Bloating: we’ve all experienced it, and it’s never pleasant. Bloating makes our jeans feel a little bit tighter, puffs up our stomachs and can sometimes even give us gas and an uncomfortable feeling of pressure. Bloating is temporary—but you can help your body out by nibbling on certain bloat-busting foods, as well as avoiding a few that cause bloating to begin with. We talked to Diane Blahut, a clinical dietician at Johns Hopkins Nutrition Clinic in Baltimore, for tips on how to beat the bloat!
Why does bloating happen?
“Bloating is caused by excess air (gas) in the intestines,” Blahut says. It can happen for several reasons: food allergies and intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and pre-menstrual syndrome—but more often than not, eating certain foods that either produce gas or cause your body to retain water is the culprit. The way that you eat a food can also make you bloat, too—like eating too quickly or drinking from a straw. “Air can get into your digestive system by being swallowed. To minimize the amount of air you swallow, eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly,” Blahut says.
Bloating is rarely serious, but as it is sometimes associated with certain digestive disorders and allergies, Blahut recommends seeing a doctor if you have frequent, uncomfortable bloating. “If you suspect lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance or celiac disease, or if you have other symptoms such as diarrhea or abdominal pain with eating, see your doctor,” she says.
What foods cause bloating?
1. Foods heavy in salt
Think twice before picking up the saltshaker. Salty foods cause your body to retain water, which will give you the classic bloated stomach. Feel a bit puffy after a meal? Avoid salty foods for the rest of the day to deflate fast. “These include processed foods such as canned foods, frozen meals, chips, pretzels, lunch meat, bacon, hot dogs and cheese,” Blahut says.
2. Cruciferous veggies
“Certain fiber-containing foods like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) can cause gas production,” Blahut says. Avoid these if you’re prone to bloating, or at least reduce your intake. Can’t sacrifice the foods you love? Taking a supplement like Beano (available at grocery stores) before a meal, which is a tablet that contains an enzyme that helps your body digest foods, can keep you stay gas (and bloat!) free.
We’ve all heard the “beans, beans the magical fruit” rhyme. Like cruciferous veggies, eating beans also can lead to increased gas production. But beans are also high in fiber and protein, so you shouldn’t necessarily nix ‘em from your diet! Try eating smaller portions at a time or taking a supplement like Beano or a gas-reducing pill like simethicone, both of which you can buy at a pharmacy or grocery story, if you’re worried about gas and bloating.
4. Chewing gum
As Blahut said, anything that’s going to create air will also create bloat. “If you’re feeling bloated, avoid chewing gum,” Blahut says. If you’re just chewing gum to freshen your breath, try a mint instead to avoid the bloating side effects.
5. Carbonated drinks
Like gum, a glass of beer or soda will puff up your stomach. But like everything on this list, there’s no need to abstain completely from the foods and drinks you enjoy. Moderation is key, but if you already do feel bloated, that glass of seltzer water won’t do you any good. Drinking lots of plain water is a great way to de-bloat.
What to eat to fight bloating
It may seem counterintuitive, but drinking lots of water and eating fruits and veggies with a high water content can actually help reduce bloating. Pineapple is a prime example—delicious and tropical, it’s also great at flushing your system out because of the combination of enzymes it has. “[Pineapple] contains an enzyme called bromelain which helps digest proteins. It is theorized that bromelain decreases inflammation and can help reduce bloating, but to my knowledge there is little actual scientific research into the specific topic. Pineapples also contain potassium, which helps combat water retention caused by eating foods high in salt,” Blahut says.
Ginger delivers a ton of health benefits, and helping with digestion is one of them! Ginger can soothe stomachaches and nausea, as well as help reduce bloating. “[Ginger] has been used for thousands of years to treat various gastrointestinal issues. It contains an enzyme called zingibain that helps digest proteins. Various other active compounds block signals of nausea and vomiting from reaching the brain and may reduce intestinal spasms,” Blahut says. Try sipping on some ginger tea or chewing on candied ginger. The pickled ginger at sushi restaurants is also a good palette cleanser! Don’t like the taste? You can also buy ginger supplements in pill form at health foods stores.
Not all dairy products are created equal. While cheese and milk (especially if you’re lactose intolerant or even just sensitive to dairy) can cause your stomach to puff up, yogurt can help slim you down. Why? Probiotics. This good bacteria helps your intestines process foods better, beating bloating at the same time. “Some intestinal gas is caused by ‘bad’ bacteria breaking down food in your GI tract and releasing gas in the process. Consuming probiotics may help keep a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut,” Blahut says.
Like ginger, peppermint has been lauded for centuries for its digestive properties. “[Peppermint] calms muscles in the stomach [and] allows gas to pass,” Blahut says. Sipping on some peppermint tea, taking peppermint oil supplements or even sucking on some peppermint candy can help soothe your system if you feel bloated.
Bananas are great snacks—they’re filling and portable! But here’s even more reason to love bananas: “[They’re] high in potassium, which can help combat water retention from salty foods. Unripe bananas have a certain starch that can cause gas, however, so make sure you eat ripe bananas to help with bloating,” Blahut says.
This delicious breakfast food hasn’t been specifically linked to bloating, Blahut says, but it could make a difference if you experience constipation or gas, which do often go hand in hand with bloating. “[It’s] high in soluble fiber. Fiber does help maintain bowel regularity, and avoiding constipation is one way to avoid bloating,” she says. Not an oatmeal fan? Get your soluble fiber fix from apples, pears and strawberries.
While having a bloated stomach can make you feel gross and uncomfortable, there are many quick fixes if you watch what you eat, chew slowly and try some of these bloat-busting foods!