Food is one of life’s greatest comforts. However, the euphoric feeling of a sumptuous meal can be quickly overshadowed by a bloated and gassy feeling. If you’ve just stuffed yourself at the dinner table, you might be wondering: Can overeating cause bloating? Possibly so, and there are several other potential causes of abdominal discomfort – and many ways to help ease bloating and distension after a good meal.
Excessive Bloating And Abdominal Discomfort: What Are Some Possible Causes Of Bloating?
What Is Bloating?
Signs of bloating include the abdomen feeling swollen, full, and tight. This feeling is caused by a number of factors, including eating too much, swallowing too much air, constipation, and weight gain. Sometimes, bloating is caused by more serious conditions or medical disorders.1
As it turns out, bad eating habits can lead to bloating and distension. The simple act of eating too much causes gas to get trapped in the GI tract. In addition, eating high-fat foods, eating too quickly, and talking while eating may contribute to that uncomfortable feeling of fullness.2
Certain foods cause bloating and discomfort more than others. One example is cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, radishes, cabbage, and cauliflower. They contain copious amounts of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and K, as well as various antioxidants. But they also contain sulfur, in the form of glucosinolates.
As these compounds break down in the small intestines, they convert into substances like hydrogen sulfide (which gives gas its sulfur odor) and raffinose (which humans cannot break down because we lack the enzyme). Gas and bloating occur when undigested oligosaccharide sugars enter the large intestine and begin to ferment due to the presence of intestinal bacteria.3
Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Another cause of bloating is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, also known as SIBO. SIBO occurs when an excessive amount of bacteria grows in the small intestines. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal distension, abdominal discomfort, and flatulence. This condition may result in weight loss or vitamin and mineral deficiency.4
Reaction To Certain Foods In Your Diet
Bloating may result when your body has difficulty digesting certain types of sugars in the foods you eat. These sugars are called FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). Example foods are wheat, rye, onions, garlic, and legumes. Milk and dairy are also considered FODMAP foods, due to the lactose. These foods are not easily absorbed by the bowels. Consequently, they give off gas and may lead to abdominal discomfort, distention, bloating, fullness, and nausea.5,6
Avoid These To Support Digestive Health: Caffeine Found In Most Carbonated Drinks, Alcohol, And More
Caffeine And Fizzy Drinks
Drinking large amounts of beverages containing caffeine, like coffee, may cause dyspepsia, which includes bloating and abdominal discomfort. This is because the caffeine may stimulate the release of gastric acid.7
Carbonated beverages like soft drinks and energy drinks are also known to trigger these symptoms.8
Even water itself may cause gas. The carbon dioxide gas bubbles in sparkling water (including seltzer and club soda) can get trapped in your gut and cause bloating and discomfort.9 If you’re going to drink fizzy water, mineral water might be a better choice because the minerals may aid in digestion.10
Drinking too much alcohol can result in bloating and a feeling of abdominal fullness. This occurs when the alcohol begins to irritate or erode the stomach lining.11 As a result, the stomach becomes more sensitive to acids in other foods. Alcohol consumption also appears to stimulate an overgrowth of H. pylori bacteria, which can cause serious stomach irritation.12 Reducing or eliminating alcohol from your diet is the most reliable way to curb the bloating caused by it.13
Fatty And Fried Foods
Fatty foods are associated with symptoms of bloating and gas. Fried foods, such as burgers, chips, fried chicken, and doughnuts may contribute to bloating because it takes the body longer to break the fats down.14 Lowering fat intake may help ease the dyspeptic problems.15
Certain sweeteners may trigger gas and bloating. These include high fructose sweeteners often found in sodas.16 They also include sugar alcohols such as maltitol and sorbitol, which are difficult for the gut to absorb. Artificial sweeteners, like sucralose and aspartame, are also known to cause gas. As they cannot be digested, they ferment over time, causing production of gas.17
Fiber And Digestive Issues: Can A High Fiber Diet Help Support Healthier Digestion?
Luckily, there are a number of simple ways to beat the bloat. The most common is to eat a high fiber diet, which may help support healthy digestion. What are the benefits of eating lots of fiber?
- Eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as whole grains, moves food through your intestines faster.
- Fiber helps cleans out your colon, getting rid of the bad bacteria that cause bloating and gas.
- Fiber keeps you “regular” with soft bowel movements, which helps lower the chances of getting constipated.18
You can add more fiber to your diet in the following areas:
- Whole grain breads
- Brown rice
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (as long as they are not too high in fructose)19,20
However, eat cruciferous veggies in moderation. Although these are extremely healthy, they also have a tendency to cause gas and bloating, as mentioned above.
What Other Ways Are There To Combat Digestive Problems Like Gas And Bloating?
In addition to eating foods high in fiber, several other factors play a role as well.
Drinking Certain Beneficial Beverages
Mixtures of herbs and spices are often used in traditional cultures as a remedy for gastrointestinal distress. Peppermint tea is one option used for bloating. It works through its active compound, peppermint oil, via its carminative (flatulence-reducing) properties.21
Fennel seeds are very effective at promoting good digestion and as a natural remedy for gas. The rich volatile oils in fennel seeds relax contracted intestinal muscles, allowing trapped gas to escape. To relieve gas, the seeds may either be eaten after your meal or crushed and added to boiling water to make a tea.22
Another option to relieve bloating is making tea from fresh ginger. Ginger speeds the contractions of gastric smooth muscles, moving the gas through the digestive tract. Other herbal remedies include teas made from black cumin seeds, basil leaf, and black licorice (the plant, not the candy).23
Foods High In Potassium
Consuming a diet high in salty foods and beverages causes the body to retain water, which leads to bloating. To counteract the effect of sodium, you could eat foods high in potassium. Foods that contain lots of potassium include leafy greens like spinach and beet greens.24
Eating foods rich in probiotic bacteria has been shown to help ease gastrointestinal discomfort. This occurs because these good bacteria suppress the growth of the bad bacteria and reduce their ability to bind to the walls of the intestine.25,26 This also helps promote good digestion and proper absorption of food and nutrients.27
Foods high in probiotics include fermented and cultured dairy products, miso paste, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, and buttermilk.
The Best Way To Avoid That Bloated Feeling: Eating Less Food
Oftentimes, the simplest way to avoid gas and bloating is to eat less food. As you now know, eating too much food causes air to get trapped in your GI tract. And what you eat no doubt contributes to the problem. In most cases, this can be alleviated simply by avoiding the offending food (or group of foods) or knowing which easy-to-find remedy can resolve the problem.
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