Dealing with bloating day in and day out is straight-up miserable. Even worse is feeling clueless as to what is blowing you up!
You may even feel like you’re following a diet viewed by society as “healthy” only to feel puffy, full, and bloated by the end of the day. You may have not even eaten much food at all or have started experiencing bloating after eating foods you once PRed your 5k or back squat with…
We have all been there and for what it’s worth, we have been where you have. The feeling of constant discomfort after eating is not just “in your head.”
Feeling bloated after eating can be caused by a number of changes to your diet, stress levels, environment, and other lifestyle factors. So what is one to do? Should we fear food because of that dreadfully recurring physical pain and discomfort we’ve learned to prepare for?
No! Friends, you must not fret! There IS something you can do about your bloating. As a matter of fact, there are several approaches to use that will likely address this problem.
This post will outline the top culprits of your constant bloating after eating, as well as 3 ways to relieve bloating fast. These tips are tried and tested in ourselves as well as by the many individuals we guide successfully every single day.
Causes of Bloating After Eating
Today, our immune systems are flooded with invaders coming from preservatives, synthetic pesticides, and antibiotics. Stress, lack of or poor quality sleep, inflammatory diets, along with toxic foreign substances, cause our immune systems to defend continually.
A highly active immune system creates too much inflammation in the body, thus opening the door for food sensitivities, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity. The early stages of these types of imbalance are often symptomized by bloating after eating.
So what about our diet is responsible for the occurrence of these feelings of discomfort?
Some common dietary factors involved in bloating and other gastrointestinal (GI) complaints include:
- Lactose intolerance
- Fructose intolerance
- Fructan consumption
- Consumption of sorbitol or other non-absorbable sugars
- Carbohydrate intake
- Gluten sensitivity
It’s no secret that what you eat directly influences your body, most importantly, your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract is essentially the body’s sanctuary responsible for the following tasks:
- Breaking down food
- Extracting nutrients for the body to process
- Expelling energy for exercise and activities of daily living
- Eliminating toxins that are nonessential or harmful to the body.
How well these tasks are performed determines several aspects of gut health.
- Volume and diversity of gut bacteria
- The integrity of the intestinal lining
- Supply of digestive agents needed for break down
In a perfect world where this system is in complete homeostasis, gut health is, as they say, ‘ON POINT’!
A picture-perfect gut health scenario, unfortunately, is few and far between. Nowadays, numerous outside factors contribute to a compromised GI tract in the vast majority of people that take sincere effort to avoid.
When the GI tract is not functioning like a well-oiled machine, food particles get into the bloodstream where they shouldn’t.
These undigested substances also stimulate the production of intestinal gas that is the source of bloating.
- Intestinal Gas Production
Gas production occurs when critters (bacteria) in your intestines metabolize the food you eat.
Intestinal gas develops primarily from food and drinks that are ingested or swallowed, causing production and reabsorption of hydrogen and methane gases in the small and large intestines. So essentially, gas is produced as a byproduct of digestion, aka it’s unavoidable. We as humans actually do a fantastic job moving gas through our system, and let’s be real, a little never hurt anybody!
Contrary to what you may think, feeling extremely gassy or bloated after eating does not necessarily come down to having more gas production but rather how that gas is transmitted through the GI tract.
There are a number of research studies that have shown no significant differences in gas production between normal volunteers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) patients.[4,5,6]
We will dive into this a bit deeper so hang tight!
- Slow Gastric Transit
Some people with IBS or IBS-like symptoms, aka bloating and gas, have abnormalities in intestinal transit.
In a study of 20 patients with IBS (75% women) and 20 healthy volunteers, 90% of patients with IBS developed intestinal gas retention compared to only 20% of control subjects.
What’s intestinal transit?
Yes, it’s what it sounds like! Intestinal transit involves the time it takes for food to travel from your mouth through your digestive tract to eventually be eliminated.
When food isn’t moving smoothly and efficiently through the GI tract, it can be due to a defect in the intestinal reflexes. Still, often we find this issue is related to deficiencies in nutrients, magnesium in particular. One large study found that 72% of patients with slowed motility were deficient in magnesium.
Other nutrient deficits linked to slowed motility include vitamins A, B6, C, K, iron, potassium, and zinc.
What does this mean for you? It means that more nutrient-rich foods in your diet can keep things moving, and when things are moving, food has less time to sit and induce bloating!
