If you’re experiencing frequent, chronic bloating, it’s most important to check in with a doctor first and foremost. In the meantime, before your visit, knowing which foods can trigger bloating or indigestion for you— as well as those that can exacerbate it— is vital. We reached out to registered dietitians, nutritionists and other health experts to learn more about four foods that often lead to bloating or make it worse (and some of these ‘healthy’ foods might surprise you!)
Read on for tips, suggestions and insight related to bloating and other symptoms of indigestion from Lisa Richards, registered nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet, Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA medical center, and Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, registered dietitian at Melissa Mitri Nutrition.
1. Cheese & Yogurt
If you suspect a possible lactose sensitivity or intolerance, it's best to avoid dairy products more often than not, Best says. While a doctor can confirm for sure whether this is true for you and your digestion, signs that point toward this are bloating after eating cheese or yogurt or having intense stomach pain. "Bloating is typically caused by eating too quickly or inflammatory foods like dairy products," Best explains. "When the necessary enzymes are not present for adequate digestion, you're likely to experience bloating after eating." For many, Best says that dairy can "cause stomach upset and bloating due to either a lack of adequate enzymes to break down milk sugar or an actual allergy." Those lacking adequate amounts of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar, Best continues, are "known to be lactose intolerant and experience excessive GI upset and bloating" when consuming dairy. However, she stresses, some "without a diagnosed lactose intolerance" may still "experience bloating after consuming other dairy products" from a "minor sensitivity."
While this fruit is a great source of fiber, this can also mean it could lead to painful bloating, if eaten too much, Richards warns. Apples, she says, could "actually lead to more bloating than realized." This is especially true for these fruits, she adds, because they "contain both fiber and carbohydrates that can be irritating to some individuals." The carbs in this fruit require "specific enzymes to be properly digested," Richards notes, explaining that "if these enzymes are lacking, then the fruit can lead to gas and bloating." Fructose is one of the carbs, known as fruit sugar, that can lead to "gastrointestinal irritation" that exhibits bloating, Richards continues, and fruits that are "high in fiber" typically lead to excess bloat. Ultimately, she says, "apples contain a high amount of fiber and fructose, both of which can lead to bloat, especially among those with fructose sensitivities."
3. Cruciferous Veggies (Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage)
There are plenty of health benefits provided by vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage, Hunnes says, but it is worth noting that these foods can also trigger or exacerbate bloating for many people. This, she explains, is due to them being 'cruciferous,' or, being high in FODMAPs (fermentable sugar) which can aggravate the gut. "For individudals who experience frequent bloating, I recommend they limit their intake of vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage as these vegetables are sulphorphanes, and are extremely fibrous," Hunnes advises. If you don't drink enough fluid when eating these high-fiber vegetables, Hunnes adds, they can "stay in your intestinal tract longer, and then can lead to more gas and bloat." So, although she acknowledges that "they are super healthy, anti-inflammatory, and reduce the risk of certain cancers," they still "can cause bloating." In addition, she points out that when they "aren’t well cooked," their indigestible fibers and sulfurophanes produce a lot more of gas and bloat.
4. Soybeans & Navy Beans
While you may already be aware that eating beans can lead to bloating or indigestion for many, some types of beans may cause this more than others. Typical top contenders that are associated with a swelling gut include (some of the healthiest) beans such as soybeans and navy beans. While these beans are "highly nutritious," Mitri says, they can also "cause significant bloat in many people." This, she says, is because "beans contain sugars called alpha-galactosides," which are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas in the process. "To reduce the risk of bloat, choose easier to digest beans like pinto and black beans," Mitri suggests. She concludes that soaking them can also "help remove some of these hard-to-digest sugars."