Some deal with bloating more than others, but chances are you've fallen victim to a distended and upset stomach on more than a few occasions. It's uncomfortable and enough to make you want to throw on a pair of sweatpants and cancel all your plans until your normal tummy returns. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this frustrating problem altogether.
"A healthy gut is the atmosphere your body needs for healthy digestion, reduced bloating, and overall increased health," explains Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. That means the types of food you eat are usually the culprit when it comes to bloating. Ahead, Glassman explains eight common reasons for bloating and how to combat the issue with smart food choices and probiotics.
CAUSES OF BLOATING
1. Drinking Carbonated Soda
"Carbonated soda can build up your stomach causing uncomfortable bloating and gas," according to Glassman. Skip on the soda and drink water or tea instead.
2. Using Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
Glassman explains that non-nutritive sweeteners are considered low-digestible carbohydrates (LDCs). That's because they're either only partially absorbed in the small intestine or not absorbed at all. "This means they can cause some unpleasant GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms and major bloating," she says. Instead of an artificial sweetener, use a natural one like raw sugar or agave.
3. Chewing Gum
"When you chew gum, you naturally are swallowing a lot of excess air," Glassman explains. Many types of gum also contain artificial sugars which, like non-nutritive sweeteners, can cause bloating and other GI problems. Try finding gum with no artificial sugar, or opt for a mint instead.
4. Eating Fried Food
It should come as no surprise that fried foods can have adverse effects on the body. "Eating them can cause acid reflux and just plain upset your belly," says Glassman. Everyone needs to indulge sometimes, but be prepared to face the wrath of bloating after splurging on a fried meal and try to eat natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
5. Having IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome, often referred to as IBS, is an intestinal disorder that causes stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. "If you feel like you've tried just about everything to address your tummy troubles, consider talking to your doctor about IBS," Glassman suggests. This disorder could explain chronic bloating or consistent issues with digestion.
6. Consuming Dairy Products
"As we age, we lose the enzyme needed to break down and process milk sugars," Glassman explains. "The side effect is often bloating." Be wary of consuming foods like yogurt, milk, and cheese if you find yourself bloating consistently after indulging in dairy.
7. Taking New Probiotics
While probiotics might be one solution to bloating, they could also be a contributing factor. "If probiotics are a new addition to your daily routine, all of the extra good bacteria could be causing bloating as your gut begins to balance itself out," Glassman says.
8. Eating Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include foods like cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other green leafy vegetables. "Because of their complex sugars and high fiber content, it's harder for your body to digest them, often causing unwanted gas," according to Glassman. While this is no reason to cut vegetables out of your diet, it is one possible reason for bloating.
HOW TO FIX IT
Despite all of these common reasons for bloating, there are plenty of ways to combat an upset stomach. Glassman recommends eating asparagus, fennel, and papaya, as these foods are known for their anti-bloating effects. You can also drink dandelion tea to settle your stomach. When it comes to snacking, she suggests finding unprocessed proteins you can eat on the go (that means no more sugary protein bars when you're looking for an afternoon pick-me-up). Think hard-boiled eggs (Glassman swears by Pete and Gerry’s organic on-the-go packs), natural nut butter, and sliced vegetables like cucumber.
Besides foods, you can turn to probiotic supplements. "Probiotics though in the short term can potentially cause bloating, but taken over time will help restore a healthy bacteria balance to your gut and can help combat bloating in the long term," she says.
Consult this list of the top eight reasons for bloating next time you're unsure what the cause of your stomach woes could be and stock up on some probiotic supplements to help ease your discomfort.