- Inflammatory Diets
An inflammatory diet characterized by refined sugars, chemicals, inflammatory oils, and low-quality meat sets the stage for developing intestinal permeability and bloating.
Just because you find food on the shelf at the grocery store does not mean it’s safe!
The caveat here is that the chemical “food-like” things put into our food and self-care products are highly unregulated. In fact, there are over 1000 chemicals banned in Europe and other parts of the world, such as Red Dye No. 40 and Yellow Dye No. 5, that are used regularly in US products. These “food-like” things found in our modern Western diets nowadays were not around when our ancestors lived.
Even so-called “healthy foods” like whole wheat bread, canola oil, and yogurt are problematic for many. This is related to the quality of food produced nowadays.
For example, wheat is crossbred to yield proteins that the body is unfamiliar with. Cows are raised in stressful conditions, lowering the quality of dairy products and meat. Sugar and sugar substitutes are pumped into food products making their consumption virtually impossible to fight.
The problem? It comes back to how the gut is compromised with repeated exposure to these foods! Americans have become more intolerant to these foods as they directly impair the gut lining in susceptible people.
When the intestinal lining is significantly compromised, the immune system (which is housed primarily in the gut) becomes overactive, causing one to develop sensitivities or intolerances to foods.
- Food Sensitivities
Yes, you could be eating something that your body is sensitive to! Sensitivities often develop over time after years of eating an inflammatory diet, taking medication and antibiotics, or being exposed to environmental toxins.
We will get into some of the most inflammatory foods that may cause you to feel bloated after eating and let’s just say wheat is one of the biggest offenders. In particular, for individuals with any history of autoimmunity.
To understand this better, it’s crucial we take a little lesson on how we break down food that we learned back in high school science.
Protein Breakdown is Related to Bloating After Eating
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, so when we eat food, whether it be chicken, rice, or twinkies, we take those foods and break them down into individual amino acids.
If the body does this effectively, the body says “Hey! Welcome to the party!” and all is good to go. These amino acids then travel through the bloodstream to do their jobs.
When we DON’T break these foods into amino acids is when problems arise. The body becomes unfamiliar with these proteins and has to decide, “is this a friend or a foe?” Should we launch an attack? Or just let them sail on by?”
Something that might cause food to not be fully broken down would be when an unfamiliar protein such as modern-day, crossbred forms of wheat enter the bloodstream.
The Problem with Modern Day Wheat
The robust, majestic kinds of wheat that nourished our ancestors are on the verge of extinction.
Wheat has transformed into being mass-produced with the help of herbicides and pesticides, potentially contributing to the increase in intestinal permeability (aka “leaky gut”) and negatively impact the gut microbiota.[9,10] Both of which can contribute to a bloated belly after eating.
Why is your body reacting to food that should be “healthy”?
Not only does the body struggle to breakdown and assimilate the chemical constituents bound to modern-day wheat, but the wheat proteins themselves have also been crossbred to yield proteins unfamiliar to the body.
After eating these unfamiliar proteins for a long time, the intestinal lining starts to become compromised making this food difficult for the gut to break down. Impaired breakdown of food = bloating after eating.
Wheat and other gluten-containing food sensitivities can be the root of many symptoms such as brain fog, headaches, and fatigue but are often symptomized by bloating to start.
How to Relieve Bloating Fast
While addressing the root cause of bloating such as intestinal permeability, food sensitivities, bacterial overgrowth, or general gut dysbiosis takes time and a strategic protocol put together by a nutritional professional, there are a few ways to remove the symptoms of bloating quickly. These practices can move mountains for symptom management while the gut is undergoing its healing process.
- Remove Inflammatory Foods
Removing foods from one’s diet often gets a bad rep, and for good reason. Every other day there seems to be a new article boasting the supposed top 5 foods impeding fat loss, driving men and women to strip vital nutrients from their diet for the sheer reason that an internet blogger told them otherwise.
This is NOT the reason to remove foods from the diet.
However, strategically removing foods with the guidance of a nutrition professional can be the difference between feeling bloated after eating or not. Systematically removing some problematic foods from the diet reduces inflammation and gives the body time to heal from the immunological battle it’s been fighting.
Removing foods from the diet is not a permanent solution. It is used therapeutically for symptom management and to determine which foods are most problematic for an individual.
5 Top Foods That Cause Bloating
One of the main foods to avoid while healing a leaky gut is gluten-containing grains. Gluten has been shown to increase zonulin, a protein that regulates intestinal permeability, in cells of celiac and non-celiac people.
