Digging into that delicious plate of pasta felt amazing -- but the bloating afterward? Not so much. Bloating after you eat carbs can stem from a few underlying problems -- sometimes it's as simple as making a too-rapid change to your diet, while in other cases it might signal a serious underlying medical issue. The best way to know is to talk to your doctor, since many bloat-inducing conditions linked to carbs need professional testing, diagnosis and treatment.
Excess Fiber Leads to Bloating
If you recently upped the amount of carbs in your diet, you might experience some bloating caused by the increase in your fiber intake. Carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans all contain dietary fiber, which adds bulk to your stool but doesn't get broken down into energy. While some fiber is good, because it helps stool pass through your digestive tract, increasing your fiber intake too quickly can cause digestive distress, including gas, bloating and diarrhea.
If you think that's the problem, try scaling back your portions of the most fiber-rich foods -- like beans and berries -- and increase your fiber intake gradually, by a few grams a day, so that your system has time to adjust.
Gluten-Containing Carbs Might Make You Bloat
Many of your carb-rich favorites -- like wheat bread, pasta and any baked goods made with wheat, rye or barley flour -- contain gluten, a protein that could be responsible for your bloating. While gluten isn't inherently bad, people who can't properly digest gluten -- or have a gluten intolerance -- experience bloating after eating gluten-containing foods. If this is your issue, you may also experience abdominal pain or diarrhea and feel forgetful or irritable.
Talk to your doctor if you suspect gluten is the cause of your bloating. While digestive symptoms may not seem too serious, conditions like Celiac disease -- an inflammatory condition triggered by gluten -- can damage your small intestine and diminish your quality of life. Your doctor can run the necessary tests to figure out if you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, then recommend dietary interventions to manage it.
Bloating Caused by Lactose Intolerance
Sometimes it's not just the gluten in many carb-rich foods causing your bloating -- it's the carbs themselves, specifically lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy products. Normally, enzymes in your digestive tract break lactose down into sugar, which can then get absorbed into your bloodstream. If you're missing the enzyme required to break it down, though, that digestive process won't work properly, and bacteria start to break down the partially digested carbs in your gut. The oh-so-pleasant result? Gas, bloating, diarrhea and an ever-grumbling tummy. You can avoid lactose by forgoing dairy products or take enzyme supplements before a dairy-containing meal to cut down on unpleasant side effects.
Bloating From FODMAP Carbs
Lactose isn't the only carb that can cause bloating. Fructose -- the natural sugar found in fruit and honey -- as well as fermentable carbs, like those found in wheat, beans, lentils, some artificial sweeteners and stone fruits, can also cause problems. These carbohydrates, called FODMAPs -- for fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols -- can trigger bloating and might worsen digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
Following a low-FODMAP diet, which limits FODMAP-containing foods, can help. In fact, this diet significantly lowers bloating, diarrhea, flatulence and abdominal pain in people with IBS, according to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice in 2013. A dietitian can help design a low-FODMAP diet suited to your food preferences to help control your bloating.
- Go Ask Alice: Gas, Bloating, Fiber?
- Massachusetts General Hospital: Gluten-Free Diet
- Merck Manual: Carbohydrate Intolerance
- Nutrition 411: FODMAP Basics
- International Journal of Clinical Practice: The Low Fodmap Diet Improves Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Prospective Study