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6 Top trigger foods for bloating

Posted 5 years ago by Jo

There are a number of different foods that may act as triggers for bloating. Here I aim to identify the top 6 trigger foods for bloating, and explore the reasons these foods may cause digestive discomfort. 

[Update June 2014: I've recently added a post with 6 foods to help ease bloating which you can check out here.] 

1. Wheat

The way in which wheat is processed today has contributed to the rise in the number of people who experience a sensitivity or intolerance to it, and it may act as a trigger for bloating.  Bread is often processed using certain agents to help speed up the fermentation process, as well as to help extend shelf life and as a result many of us have become more sensitive to it. Our diets have also become increasingly wheat based, and it can be quite easy to eat wheat for three meals a day without any difficulty. For example, if you had cereal for breakfast, wheat for lunch and pasta for dinner, your wheat intake is high which potentially increases your risk of developing a sensitivity. We have previously written about bread and bloating which you can read here


Many wheat based foods may cause bloating in some people who have a sensitivity 

There is a compound called gluten found in wheat, as well other grains such as rye and barley. Gluten is a common trigger for digestive problems including bloating, and some people may be sensitive to all gluten foods, rather than wheat alone.  Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition in which a person cannot tolerate any gluten. You can read more about Coeliac disease and bloating here. We strongly recommend you seek medical advice is you believe you may be suffering with this condition. 

2. Dairy foods

Dairy foods, which include cow's milk, cheese, butter and ice-cream can often be a trigger for bloating in some people. Yogurt may be easier for some people to digest as due to its nature it is partially fermented which means it can be easier for people to break down.


Dairy foods can be a common trigger for bloating 

An intolerance to dairy foods may be caused by either the casein (protein) in the milk, or by an inability to digest lactose (the sugar in the milk). For those people whose bloating is triggered by the lactose, this could be due to a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase. It is possible that by helping to improve digestion may enhance the body's ability to breakdown lactose. You can read more about lactose intolerance and bloating here

3. Processed foods

Processed foods such as ready meals, crisps, sweets, many cakes and pastries contain a number of additives which can act as a trigger for bloating in some. Three of the major additives in processed foods are sugar, salt and sweeteners.

Ready meals

Ready meals are often high in salt, sugar & sweeteners which may act as a trigger for bloating

An excess of salt in the diet may cause the body to retain water which in turn may cause bloating. Sugar may act as a stand alone trigger for bloating by providing a food source for any yeasts or dysbiosis. You may like to read more about sugar and bloating here. Sweeteners are commonly used in low fat varieties of food in place of sugar to help improve the taste, and despite being lower in calories they come with their own health warnings, and may act as a potential trigger for bloating.

4. Fibre

Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet, and although it is key to helping maintain regularity and supporting digestion, it may act as a trigger for bloating in some people. Fibre slows down the movement of food through the large intestine, which is helpful in keeping us feeling fuller for longer, and for slowing down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, but it may result in increased bloating. As the bacteria in the colon breaks down the fibre, it may produce some gas, therefore causing some flatulence and bloating. If someone has less than optimal digestion, due to an imbalance in the levels of bacteria or a lack of digestive enzymes, they may struggle to break down fibrous food, resulting in bloating and discomfort.


Bran is a form of insoluble fibre which may be harsh on the digestive system 

There are some sources of fibre which may be easier to tolerate and act more gently in the body. Soluble fibre, from apples, oats and carrots for example, may be a better option for some in helping to reduce bloating rather than opting for the more harsh sources of insoluble fibre such as bran and wholemeal bread.  It may be a case of trying different foods to see which you find more suitable.

We have previously written about fibre and bloating which can can read here

5. Onions & garlic

Onions and garlic are highly nutritious foods, and even possess valuable anti-bacterial properties which may help ward off infection. They may however act as a trigger for bloating due to their role as a prebiotic food. They also contain high levels of sulphur, which may result in flatulence and bloating.

6. Pulses & beans

Pulses and beans are foods high in useful protein, and also fibre which may mean they are a trigger food for bloating in some individuals (see 'Fibre' foods). Another reason why beans and pulses may cause bloating is because they contain a substance called lectins, part of the plant's natural self-defence system, which may cause sensitivities in some resulting in bloating. It can be helpful to soak beans and pulses overnight (even tinned ready-to-eat versions) which may break down some of the lectins, making them easier to digest. Some beans and pulses are higher in fibre and lectins that others, for example kidney beans are one of the highest in lectins, therefore it may be a case of trial and error in order to determine which, if any, you may be able to tolerance without triggering bloating.


Pulses, such as chickpeas, are rich in fibre and contain lectins which may cause bloating

If you think you may be sensitive to some foods which act as triggers for your bloating, one of the best ways to determine which foods are causing the problem is to carry out an Elimination Diet. Keeping a food diary can be helpful (click here to read more about how to keep a food diary), and there are also Food Intolerance tests available should you like to try those.  If you are trying to eliminate foods from your diet, always ensure you seek advice from a professional to ensure you are not reducing your intake of important nutrients (i.e calcium from milk). There are usually plenty of healthy alternatives, and your GP or a qualified Nutritional Therapist would be able to help advise you on this. It is particularly important to remember to check food labels carefully as trigger foods may be found where you least expect (such as sauces & gravies).

You can click here to read about other causes of bloating, and click here for some natural remedies for bloating. 

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