This includes foods such as:
- Wheat bread and other grains like spelt, barley, rye, and Kamut
To name a few…
You’re telling me to ditch my cheddar cheese?!
Very sorry, but potentially yes. If it helps reduce your discomfort, would you be willing to try?
For many people, dairy products can be quite a source of intestinal distress and bloating, which can happen if you do not produce sufficient enzymes to break down lactose, a sugar in milk products.
Many people are lactose intolerant, though some may be more intolerant than others. Dairy products such as:
- Cheese: cream cheese, cottage cheese, fresh cheese (feta, cheve, fresh mozzarella), ricotta
- Kefir: commercial, homemade 24 hour
- Sour cream:
- commercial Yogurt
Dairy is another common irritant for the stomach, so removing it temporarily to see how your body does without it might be something to try! Many become concerned about inadequate calcium intake without dairy products, but thankfully calcium is abundant in plant foods including soy, beans, lentils, certain nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and some fruits.
Read more: Amazing Non-Dairy Calcium Rich Foods
If you’re still concerned about low micronutrient intake without dairy, stocking up on some high-quality anti-inflammatory supplements will ensure you’re covering your bases!
Many dairy sources are high FODMAPs and removing high FODMAP foods for a period of time can be one of the most effective ways to blast your bloat!
Let’s dig into FODMAPS a bit!
You may have heard the term FODMAP thrown around in the nutrition space, but what exactly is a FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that easily ferment in the small intestine and are sometimes absorbed poorly.
Let’s break these down.
- Oligosaccharides: Fructans and galactans. Fructans are found in wheat products, onions, garlic, artichokes, and inulin. Galactans are found in lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, beans, brussels sprouts, and soy-based products.
- Disaccharides: Most common is lactose, found in milk and some dairy products like, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese
- Monosaccharides: Fructose is a simple carbohydrate found in fruits. Some fruits with higher fructans include asparagus, dried fruit, fig, agave, honey, mangos, watermelon, sugar snap peas, and high fructose corn syrup.
- Polyols: Sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol; apples, apricots, blackberries, mushrooms, and cauliflower
How do FODMAPs Cause Bloating After Eating?
As mentioned, FODMAPs are very small carbohydrates that can pull water into the small intestine. Queue diarrhea!
FODMAPs are also immediate fuel for the bacteria in your gut microbes, which is perfectly normal and helpful to have for their role in digesting your food, producing vitamins, and supporting your immune system.
When excessive amounts of these carbohydrates are eaten, which then produce excessive amounts of gas as discussed earlier, this combo of gas and water in the intestine can alter the
movement of food through the intestine and contribute to diarrhea or constipation.
Eating lower FODMAP foods are commonly used in individuals diagnosed with IBS or present with IBS-like symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and gas, and for good reason!
A recent study showed that bloating improved in IBS patients who avoided these fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.[12,13]
There are FODMAPS found in many sources of fruits and vegetables, but following a low FODMAP diet is completely doable when you’ve got the resources. Here are some examples of a few simple swaps to make when aiming to eat a low versus high FODMAP diet.
What are sugar alcohols?
I know what you’re thinking, and NO, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol. Sugar alcohols are made to chemically look and act like sugar and a little like alcohol. But if we are getting technical, sugar alcohols are carbohydrates.
Sugar alcohols fall under the FODMAP category of polyols, which are naturally found in plants but can be made synthetically by adding hydrogen molecules to certain sugars. You can find sugar alcohols in foods like:
- chewing gum
- sugar-free candy and ice cream
- protein bars
- pre-work supplements
- zero-calorie energy drinks
- other processed foods under names including sorbitol, lactitol, xylitol, mannitol
Sugar alcohols are different from artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose with respect to their calories. According to a 2015 paper in European Food Research and Technology, sugar alcohols contain approximately 0.2 to 2.7 calories per gram compared to table sugar, which has roughly 4 calories per gram since they undergo fermentation in the intestines.
What they don’t tell you about sugar alcohols…
Sugar alcohols are “low-digestible sugars” meaning our bodies are able to absorb them to some extent but tend to pull water into the intestines. Ever find yourself blowing up the toilet after your Halo Top ice cream? There’s your answer!
The fermentation of sugar alcohols in the gut can also cause bloating, gas, and impaired nutrient absorption.
Sure, it’s normal to go nuts on calorie-free foods. Diet culture would tell you to, but we would argue that bloating after eating and compromising your gut health isn’t worth it.
Now, when it comes to removing foods, it is essential to understand that eliminating all these foods from your diet for life is not the end-goal. You’re likely to do better without too much of one, but strict removal should be used therapeutically to manage symptoms and allow the gut time to rest and recover.
- Reduce Raw and High Roughage Vegetables
Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot!
You got that right! Ever noticed that you’re busting out of your pants after a burrito or bean soup? Beans and some other plant-based foods contain specific carbohydrates that are not easy peasy on the gut.
YES, fresh fruits and vegetables are the staples of an anti-inflammatory diet and arguably serve as the foundation of good nutrition, but if you’ve recently ramped them up in your diet, your body is trying to figure out what’s going on with so much fiber!
Why might you ask?
Excessive amounts of these fiber-containing foods can be problematic when consumed in large doses because they take a lot of work for the body to break down. When loads of fiber is coming in, bacteria produce lots of gas and bloat.
How to Handle Veggies That Leave You Feeling Bloating After Eating:
- Fewer Veggies: Now don’t knock the veggies entirely from your plate too fast, start with eating smaller portions at mealtimes and increase slowly as your body tolerates.
- Soak your beans: Soaking beans and other legumes in water overnight can reduce some of the gas-producing components of these foods. Doing so will make for an enjoyable bean eating experience without the dreaded bloat.
- Cut the raw kale: It may be helpful to replace raw veggies with well-cooked veggies while your gut is healing. Cooked veggies are partially broken down, which minimizes the burden of the stomach and intestines to break down food.
- Slow Down When You Eat
Our stomachs do not have teeth.
In our fast-paced world, sitting down to eat a meal is a thing of the past. You might be eating your breakfast sandwich on the drive to work, shoveling a granola bar in between meetings, or scrolling through your phone while mindlessly shoveling food. All of these results in you not chewing your food and burdening the stomach with more work than it’s cut out for.
Our teeth function to mechanically break down items of food by cutting and crushing them in preparation for the stomach and intestines. Furthermore, the saliva in our mouth aids in digestion. Combined, chewing and saliva is a major first step of proper digestion. However, when rushed, large pieces of unchewed food miss out on this process leading to feeling bloated after eating.
Not to mention how much air you’re swallowing as you quite literally inhale your food!
You may have seen where this was going, but in case you didn’t…
SLOW DOWN WHEN YOU EAT!
Here are a few suggestions to help you do so:
- Eat regularly throughout the day: It is very common to skip breakfast or other meals throughout the day, causing you to eat like it’s your last day on earth when mealtime finally comes around. By eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day, you avoid extreme hunger, making it easier to eat slower. Hunger signals will be better managed and blood sugar can be well controlled, both of which can prevent feelings of “starvation” and subsequent ravenous hunger.
- Time your meals: This is a tough one. Challenge yourself to see if you’re able to make your meal last at least 15 minutes. It may not always be possible, but the slower you chew and swallow your food, the happier your digestive system will be!
- Count your chews: Try chewing your food 15-20 times at least before you swallow. This aspect of eating is vital for proper digestion, because your teeth, tongue, and salivary glands do the mechanical work! By breaking your food into smaller pieces and secreting various enzymes, the next phase of digestion can take place.
These tips may seem tedious and pointless, but don’t knock ’em’ till you try them! Even for just a few meals, you will get a clue on whether the root of your bloating could simply be the fact that you’re shoveling food too quickly down your pie hole. It’s okay… we are all guilty of it.
So there you have it, 3 ways to relieve bloating fast. Hopefully, this article helped you tune into the cause of feeling bloated after eating for you personally. If any of the foods listed are an extremely prevalent part of your diet, consider removing one food group at a time for 3-6 weeks to determine whether the bloating improves.
Always remember that the source of your bloating will be different than the next. What worked for somebody else, may not work for you!
Now, maybe you’ve worked through these 3 ways to relieve bloating fast and still feel unsure as to what the culprit of your bloating might be. Maybe symptoms have improved a bit, but not to the level you’re aiming for. It may be worth undergoing an elimination diet with the guidance of a well-trained nutrition expert to determine another underlying cause of your constant bloating after eating.
Bloating After Eating – 3 Ways to Relieve Bloating Fast is written by Abby Vichill for www.fwdfuel.com