Beat the Bloat

Discover those food culprits that cause overinflated look, feeling

By Kristen Raab


If you frequently have to unbutton your pants after a meal, or find yourself wondering why your belly seems to grow after having a glass of chocolate milk, you are not alone.

While bloating is a normal part of the digestive process, there are some foods and behaviors more likely to cause extensive bloating behaviors.

Pat Salzer, registered dietitian for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, recommends keeping a food diary to identify particular foods that might cause tummy troubles for you.

You should also share this information with your doctor to develop a plan that is right for you. Read on to discover common bloating culprits.

Artificial sweeteners: We may assume we are making healthy choices when we eat sugar-free foods, candy, and gum. However, if these items contain artificial sweeteners, they can cause bloating. Xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and erythritol can all cause bloating and gas and are commonly used in popular gums and mints.

Swallowed air: Chewing gum and eating hard candies are two of the most common gas-producing activities.

Make sure to eat slowly, chewing food well. If you eat too quickly or fail to properly chew your food, you will “swallow air which leads to bloating,” Salzer explains. It is also harder for the digestive system when you don’t fully chew your food.

Poorly fitting dentures, smoking, and postnasal drip are lesser-known reasons people swallow too much air.

Eating too fast or too much: Of course, overeating may also lead to bloating.

If you frequently feel stuffed after eating, and notice a so-called food baby, try decreasing portion sizes. offers information on portion sizes, including a chart that uses hands to indicate proper portion sizes. For example, a one-cup serving size of cereal is equal to your fist.

Raffinose is a complex sugar found in beans, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, and other vegetables.

Beano® can be taken before eating these foods. It contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. You can also soak beans to reduce the amount of gas they cause, but discard the water afterwards.

Lactose: It’s the natural sugar in dairy products and some processed foods. An enzyme called lactase breaks down that sugar so we can absorb it into our bodies. However, many people don’t have enough of it, and this can result in symptoms such as gas after an ice cream treat.

If you don’t want to avoid these foods, digestive enzymes containing lactase help digest carbohydrates, which should reduce or eliminate the symptoms. Even those who aren’t lactose intolerant may experience bloating and discomfort from milk.

Salzer suggests trying hard cheese or yogurt instead.

Fructose is found in onions, artichokes, pears, wheat, and in some sweetened drinks.

FODMAPS are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.

Following a low FODMAP diet and eliminating these foods is helpful for some people.

For more information on FODMAP foods, visit

Starches: Potatoes, corn, pasta and wheat all produce gas.

To avoid gas and bloating, consider rice. You may also opt for gluten-free pasta or bread. If you decide to eat potatoes or corn, keep your portion small, eat slowly, and drink plenty of water.

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. When it reaches the colon, bacteria digests it, which is called fermentation. This produces gas.

We consume soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber includes lentils, nuts and most fruit whereas insoluble fiber includes beans, seeds, and root vegetables.

If you only experience occasional bloating, make sure you have enough fiber in your diet to avoid constipation. However, Salzer cautions us to “gradually increase fiber intake as some of these foods may cause gas initially.”

Carbonated beverages: Avoid carbonated beverages as they cause bloat. Water or herbal tea is the best beverage to choose. Add fruit or herbs to water or drink peppermint tea, as it is known to decrease digestive disturbances. You may also want to try the blue lotus tincture by Wild Bloom Botanicals.

The International Foundation of Functional Intestinal Disorders suggests cutting down on high-fat foods to see if that reduces bloating.

Without these foods, the stomach empties faster, potentially reducing the amount of gas. The IFFID also notes the following foods are less likely to cause gas in most people:

— Meat, poultry, fish
— Eggs
— Vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini and okra
— Fruits such as cantaloupe, grapes, berries and cherries
— Gluten-free bread and rice

Ginger relaxes the intestinal muscles and helps to speed up digestion.

Fennel and parsley are other herbs thought to help. Peppermint relaxes the digestive tract, which may help with the discomfort bloating causes.

Note that people with acid reflux may want to avoid peppermint as it may increase those symptoms. Munch on some fresh pineapple as it contains bromelain, which is an enzyme that aids in digestion.

Eating more potassium, which is found in bananas and avocados, flushes out excess sodium, reducing gas for some people.