Nothing is more annoying than belly bloat. Even though bloat makes you feel uncomfortable and renders it just about impossible to zip your skinny jeans, it’s usually not serious. It can be due to a variety of reasons, including eating too fast, eating too much, or drinking through a straw. All of these can lead to gas buildup in the tummy that can spell trouble.
Another common cause is our food choices; both healthy and not so healthy foods can cause belly bloat. Knowing the reasons why certain foods do this will enable you to reduce the chance of an extended tummy in the future.
Here are foods that are belly bloat troublemakers:
- Cruciferous vegetables
Yes, you are supposed to eat cruciferous vegetables—these veggies are the workhorses of promoting our health and are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. However, they can instigate causing gas and bloating. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and turnips contain a non-digestible carbohydrate (trisaccharide) called raffinose. The way to avoid belly bloat and still be able to enjoy cruciferous veggies is to let your digestive system adjust over time. Start with smaller portions and gradually increase your intake. Other tricks are to eat them slowly, steam them, and take a walk after eating them. Moving helps prevent gas build up in your intestines, freeing trapped gas and reducing vegetable-related bloating.
You know what I’m talking about—beans! Dry beans and lentils also contain raffinose. Like with cruciferous vegetables, start off with small portions and slowly build up the amounts you eat. Taking a digestive enzyme such as Beano can help you digest carbohydrates found in legumes, reducing bloating related to bean consumption. Products containing simethicone, an over-the-counter medication to treat painful pressure, fullness, and bloating are useful products for reducing gas bubbles.
- Carbonated beverages
Any beverage containing carbonation—soft drinks, beer, energy drinks—can give you that uncomfortable belly bloat feeling as a result of swallowing too much air. The fizz in carbonated drinks (even diet drinks) can cause gas to get trapped in your belly. Belching can help but no one will be impressed and the bloating will still linger afterwards. To combat bloat cause by carbonated beverages, reduce the number of these drinks you intake and opt instead for water with lemon, lime, or cucumber for a refreshing and healthier treat.
- Foods containing sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits. The carbohydrate in these plant products are altered through a chemical process and are used as sugar substitutes in various foods because they have fewer calories than table sugar as they are not well absorbed. If you read the ingredient list, you may see the words sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates—these are different types of sugar alcohols. Even though they are called sugar alcohols, they contain no alcohol.
Sugar alcohols can cause a bloated feeling because you don’t digest them well, so they get fermented by bacteria in your digestive tract. Common products that use sugar alcohols include sugar-free chewing gum, hard candy, frozen dairy desserts and baked goods. If you suspect sugar alcohols are contributing to your belly bloat, start reading the ingredient list and avoiding products that contain them.
- Greasy foods
High-fat foods can make you feel very bloated. The reason is that fat takes longer to digest, which slows down the rate at which your stomach empties into the small intestine. That’s why a large, greasy meal of a double cheeseburger and large fries can make you feel like the Goodyear blimp. Next time, make healthier food choices and reduce your portion size.
- Dairy products
Belly bloat associated with dairy foods is due to lactose intolerance. This is an inability to digest the milk sugar known as lactose. Certain ethnic groups have a much higher degree of lactose intolerance than others, namely American Indian, African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. However, dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and protein. To avoid missing out on these key nutrients, drink lactose-free milk, take lactose pills with dairy products, or choose calcium-rich dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt in which the lactose is already broken down.
Other tips on reducing belly bloat
- Smoking is a nasty habit and it can also lead to belly bloat. When a person sucks in the excess air as smoke when inhaling from a cigarette, it can build-up as belly bloat. The answer—quit smoking.
- Slow down when eating—eating rapidly causes air to get trapped in the stomach.
- Ditch drinking through a straw. This can lead to more air being trapped inside your stomach causing extension.
- Eat more probiotic foods to maintain a good balance of good gut bacteria that can help relieve abdominal discomfort.
- Drink extra water as this can help move the process of digestion along quicker beating belly bloat.
- Exercising on a regular basis—30 to 60 minutes every day—may help reduce bloating. The increased blood flow to your gut can keep digestion running more smoothly.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook