If bloating has you struggling to zip your pants, you're not alone. Most everyone feels bloated on occasion. It's usually caused by food breakdown during digestion or swallowed air, according to the Mayo Clinic, and often accompanies gassiness. High altitude, overexertion, stress, hormonal shifts and sitting for long periods can also contribute. More serious causes include allergic reactions, injuries and infections. If your symptoms are severe or long-lasting, seek medical guidance. Otherwise, adjusting your eating habits may help minimize your symptoms.
Grains provide a variety of nutrients, including carbohydrates -- your body's main fuel source. Although many grain products are highly nutritious, such as whole-grain breads, cereals and barley, they trigger gas production in your intestinal tract during digestion. The one grain that does not trigger gas is rice, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Whole-grain rice also provides B vitamins, which can help reduce water retention. If you're prone to gas and bloating, limit particularly gaseous grain products, such as wheat bran and refined grains, like enriched flour. Particularly healthy rice varieties include brown, black, basmati and wild rice.
Legumes, such as beans, split peas and lentils, provide valuable amounts of fiber, protein and antioxidants, which promote strong immune function. If you are sensitive to raffinose, however, a natural sugar in legumes, they can cause gassiness. Adding legumes to an otherwise low-fiber diet can also trigger gas, bloating and abdominal pain. To avoid this risk, gradually introduce fiber-rich foods into your diet. If legumes tend to cause gas, the Mayo Clinic recommends placing dried beans in boiling water for several minutes and then covering and setting them aside overnight. This dissolves up to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars.
Fats are essential for health. They provide energy, help insulate your organs and allow your brain to function well and your body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins D and E. Because fatty foods delay stomach emptying, according to the Mayo Clinic, eating rich amounts causes bloating. Foods high in saturated fat increase inflammation, which can worsen your symptoms. To avoid these complications, consume moderate amounts of healthy fat sources, such as nuts, seeds and olive oil, with your meals and limit foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, fried foods, high-fat cheese and whole milk. Omega-3 fatty acids -- prevalent in walnuts, flaxseeds and oily fish -- can help reduce inflammation.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are prime sources of antioxidants. They also contain water, which can help your body flush out excess fluids, and fiber, which promotes digestive regularity. For reduced water retention, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating more antioxidant-rich foods, such as cherries, blueberries, tomatoes and bell peppers. If you're prone to gassiness, eating cooked and peeled fruits and vegetables rather than raw, peel-on items can help. For some people, avoiding cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, helps because they contain raffinose.
Salt is high in sodium -- a mineral that affects water balance in your body. While some sodium is necessary, most people get enough from natural foods. Going beyond the standard recommended 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams per day, which is the norm in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic, causes bloating and other problems, such as an increased risk for heart disease. To reduce your salt intake, season foods with natural herbs, which are virtually sodium-free. Cut back on table salt, which contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Foods high in salt include processed meats and cheeses, pretzels, crackers, soy sauce, canned foods and fast food.
- Mayo Clinic: Bloating, Belching and Intestinal Gas
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Edema
- Mayo Clinic: Beans and Other Legumes: Types and Cooking Tips
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gas in the Digestive Tract
- Mayo Clinic: Ulcerative Colitis: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Mayo Clinic: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com