Bloating occurs when air or fluid builds up in your abdominal area, causing uncomfortable fullness, pressure and/or pain. Numerous factors can contribute to bloating, including stress, anxiety, smoking, digestive illnesses, irritable bowel syndrome and certain foods. Your eating habits can also play a role. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, seek guidance from your doctor. Otherwise, tweaking your dietary lifestyle may provide a useful remedy.
Bloating related to gas stems from the breakdown of undigested food, foods containing non-absorbable carbohydrates and swallowed gas. If your body lacks the enzyme lactase, for example, you may experience gas and bloating after consuming milk products. In an interview with "Good Morning America," Dr. Mehmet Oz explained that 80 percent of bloating is caused by the digestive process and 20 percent by the gas you consume. Eating quickly, overeating and eating during tense emotional times can cause you to swallow air or place undue pressure on your digestive tract. Fatty foods may trigger bloating by delaying stomach emptying.
Foods affect people differently. Common gas and bloating culprits, however, include greasy foods, such as fried meats, pepperoni pizza and french fries; artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol; beans; apples; pears; peaches and cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Carbonated beverages may cause bloating, due to the swallowing of excess air. If you're sensitive to a particular food, you may experience bloating and other digestive symptoms after eating it. Common sensitivities include dairy products, wheat and gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Avoid salty foods, such as canned soup, potato chips, pretzels, crackers, frozen entrees and processed meats and cheeses, which can trigger bloating and worsen water retention related to premenstrual syndrome.
In addition to avoiding foods that contribute to your symptoms, others may help prevent or reduce bloating. Probiotics, the "friendly" bacteria in yogurt, kefir and fermented foods, may help manage symptoms of conditions associated with bloating, such as diarrhea, Crohn's disease, colitis, IBS, ulcers and chronic stomach inflammation. Fiber-rich foods, such as flaxseed, legumes and whole grains, can help stimulate bowel movements and reduce bloating linked with constipation. Cooking and peeling fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears and potatoes, reduces their gas-causing properties. Fruits and vegetables less likely to trigger bloating include blueberries, strawberries, cherries, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and water chestnuts. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, halibut and tuna, provide anti-inflammatory fats, known as omega-3 fatty acids. To reduce bloating linked with greasy foods, swap fatty and fried meats for baked or broiled cold-water fish. Olive and canola oil provide useful alternatives to butter, margarine and shortening. If you're sensitive to wheat or gluten, consume brown rice, wild rice, popcorn and gluten-free breads and cereals.
Changing the way you eat may also prevent bloating. Slow your eating pace and drink from glasses rather than through straws. Try relaxation exercises, such as breathing exercises, walking, meditation and listening to soft music, before meals to ease anxiety and stress. When possible, eat in a pleasurable, calm atmosphere, free of distractions, such as cell phones and television noise. Dishing proper amounts of food on your plate and setting your fork down between meals can encourage slow eating and prevent overeating. If you currently consume a low-fiber diet, try gradually increasing your fiber intake to allow your digestive system time to adjust. Staying properly hydrated by drinking water throughout each day can help your body flush excess fluids out through urine.