Bloating is a common and very unpleasant problem that can usually be prevented, unless it is caused by an underlying medical condition. Even small diet and lifestyle changes can be beneficial. The first step is adopting a diet that improves digestion and aids in reducing bloating.

Just as there are foods that can prevent bloating, there are also those that can cause it.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE BLOATING

  • Legumes

Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, broad beans) are at the top of the list of foods that cause bloating. The reason for this is raffinose, a complex carbohydrate composed of glucose, fructose, and galactose. The human body lacks the enzymes needed to break down raffinose, so it passes undigested to the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria. This process results in bloating.

  • Dairy products

Milk and most dairy products, including some cheeses and ice cream, contain milk sugar, or lactose. People with total or partial lack of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, suffer from intestinal gas. Along with bloating, triggered by lactose, diarrhea can also occur.

  • Wholegrain cereals

Wholegrain cereals are rich in raffinose and fibre which cause excessive production of intestinal gas due to bacterial activity. The only cereal that does not cause bloating is rice.

  • Some vegetables

Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, and cauliflower also contain raffinose and can cause bloating. Nonetheless, they should be part of any diet and consumed in several smaller portions over the day.

  • Some fruit

Fruit such as apples, peaches, pears, and plums contain sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, in addition to soluble fibre. This contributes to bacterial activity in the large intestine and causes bloating.

  • Chewing gum

Chewing gum can lead to swallowing excess air. Furthermore, some chewing gums are sweetened with sugar alcohols that are harder to digest, such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol.

Foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beans, lentils, and others mentioned above, should not be excluded from the diet given their nutritional value and high vitamin and mineral content. To prevent bloating and reduce the burden on the digestive system, they should be consumed in several smaller portions over the day.

Foods that can prevent bloating

  • Dill seeds

Dill seeds have been used for centuries to aid digestion and prevent bloating and stomach cramps. They owe this effect mainly to anethole, an active substance that relaxes smooth muscles, including those of the digestive tract. If dill seeds are not part of a meal (in bread, soups, vegetable dishes), dill seed tea can be consumed after meals. They also go well with salads.

  • Pineapple

Pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of proteins. Most of the bromelain is in the stem, which is edible, if not as tasty.

  • Papaya

Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of proteins. Papaya is an excellent addition to salads.

  • Basil

Basil is not only delicious, but an excellent aid in reducing bloating. Always use fresh basil as opposed to dried. Fresh leaves should be bright green and free of damage.

  • Yoghurt or kefir

Yoghurt and kefir contain natural probiotics, or “good” bacteria. These impede the growth of “bad” bacteria that produce excessive intestinal gas.

  • Ginger

Ginger contains zingibain, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of proteins. The recommended daily dose of fresh ginger is 1 g. It is an excellent addition to savoury and sweet dishes, soups, and salads. Ginger should be consumed in moderation; people with ulcerative colitis and pregnant women should be especially cautious.