Potentially difficult-to-digest foods are all around us. Many people can eat the seven types of hoods highlighted in this article and their bellies will be fine, but for some people, too much can make their stomach churn, especially if they have a sensitive digestive system.
Everybody’s different. Many of these foods have essential nutrients, and are well tolerated. But if you suffer from bloating, try eliminating them from your diet to see if your gut feels more soothed and your tummy flatter. Then, start to add them back in, and see which, if any, are particular belly aggravators.
Three types of dietary fat are linked with inflammation and thus pile on to our belly fat: trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils), saturated fats (found in animal products) and omega-6 fats. The latter are necessary for good health. However, most of us consume too many omega-6 fatty acids in proportion to omega-3s, and this imbalance causes inflammation.
All types of animal milk are high in lactose, which is broken down in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. The human body is genetically programmed to reduce lactase production after being weaned off breast milk. Lactose is also a rapidly fermentable carb; eat too much of it and your bacteria will work overtime producing gas.
Examples: Sugar snap peas, artichokes, fava beans, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and other vegetables, agave nectar, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, apples, cherries, mangoes, pears, watermelon and other fruit
Fructose occurs naturally in many foods, but we tend to get a lot of it in unnatural ways, thanks to the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup. (Honey and agave nectar are much higher in excess fructose than, say, maple syrup.) Foods with too much of it can contribute to gas, bloating and diarrhea. A 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome who were put on a non-fructose diet had reduced belching, bloating, fullness and diarrhea. Studies have also shown that high-fructose corn syrup may be associated with excess weight, especially around the middle.
Examples: Wheat, barley, rye, inulin, dates, grapefruit, prunes, nectarines, raisins and other fruit, black, kidney, lima, soy beans, artichokes, garlic, onions and other vegetables
Fructans are a type of fibre and, as such, can be very beneficial to our digestion and overall health. But because fibres are, by definition, undigestible by the human body, they cause flatulence to varying degrees (depending on the type of fibre and the bacteria in your gut). Fructans are found in a wide variety of foods, most notably wheat.
These foods contain chains of sugars called galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Humans lack the enzymes to break the chains; therefore, beans become food for gut bacteria. When the gut bacteria eat the undigested fibre in beans, they produce gas. This is why beans have a well-deserved reputation for contributing to gas and bloating. In addition, some nuts are also high in GOS.
Examples: Plums, apples, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, watermelon and other fruit, cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas and other vegetables, sugar-free candy, gum, artificial sweeteners
Our gut bacteria ferment polyols–often called sugar alcohols–and that leads to abdominal distress, as well as excessive flatulence, gas pain or diarrhea. Because polyols are the main component in sugar substitutes, we tend to think of them as fake, but some sugar alcohols occur naturally in foods. For instance, sorbitol, a common sugar alcohol, is found in blackberries and stone fruit such as peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and avocados. Remember, even though these fruits and vegetables contain polyols, they are good for your overall health.