Bloating? Gassy? These Reasons Could Be Why
How To Get Rid of Bloating and Reduce Gas
Why am I so gassy? What causes bloating? If you’ve asked these questions you’re not alone.
Abdominal bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints that I see as a Digestive Health Dietitian. You know, that feeling of abdominal fullness or tightness that is with you a various parts of the day (or all day long!).
It’s uncomfortable and it can sometimes be painful. It can hamper your appetite or your enjoyment of activities. It can make your clothes feel tight and sometimes, it’s visible enough for others to take notice. In other words, it’s not a whole lot of fun.
There are a number of reasons why you could be bloated and it can differ vastly from person to person. As such, there’s a number of different strategies that could work to decrease that pesky bloating or eliminate it altogether (wouldn’t that be nice?). The following are just a few of the reasons you could be bloated and some insight on foods that cause bloating:
Your eating pattern promotes bloating
Erratic eating patterns can cause your gastrointestinal bloating. Maybe you skip meals or leave long gaps between eating and overall, you just don’t have a consistent pattern to your eating habits. The main issue here is that those long gaps and irregular meals leads to overeating that can contribute to bloating. With this erratic type of eating patterns you are more likely to arrive at the table over-hungry, which predisposes you to gulping down your meal, which again leads to more bloating.
The solution: Eat regularly and don’t arrive meals over hungry. A good place to start is trying to eat every 3-5 hours. Prioritize yourself and your nutrition. Don’t let a packed schedule cause you to miss meals.
You swallow too much air
Sometimes it’s not the what you are eating but the how you are eating that contributes to your bloating. Swallowing air, whether from using straws to drink, slurping hot drinks, drinking carbonated beverages, chewing gum or eating rapidly, is an often overlooked cause of bloating. These habits cause us to ingest more air and if you’re not burping the excess air out, it only has one way to go…down. This excess air will cause you to feel bloated.
The solution: Assess whether how you are eating is contributing to your bloating. If so, eliminate drinking through straws, having carbonated beverages, chewing gum and/or slow down a bit while eating.
Sometimes bloating can be a result of trapped gas and what is trapping this gas is a constipated bowel. It’s normal (and also healthy!) to produce gas. Having gas is a sign that the microbes in your gut are being fed and that’s a good thing. What happens if you are constipated though, is that that gas gets trapped and has nowhere to go. This is when you are going to really feel that trapped gas.
The solution: If this is you, you need to address the constipation. That could mean you need more fluid, more dietary fiber, or to get up and move more. It could also mean assessing the use of any constipating nutritional supplements (do you really need them?) or whether or not your bathroom routine is conducive to having regular bowel movements. If you are completely unsure why you are constipated, book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in digestive health to help you get your bowels back on track (for more information on our services visit: Personal Nutrition Counseling: Digestive Health)
You are eating too many gas producing foods
Many healthy foods including vegetables, whole grains and legumes contain elements, such as fiber or FODMAPs, that contribute to gas and bloating. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t eat these foods because they are associated with good health but it could be the overall amount or specific type of these foods in your diet is causing more bloating. If you have recently transitioned from a low fiber diet to a high fiber diet, or you’ve started eating more “plant-based”, you may experience more bloating. Often this bloating is temporary, as your body needs some time to adjust to this new dietary regime.
The solution: If you’ve made a recent dietary change that involves eating more legumes, vegetables and whole grains, it could be helpful to scale back on the portion sizes a bit until you’ve given your body time to adjust the new foods. Once you feel better with these portions of new foods, you can increase your portions. When it comes to dietary fiber, increasing slowly is your best bet, especially if you’ve got a more sensitive gut.
If your diet contains a lot of raw and harder to digest veggies, try having more cooked vegetables or “baby” leaf lettuce as they are easier to digest for some people. You can also try cutting down on some of the gas forming veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel’s sprouts – you can still have them but just in smaller portions and alternate with vegetables that aren’t known for being gas producing.
If eating beans and legumes is new to you, try incorporating them slowly into your diet. If you are using canned beans, make sure to rinse the beans before using them as this gets rid of some of the gas promoting elements. If you are cooking dried beans, pre-soak the beans before cooking, changing up the water several times to help reduce those same gas producing particles.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may be hypersensitive to FODMAPs (a type of fermentable carbohydrate) which cause bloating, among other digestive issues. If this is you, talk to an experienced Registered Dietitian to see if the low FODMAP diet is right for you.
Too many high-fat foods
Eating lots of rich and high-fat foods can contribute to bloating in some individuals. High-fat meals can slow down digestion which can contribute to that overall bloated feeling. Another aspect of this slowed down digestion is that it can give the microbes in your gut more time to ferment food items in your gut. While we want these gut microbes to ferment some food particles (this is their food and keeps them healthy!), this slower digestion gives them more time to make bloat inducing gas.
The solution: If you think that high-fat meals may be contributing to your bloating, try choosing some lower fat or less rich meals for a time period. This doesn’t mean completely avoid fat but just being mindful of consuming larger, richer meals for a short time to see if this factor triggers your bloating.
Too many sugar-free foods
Sugar-free foods, particularly those sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, can cause gas and bloating in some individuals. These sweeteners can be found in a number of products including gum, diet beverages, and sugar-free candies or desserts.
The solution: Avoid or limit food items with added sugar alcohols. Check food labels that have “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” to make sure they don’t contain these sweeteners.
If you are like a number of people, you may be taking dietary supplements. Sometimes it is the very supplements that are being taken to improve our health (or with the hopes to improve our health) that are causing the bloating and gassy symptoms. Some supplements contain ingredients that trigger bloating such as oligosaccharides, lactose or sugar alcohols. Other times, it’s the amount of supplements taken that negatively affects your digestive system and can cause you to feel bloated.
The solution: If you think that your supplements may be contributing to your bloating, it’s time to assess whether you really need to take these supplements. Are any of them essential? Is there good evidence that they work for their intended purpose? If your supplements aren’t essential (i.e. not recommended by a reputable health professional), perhaps take a short break from them to see if your bloating is reduced.
If after reading though this list, you are still having a hard time identifying the source of your bloating and gassy symptoms, it may be wise to visit a Registered Dietitian specializing in digestive health.
For more information on Dietitian nutrition counseling for digestion issues and our Calgary IBS Dietitian services for support on what to eat for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), the low FODMAP diet, constipation, diarrhea, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, colitis and other digestive health concerns CONTACT US. As specialized IBS Dietitians of Canada, we can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling.