Your belly is bloated, your stomach is full of gas, and frankly, you find it really hard to have a peaceful poop.
Big turkey dinners and carbalicious burgers can make our bodies sluggish, gassy and bloated but there are even some vegetables, fibre supplements and legumes that do the same damage.
“Bloating often occurs when there is an excess amount of gas and or water in our bodies,” says Rosanna Lee, a nutrition educator and community health promoter based in Toronto.
But bloating can also happen when you chow down your meal too quickly or overeat on a regular basis. It also differs for individuals — while some people will always feel bloated after eating a large meal, others can suffer from more serious side effects like swelling of the abdomen, excessive gas or distension.
Sure, you can avoid “bloating” food altogether but watching your sodium intake and adding water to your diet also helps, Lee says. “Drinking more water can help you flush the sodium out of your system and bloating will eventually decrease.”
According to Health Canada, people should eat at least 1,500 mg of sodium a day and not exceed 2,300 mg.
You can also make simple diet changes like chewing slowly and avoid air-ingesting habits like using straws or chewing gum.
And while processed food accounts for 77% of the sodium we eat, here are other foods to avoid (and enjoy) when you’re bloated.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Processed Food:
Although tasty, TV dinners, canned soup or vegetables, condiments and sauces can cause bloating. Foods that contain a high amount of sodium cause the body to retain more water, says Rosanna Lee, a nutrition educator and community health promoter based in Toronto. This often happens because our bodies are trying to dilute salt to maintain a balance of electrolytes.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Lots Of Carbs
Pasta, bagels, cereal, rice and other foods that have a high amount of carbohydrates tend to cause your body to store three times more water compared to protein, Lee says. Instead of loading up on carbs, add more lean proteins like chicken breast or salmon.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Cruciferous Vegetables
You may finally have a reason not to eat your vegetables. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and collard greens have been found to cause bloating. “These foods contain tiny sugars that are difficult to digest for certain individuals, causing unwanted gas,” Lee says.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Sugar Substitutes
Sugar alcohol sweeteners like mannitol, maltitol and sorbitol tend to cause bloating in the form of stomach gas. If you do use sugar substitutes, aim for alternatives like honey, agave, yellow, brown or white sugar in small amounts to sweeten your foods.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Carbonated Drinks
Pop, fizzy water or other carbonated beverages can also cause excessive bloating. If you’re hooked on your daily Diet Coke, you may also want to leave the can open before drinking it, or gently shake it to let out some carbonation. Adding ice can also cut carbonation.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Legumes
Beans, peas and lentils are also culprits. However, this doesn’t mean you can never have your favourite bean burrito. “Once your body gets used to digesting such foods, the symptoms of bloating might actually ease up. If you are not sure how much legumes you should be eating, try a little bit at a time and gradually increase your serving size according to your comfort level,” she says.
MAKES YOU BLOAT: Fibre Supplements
Individuals who take inulin or psyllium with their meals may also experience bloating. “Although it’s beneficial in fighting constipation, too much fibre at once might have the opposite effect,” Lee says. If you have a high-fibre diet, don’t forget to drink plenty of water with your foods and supplements. Fibre absorbs water and this makes it easier for it to move through the digestive tract.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Cooked Vegetables
But what relieves bloating? Eating vegetables cooked versus raw actually reduces the amount of gas your body produces while digesting, Lee says. “The process of cooking breaks down some of the tough fibres so your body doesn’t have to.” And remember, aim to eat vegetables that are non-cruciferous to reduce gas.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Garlic
Studies have found that garlic stimulates digestion. It is also considered an antifugal, antiviral and antibacterial food that can help our bodies break down foods that lead to gas.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Melons
Watermelons contain 92 per cent water and are an excellent choice to prevent bloating. Melons, including honeydew and cantaloupe, also help your body flush out excess sodium.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Citrus Fruits
Oranges and grapefruits are loaded with vitamin C and fibre, but also contain 80 to 90 per cent water which is ideal for preventing bloating and gas.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Pineapple
This tropical fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain that breaks down proteins and promotes healthy digestion, Lee says. Pineapples are also largely water-based at 85 per cent.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Low Sodium Foods
Foods that contain between 5 to 14 per cent sodium and have the average daily intake amount for your age, are also good choices. “Less sodium in your diet not only helps control your blood pressure, but it also helps stave off bloating.”
RELIEVES BLOATING: Water
Drinking water will help you flush excess salt in your body, while keeping things moving.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Yogurt
The healthy or “good” bacteria found in yogurt can promote gut bacteria balance and reduce excess gas that may build up in your digestive system over time.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Selected Supplements
Enzymes or probiotic supplements have been found to reduce bloating by helping your body break down complex carbohydrates and certain sugars.
RELIEVES BLOATING: Tea
Studies have found that drinking ginger, peppermint or fennel tea helps reduce bloating as well. You can also take these in herbal supplement forms, but it is best to consult a doctor before you do.