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What foods cause bloating?

Medically reviewed on May 4, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


If you’re experiencing belly bloat after you eat certain foods—that uncomfortable feeling of being too stuffed or full—then you might like to find out what foods cause bloating. That’s what you’ll discover here—so read on to learn more about abdominal bloating, foods that might cause it, and steps you can take.


It’s important to mention that there are many reasons why bloating might occur, from certain gastrointestinal conditions to certain aspects of eating mechanics (such as eating too much or too quickly).


What does bloating feel like?

Have you ever felt like there’s too much gas in your abdomen—or that your belly is too heavy and full? These are a couple of ways people describe what bloating feels like. Bloating—which can include abdominal pain—can be caused by several possible factors. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but the food you eat might sometimes be at fault for unpleasant abdominal symptoms like stomach bloating.

Foods that cause bloating often vary from one person to the next. A food that leaves one person feeling uncomfortably bloated might have no affect on someone else. That’s simply because everyone’s body is different in one way or another—so our bodies respond in unique ways to the food we eat.

That being said, there are a number of foods that are thought to contribute to bloating in people with some food intolerances, sensitivities, and other conditions. You’ll find several of these foods listed below; if you often experience symptoms like gas and bloating after eating, see if any of these are frequently part of your meals.

Foods that can cause bloating

Wheat

Eating wheat products might trigger bloating—even if you don’t have celiac disease (an autoimmune condition associated with damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed). That’s because gluten (which is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye) might cause symptoms in people who don’t test positive for celiac disease, but who do have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Though this condition is not fully understood, other intestinal symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity may include abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Fortunately, if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you can still enjoy delicious meals—whether you’re into pasta, bread, cookies, or other foods that traditionally have gluten-containing ingredients. Just shop around for gluten-free versions of foods like these; you’ll probably find plenty of tasty options.

Rye and barley

Like wheat, both rye and barley also contain gluten—so people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (as well as celiac disease) may experience symptoms like abdominal bloating after eating these foods.

There’s good news here, though: if you have a gluten sensitivity, avoiding foods like rye and barley (and wheat) can reduce bloating and potentially other symptoms you might experience. Plus, there are healthy foods you can include in your diet to replace rye and barley—like rice (brown or white), amaranth, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat, which contain no gluten.

Artificial sweeteners

The digestive system can have a hard time processing artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols like sorbitol, so some people experience a bloated stomach or even diarrhea after eating foods (or drinking beverages) containing artificial sweeteners.

Think artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols could be behind your bloating? Consider replacing these ingredients in your diet with healthy options that can still satisfy your sweet tooth—like pure vanilla extract, stevia, or a little bit of pure maple syrup.

Dairy

If you’re lactose intolerant, then you’re probably familiar with the digestive problems (like bloating) that come with consuming dairy products.

In the human body, an enzyme known as lactase is in charge of breaking down lactose—a carbohydrate found in mammalian milk (including milk from cows, goats, and so on)—so it can be absorbed by the small intestine. But if your body doesn’t make enough lactase, lactose intolerance can occur. For people with lactose intolerance, dairy products like cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt may all cause digestive issues.

Thankfully, you can skip the unpleasant symptoms and still relish ice cream, cheese, macchiatos, and more—just choose options that use non-dairy milk alternatives (made from almonds, rice, or oats, for example) or lactose-free milk.

How you can relieve bloating

One practical way you can minimize bloating? Try a two-part elimination diet to identify the foods that may be at fault for your belly bloat.

In a two-part elimination diet, you temporarily remove “suspect” foods from your diet, then gradually add them back. If you notice symptoms like bloating after reintroducing a food into your diet, there’s a good chance that food is a culprit for your symptoms. Using a food journal to track the foods you’re eliminating and adding back—and any symptoms you experience during the process—may be a good way to hone in on the troublesome foods and discover the foods that don’t cause bloating.

Since most of us eat many different kinds of food during each meal, it can be hard to know what specific foods might contribute to your symptoms. For example, if you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), there may be a large number of “suspect” foods in your diet. In cases like this, an elimination diet can be time-consuming, since you might not know what foods to start temporarily eliminating.

Guiding your elimination diet based on IgG antibody reactivity levels to different foods may help. How can you know your IgG antibody response to different foods? Taking the Everlywell at-home Food Sensitivity Test is a convenient way to find out.

This test measures your IgG antibody reactivity levels to 96 common foods—and may make it easier for you to find the foods that could be triggering your symptoms. The test is easy to use: it requires just a simple finger prick to collect a small sample of blood, and you can view your results online. You can then use your test results to create a list of “suspect” foods to start an elimination diet—and find answers.


4 possible dairy sensitivity symptoms

How to do an elimination diet

What are the signs of gluten sensitivity?

Benefits of keeping a food journal


References

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2. Roszkowska A, Pawlicka M, Mroczek A, Bałabuszek K, et al. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(6):222. Published 2019 May 28. doi:10.3390/medicina55060222

3. Hasler WL. Gas and Bloating. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2006;2(9):654‐662.

4. Ruiz-Ojeda FJ, Plaza-Díaz J, Sáez-Lara MJ, et al. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(suppl_1):S31‐S48. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy037

5. Causes and diagnosis of lactose intolerance. InformedHealth.org. URL. Accessed May 4, 2020.

6. Atkinson W, Sheldon TA, Shaath N, et al. Food elimination based on IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomised controlled trial. Gut. 2004;53(10):1459‐1464. doi:10.1136/gut.2003.037697

7. Wang HY, Li Y, Li JJ, et al. Serological investigation of IgG and IgE antibodies against food antigens in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. World J Clin Cases. 2019;7(16):2189‐2203. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v7.i16.2189