating foods high in water content, like many of the fruits and vegetables previously mentioned, as well as melons, lettuce, and radishes, can make a big difference.
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This post was originally published on June 16, 2017, and has since been updated.