If you want to reduce gas and bloating, then this blog post is for you.
Occasional gas and bloating are a normal part of the digestive process, and are caused by air that's trapped in the digestive system. In fact, most people pass gas 14 to 25 times a day. This gas is usually air either unintentionally swallowed while eating too fast, over-eating, or produced by gut bacteria during digestion.
Nutritional solutions to reduce gas and bloating
Here are some diet-related suggestions to help you reduce gas and bloating.
1. Consider FODMAP foods as a potential trigger
Have you heard of FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides (short-chain carbohydrates), and Polyols (sugar alcohols)?
Fodmaps are fermentable carbohydrates that aren’t easily digested by the gut and tend to trigger digestive issues in people who suffer from IBS or a sensitive gut. When fodmaps aren’t fully digested in the gut and are excessively fermented by your gut bacteria, the bacteria release hydrogen gas which creates digestive stress and symptoms like gas and bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
FODMAPs can be tricky to rule out since there are so many different kinds and everyone is unique in terms of tolerability. If you suspect a certain FODMAP food, or food group might be triggering gas and bloating try removing it from your diet for a 14-day period. Then reintroduce a small amount of the suspected FODMAP food or foods, one at a time, to test your reaction over a 3-day period.
Personalise your consumption of the specific FODMAP foods which your stomach can tolerate and ideally sparingly eat those which cause a flare-up. It’s important to find a balance that works for you. Often you can get away with a small amount of trigger foods without having to completely remove them from your diet. It's crucial for your overall health to be consuming a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
If FODMAP foods don't irritate your gut, it's best not to remove them from your diet. FODMAPs are prebiotic foods – that which fuels probiotics within your gut microbiome, so you definitely want to be eating FODMAP foods if you can tolerate them.
2. Food intolerances or sensitivities
Food sensitives like lactose intolerance can trigger gas and bloating. As well as FODMAPs, typical foods that cause gas include gluten-containing foods (most bread, pasta, rolls, cereals, etc.) and dairy products.
With dairy, I always recommend swapping conventional dairy that has been pasteurised for raw dairy. Manufacturing processes can kill enzymes that are needed for proper digestion, even to the point that some people who think they have symptoms of lactose intolerance can consume raw dairy products without having negative reactions.
It also helps to avoid yogurts with sugar and artificial ingredients, to consume aged raw cheeses instead of soft cheese, and to consume kefir yogurt instead of milk, which are lower in lactose. You can also replace butter for ghee in most instances which doesn’t contain any lactose.
Along with elimination diets, keeping a food journal is helpful for identifying food triggers and to reduce gas and bloating.
3. Prepare your food for optimal digestion
I always recommend soaking grains, legumes, dried beans, seeds and nuts in a bowl of water overnight to soften them before cooking or eating the next day.
Beans and peas, lentils and chickpeas, peanuts and even alfalfa are all legumes. Yet, what sorts their digestibility from each other is the ability of some people to eat one kind and other people’s ability to go anywhere near any of them at all, is the balance of fibre and protein within each type, and whether you suffer from pre-existent digestive health issues.
Beans have a reputation for increasing flatulence due to the presence of the indigestible carbohydrates raffinose and stachyose.
If beans give you gas, then soaking them before cooking will help. Soaking overnight and discarding the soaking water not only softens them but also leaches out the sugars in beans that are responsible for gas production.
If you forget to overnight soak, then a quick soak is just as good. Rinse the beans and then place them in a pot with 3 cups of water for each cup of dried beans. Bring to a boil and boil for two to three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let it stand for one hour. Drain the water, add fresh water, and then cook.
You may experience some initial gas and bloating if you don’t normally eat beans. Although in most people without underlying gut health issues, gas and bloating typically decrease with consistent intake.
Raw foods - the harder a food is to chew, the more difficult it will be to digest. For example, raw vegetables are more difficult to digest because of their fibrous cell walls. Cooking them helps break down the fibre and makes it much easier for your system to digest. Also fodmap vegetables like gassy cauliflower can be more easily tolerated when cooked as opposed to eaten raw.
4. Eat enough fibre to keep your bowel movements healthy and regular
This might be the most obvious reason you need to reduce gas and bloating. Constipation can cause stool to remain in the intestines, leaving you with a bloated, hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and gas. One of the key reasons for constipation is eating too little fibre.
Your diet plays a huge part in regulating how much air and poop is trapped inside your digestive tract. To keep things “flowing” smoothly, you want to make sure to eat at least 25–30 grams of fibre every day. This isn’t too difficult when you eat plenty of whole foods.
5. Stay hydrated
Ever notice the day after you’ve been eating salty foods or drinking alcohol that you become dehydrated and bloated as a result? It might seem counter-intuitive, but the more water you drink (or consume in water-rich foods) and better you stay hydrated, the less gas and bloating you’re likely to experience.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances both halt digestion and make it hard to maintain regular elimination. When your body tries to recover from dehydration, it holds on to excess water to prevent the situation from happening again. Plus, you might find yourself becoming constipated. This means when you do finally drink more fluids, you’re likely to store them around your midsection and feel extra puffy.
Veggies and fruits that contain water, key electrolytes and beneficial enzymes are your best friend when it comes to reducing gas and bloating. Try eating more cooked leafy greens, cucumber, melon, berries and steamed veggies.
6. Use herbs to help reduce gas and bloating
Natural digestion-soothing herbs like ginger, dandelion and fennel have been used for thousands of years to soothe pain, gas and bloating in the stomach. Many herbs act like diuretics and help the body release extra fluid, while some, like ginger, can also help the stomach release its contents and relax the muscles in the digestive tract, which relieves constipation.
Try including freshly ground herbs of all kinds (e.g. sage, parsley, oregano and rosemary) and fresh peeled ginger root in your meals, as well as drinking herbal teas.
7. Promote healthy gut microbiome
Good bacteria called probiotics act like friendly gut bugs in your digestive tract, killing off bad bacteria that can trigger digestive issues and reactions. You can take probiotic supplements, but acquiring them from natural probiotic foods like saurerkraut, kimchi, proper yogurt, kefir and kombucha is also beneficial.
If you'd like to try a pharmaceutical grade quality probiotic supplement, I recommend getting a multi strain one to include Bifidobacterium BB-12 and Lactibacillus rhamnosus LGG, like this probiotic by USANA Health Sciences. Probiotics don't colonise in the gut, like food they move through the colon so you need to take them as per the dosage on the packet. Not all probiotics are created equal, as the supplement industry is largely unregulated so do make sure any probiotic you buy is pharmaceutical grade.
If your gas and bloating is creating distress and discomfort, or you'd like some help overcoming other gut issues, check out my Gut Health Plan or Contact Me for a chat on how you can improve your gut health.
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