What you eat for lunch can really make or break the rest of your afternoon.
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"Food comas" are one instance, but another prime example is eating lunch and then feeling bloated for the rest of the afternoon. So, what can you do to prevent the discomfort from the get-go? Knowing your common trigger foods that cause bloating is a great place to start.
There are certain foods that are more apt to lead to bloating, stomach pains or gas build-up. That's not to say you should avoid them altogether but rather, you'll want to pay attention to how your body responds after eating these foods.
6 Common Lunch Foods That Cause Bloating
1. Salads With Cruciferous Vegetables
Chopped kale, broccoli and cauliflower are commonplace on any salad bar. They're also all cruciferous vegetables, which contain a unique complex carbohydrate called raffinose. This carbohydrate ferments in our guts as part of digestion, causing gas to build up, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
So, if you've ever felt gassy or bloated after eating any of these vegetables, you're not alone. Other cruciferous vegetables include wasabi, cabbage, mustard greens, bok choy, turnips and more.
But this group of veggies are oh-so-good-for-you, so you should at least try eating them to see how your body responds before banning them from your lunch menu altogether.
Sandwiches can be great for lunch but if you're feeling bloated or having stomach pains afterwards, you may need to rethink your bread game for a couple of reasons.
First, you don't have to have celiac disease to struggle with digesting gluten, which is a protein found in some grains and grain-based products. A condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity exists, and it involves not being able to tolerate gluten and dealing with similar symptoms to those with celiac disease, as explained by Beyond Celiac. Wheat, barley and rye all contain gluten.
Wheat, barley and rye also contain fructans, an oligosaccharide, which is what the "O" stands for in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), according to Monash University.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbs that some people have trouble digesting — and it may be helpful to limit these types of foods. Understanding which FODMAPs you may have a sensitivity to can be tricky so it's best to work with a dietitian.
3. Greasy or Fried Foods
Foods high in fat like those that are fried or greasy, can wreak havoc on your GI tract. Fats take longer to digest, which means food stays in your GI tract longer.
When we eat foods super high in fat like fried chicken or a greasy slice of pizza, it can really slow down the digestive process in our guts.
When this happens, the food and subsequent build-up of gas take longer to pass through, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic. This can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
4. Beans and Lentils
Chili, hummus, bean soup and falafel are all delicious lunch foods. They're also packed with beans, which are naturally high in fiber.
Yes, getting enough fiber is an important part of any healthy diet, but you may need to increase your intake slowly. A little gas after eating fiber-filled foods is normal but if you typically eat a diet low in fiber and then enjoy a bowl of chili for lunch, you'll likely feel it more than others.
There's also the type of fiber found in beans — oligosaccharides — which, like wheat, barley and rye, can affect some people (like those with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS), more than others, as outlined by the Bean Institute. Again, you likely don't need to forgo beans forever, but instead, figure out the amount your gut can tolerate at a time.
Many Americans, about 30 to 50 million, are lactose intolerant, according to the National Institutes of Health. When your body can't digest lactose, a sugar found in most dairy products, that can lead to bloating, cramps and gas, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
This means, cow's milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products may leave you feeling less than optimal. Depending on the severity, you may be able to consume small amounts of dairy or eat it with other foods.
If you're enjoying a cup of yogurt with your lunch, taking a lactase pill should help you better tolerate your meal. Consult with your doctor before trying any new supplements.
6. Diet Soda
All carbonated drinks like seltzer and soda can cause bloating because those bubbles you love to drink cause extra bubbles in your digestive tract, which can leave you bloated.
Also, drinking out of a straw further compounds the issue because this causes you to swallow more air, again, leading to bloat.
Diet soda is a double offender because of the carbonation but also the types of sweeteners used to keep the calories low. Sugar alcohols are used in some diet drinks and sodas to help sweeten the beverage without loading the drink with sugar and calories. Common side effects of sugar alcohols, according to University of Michigan Medicine, include diarrhea and bloating.
2 Things You Can Do to Prevent Bloating After Lunch
Knowing the common trigger foods for bloat is a great first step. There are also two simple things you can do to help reduce your chances of developing bloat — no matter what you're eating.
1. Eat Slowly
Carving out time in the middle of the day can be difficult for some but try to avoid wolfing down your lunch. Eating quickly doesn't give your body a chance to feel full, making it easier to overeat, according to University of Michigan Health.
2. Skip the Tight Pants
OK, this won't prevent bloat per se, but it certainly helps when you're feeling bloated. Putting on pants in the morning that are tight around your waist can be a recipe for disaster.
Regardless of what we eat or drink throughout the day, our stomachs and waist area naturally expand — bloat or not. Avoiding pants, skirt or dresses that are a tight fit in the a.m. may be your saving grace come 2 p.m.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Gas (Flatulence)"
- Beyond Celiac: "What is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?"
- Monash University: "Gluten and the Low FODMAP Diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gas: Care and Treatment"
- Bean Institute: "Beans, Beans, the Magical “Fruit”: The More You Eat the Less You Toot!"
- National Institutes of Health: "Lactose Intolerance: Information for Health Care Providers"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Lactose Intolerance"
- University of Michigan Medicine: "Sugar Alcohols"
- University of Michigan Health: "4 Ways to Stop Digestive Discomfort After a Supersized Meal"