How to Prevent Bloating
Did you know that gastrointestinal symptoms are some of the most common complaints among Americans? A 2013 online national survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, showed that 72 percent experience at least one of the following GI symptoms a few times a month or more: diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight-loss, and non-specific GI discomfort1. What is more concerning is that most of these people do not consider that their symptoms require any medical attention.
Considering GI symptoms, bloating is a very common one. In fact, about 16–30% of people experience bloating regularly. A person is considered bloated when the belly feels full and tight and is often caused by gas, water retention or other digestive issues, usually correlated with diet.
What can cause bloating?
Bloating is usually associated with gas in the digestive system. Some can be just air swallowed during eating, drinking, or chewing. The remaining is produced by bacteria in the gut, that help digest food using fermentation and thereby release gas. Inefficient digestion or digestive issues, can lead to gas accumulation and build up, causing bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort. However, as Linda Lee, M.D. explained in a Johns Hopkins Medicine article, bloating can also be caused by2:
- Gut sensitivity
- Gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Gynecological conditions
What can I do to prevent bloating?
There are some eating patterns often associated with bloating that can be easily changed. Here are 4 SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE eating habits you should follow to avoid getting bloated:
I. Eat smaller portions. Avoid overeating
Overeating can be considered the number one culprit for bloating and can be avoided very easily! Just eat smaller portions and stop eating when you feel 50/60 % full. That will give you time to feel satiated.
II. Eat slowly. Chew well.
Slow down when eating, put down your fork or spoon, and take pauses between bites. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Eating fast and not chewing enough increases the probability of overeating and bloating after a meal. Usually, satiety signals take about 20 minutes to reach the brain and reduce appetite. Give your body and brain time to appreciate the food.
III. Eat unprocessed, nutritious, healthy whole living foods!
Whole vegetables and fruits, especially when eaten raw, require you to chew well and slow down. They make you feel full and give you plenty of fiber to feed your gut microbiota!
IV. Avoid overly processed and cooked foods, rich in processed carbohydrates and fats.
Rich and fatty foods, with a combination of carbohydrates and fats, especially when fried, are among the combinations that will lead you to overeat and leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed. Fat takes longer to digest than protein or carbohydrates, so it keeps the stomach full longer. When eaten together, these foods will probably lead to discomfort.
Which foods should I avoid to prevent GI discomfort and bloating?
While the answer to this question may vary from person to person, depending on individual tolerances/ intolerances to certain foods and sensitivities, there are certain food types that tend to be more problematic to the digestive system.
- Highly processed foods
Highly processed foods tend to contain many additives like flavorings and colorings, preservatives, and sweeteners, that may cause GI distress, discomfort, gas, and bloating. In general, these types of foods are also low in nutritional value and high in calories, sugars, and unhealthy fats. Avoid this group of foods completely, if possible.
- Sodium rich foods
Foods with too much salt or added sodium tend to cause water retention. Avoid things like fast food, packaged and canned foods, and frozen or boxed meals, which are usually loaded with added sodium and have little nutrients.
- FODMAPs Fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols
There is also research pointing to the importance of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) in diet. These carbohydrates are not fully digested and absorbed in the small intestine, moving through the digestive system to the colon where they undergo fermentation by colonic bacteria, producing gas and eventually bloating2.
Avoid FODMAP food ingredients, such as:
- Oligosaccharides: found in wheat, onions, garlic, legumes, and beans
- Disaccharides: lactose in milk, yogurt, and ice cream
- Monosaccharides: fructose (sugar present in honey), apples and pears
- Polyols (sugar alcohols): apricots, nectarines, plums and cauliflower, and sweeteners present in most chewing gums and candies
- Soft and carbonated drinks
Soft and carbonated drinks contain high amounts of carbon dioxide, a gas that may build up in the digestive system. These drinks should be avoided.
- Gluten (protein found in certain cereal grains, mostly wheat, barley, and rye)
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity is one of the most common causes of digestive issues, among them bloating. Gastrointestinal discomfort or allergy symptoms can develop because of eating gluten and the effects can range from mild to more serious. People with celiac disease suffer the most significant symptoms when eating gluten3.
Gluten is present mostly in wheat, and other varieties and derivatives of wheat (e.g., wheatberries, semolina, spelt, farro, kamut, einkorn wheat) but also in other grains such as rye, barley, triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye), malt and in brewer’s yeast and even oats (due to cross contamination when grown side-by-side with other crops). Therefore, gluten is present in many processed foods that are widely available like breads, pastries, cereal, pastas, crackers, breakfast cereal, among others3.
What else may help with bloating?
- Drink more water
Water helps you stay hydrated and balances the effects of too much sodium in your diet. Water is also important when eating fiber rich foods because it helps move these fibers through the GI tract, preventing digestive issues, such as constipation, gas, and bloating.
- Reduce stress
Reduce stress in your life and especially at mealtime. It will greatly improve your digestion and reduce bloating. Eat in a quiet, peaceful environment. Be present and grateful, give thanks for your food.
- Move more
Moving more will help your digestive system along with all the other systems in the body work better, preventing all types of digestive issues, mostly constipation and gas.
Taking a good probiotic may help balance the gut microbiota, support the digestive system, and decrease symptoms associated with poor digestion. Consult with a physician specialized in gut health for probiotic recommendations.
- IdentifyEPI.com, accessed on June 22, 2021
- https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/bloating-causes-and-prevention-tips, accessed on June 23, 2021
- https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/sources-of-gluten/, accessed on June25, 2021
Vanessa Pinto graduated with a degree in Biology and Masters in Ecology from Lisbon University. After graduating, she underwent a series of professional and personal growth experiences, including being an officer in the Portuguese Army, working in countries as diverse as Iceland and Costa Rica. Vanessa became certified as a Yoga and Meditation teacher in rural India.
Being a compassionate person by nature, Vanessa is able to bring her connectedness when working with others while enhancing the importance and practicality of a pragmatic evidence-based approach to facilitating lasting and permanent change. Vanessa is a certified health coach whose specialties are nutrition, exercise, and mind/ body connection. She works both in Portugal, Thailand and USA, where she develops her work closely with people diagnosed with cancer, mainly in the areas of nutrition, movement and health education.