If you are reading this, you probably experience bloating quite a bit. Perhaps you know what causes it, or perhaps you have no clue. Either way, this article will help illuminate why certain foods make us bloat, and what foods cause bloating.
I will say, this article title is misleading (sorry, but you’re glad you’re here right?). Instead of going through four foods that can cause bloating, I am going to go through four food categories that may cause bloating.
Technically, we’re actually going over four types of carbohydrates which lead to bloating. You may be confused, I don’t blame you. I’d be confused too!
Let’s break it down.
Today we are going to talk about FODMAPs. What the heck is a FODMAP? FODMAPs are types of sugars (carbohydrates) that aren’t completely digested. They pass through the small intestine, absorbing water, until they reach the large intestine, where they are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas.
This is what causes the bloat. The gas build up in the large intestine can lead to a distended stomach along with discomfort. Plus, the gas is going to have to come out somehow. I won’t go into more detail about that. If you have IBS, this process is amplified, leading to lots of bloating, gas and discomfort.
But, good news!
Most people are only sensitive to one or two FODMAP food categories. So, if you follow an elimination diet or use a food diary, which I’ll explain later in this article, you can find out what category you are sensitive to. This way, you won’t have to eliminate every FODMAP category.
But let’s take a step back. What are the FODMAP categories?
There are four FODMAP categories, which I go into detail in the next sections. These are: Oligosaccarides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Within each of these categories, there are subcategories.
In the next sections, I go into what those are and what foods contain these carbohydrates and what foods may be the cause of your bloating.
The first category is Oligosaccarides. Quite a mouthful. This category contains Fructans and Galacto-Oligosaccarides (GOS for short).
Unfortunately many delicious foods fall into this category. Particularly, many vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits are high in Oligosaccarides. I mean, beans are the magical fruit right?
In the vegetable category, there are:
- Brussels sprouts
In the grains category, there are:
- Rye and wheat products
In the legumes category there are:
- Baked beans
- Red kidney beans
In the fruit category there are:
If you notice you have difficulty with a few of these foods, it’s worth completing an elimination diet to see if this category is troublesome for you. If you notice wheat products in particular bother you while the other foods on the list you can eat no problem, it may be worth being tested for celiac disease.
Next up are the disaccharides. This category is going to include lactose. Lactose is found in dairy products, in varying amounts depending on the form.
You likely have heard of lactose intolerance, which occurs when someone doesn’t have the lactase enzyme to break down the lactose, causing stomach issues. If you notice you only react to lactose, it may be worth tasting for lactose intolerance.
Foods that contain lactose are:
- Ice cream
- Soft cheeses
- Hard cheeses (in low amounts)
- Coffee creamers
- Some baked goods
- Some processed foods
- Some processed meats
For the baked goods and processed foods and meats, look out for these ingredients which contain lactose:
- Milk by products
- Dry milk
- Nonfat dry milk powder
Note that you may be able to tolerate lactose in small amounts, such as in hard cheeses.
In the monosaccharide category is fructose, which is found in many foods, especially fruits. These fruits include:
- Sugar snap pea
- Canned fruit in natural juice
Other foods high in fructose include:
- High fructose corn syrup
If you have noticed that any of these foods bother you, you may have a monosaccharide intolerance.
Last but not least are the polyols. Though you may not be familiar with this term, you have definitely tasted them. Especially if you are a fan of sugar alcohols. Many fruits are high in polyols, as well as many sweeteners end in -ol, indiciating that they are sugar alcohols.
These fruits include:
You may notice that some of these fruits overlap with the fruits in the monosaccharide category.
If you notice that a few of these fruits bother you, you’ll want to try testing out a fruit, vegetable or sweetener in the polyol category that is not in the monosaccharide category. If this food bothers you, it’s likely polyols that bother you. If this food doesn’t bother you, it’s likely the monosaccharide category that bothers you.
How to test which foods cause your bloating
The easiest way to test is through a food diary. Right down what you eat, what time you eat it, your symptoms, and what time your symptoms start. Keep this up for a week or longer and reflect back on what you eat before your symptoms began.
Let’s say you got symptoms after these three meals:
Meal 1: A sandwich with whole wheat bread, turkey, mustard, a mozzarella stick and an apple
Meal 2: A chicken stir fry with broccoli on white rice and a glass of milk
Meal 3: A smoothie with almond milk, yogurt, mango, raspberries and chia seeds
You may notice that all three meals contain lactose. Once you’ve identified the foods that may be causing the issues, try eliminating it for a week to see if the symptoms disappear.
If they do, you’ve likely found a culprit. If not, you can reflect back on your journal entries to find another pattern, of try the elimination diet.
The elimination diet includes eliminating all foods high in FODMAPs for 2-6 weeks, until symptoms disappear, and then adding back each food category one by one to see what food category causes a reaction.
I would highly suggest working with a dietitian if you want to try this. It is a very restrictive diet and can be tricky to perform correctly. You would have to ensure you are eliminating even traces of the FODMAPs from your diet to ensure the best results. This can work better than a food diary since you know for sure which food you are testing when you add them back into your diet. The Monash app is a great resource if you want to try this out.
Can I still eat the foods that cause me bloating eventually?
Another thing to note is that your body changes over time. The foods that cause bloating now may not bother you down the line. This means you don’t have to say goodbye to these foods forever, just until you can tolerate them again.
Many of these foods can also be eaten in small portions. For example, someone who can’t tolerate Oligosaccarides can typically handle one slice of white bread without symptoms. Of course, everyone is different. Test out each food and find out what works for you and your body!