Fish and Stomach Bloating

Fish and shellfish have low saturated fat and high omega-3 content, but you may be allergic or intolerant to fish. Symptoms of an allergy typically affect your digestive system and include gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea and bloating. Although harmless, bloating is an uncomfortable feeling causing your stomach to distend and feel full and tight. It can leave you wary of eating fish again, but there are steps you can take to reduce the bloat and keep this healthy food in your diet.

A food intolerance, such as one to fish, can cause bloating. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Allergy or Intolerance?

One to 2 percent of adults have a diagnosed food allergy, but up to 50 percent have a food intolerance. A food allergy usually starts in infancy, whereas food intolerance develops in adulthood, although it may temporarily appear as colic in babies. The easiest way to differentiate the two is by your symptoms. Allergic reactions are more severe and cause skin, stomach, nose, throat and lung problems. They appear immediately and affect more than one part of your body. Food intolerance may not show up immediately and causes digestive symptoms, including stomach bloating.

Gas and Bloating

You get gassy from swallowing air when eating or digesting certain foods in your large intestine. Symptoms of gas include burping, flatulence, bloating and abdominal pain. Keep a diary of what you are eating and when your symptoms occur to determine if fish is what's causing you to feel bloated. Eat slowly to decrease the amount of air you are swallowing. Avoid preparing fried fish or using a lot of butter when cooking it. When you reduce your fat intake, gas gets to your small intestine faster, which reduces bloating.

Type of Fish

Fish are classified into three categories. You may be allergic to one category but able to eat from another without any symptoms. Mollusks consist of clams, snails, mussels, oysters, octopus, squid and scallops. Crab, lobster, shrimp, prawns and crayfish are anthropods, while chordates include fish ray, shark, cod, salmon and tuna. Other foods also contain fish that may cause symptoms of allergy or intolerance. For example, sushi, Caesar salad, fish sauces -- including Worcester sauce, fish oils, seafood dips, pasta sauces and prawn crackers may cause a reaction in susceptible individuals.


The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Its low saturated fat and high omega-3 fatty acid content protect against heart disease. With food intolerance, you don't need to completely eliminate the offending food from your diet. Food intolerance is also dose-dependent. You may be able to enjoy a few bites of fish, but if you eat an entire piece of fish you develop symptoms. Verify fish is causing you to feel bloated and learn how much fish you can handle in one sitting. Then eat it in smaller amounts per sitting.

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