Several foods may cause bloating, but it might not be that easy to pinpoint the culprits. The usual suspects include carbonated beverages, bread, and dairy products. This is according to registered dietitian Zamantungwa Khumalo, who says that cutting out certain foods and replacing them with others could solve the problem.
Khumalo is a spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). She explains that bloating is a condition where your belly feels full and tight, often due to gas. While bloating and gas are not usually signs of a serious health problem, they are tied to what we eat.
Here’s how Mzansi is dealing with gas
Sibongiseni Dalasile (35), a schoolteacher in Khayelitsha, Cape Town says that foods that trigger bloating for her include heavy starches like potatoes, samp and beans, dairy, braai meat and alcohol.
“When I travel, I always pack soda water. When I’m at home, I drink just boiling water and drink Eno to alleviate stomach bloating.”
Asavela Mntumni (28), from Hout Bay in Cape Town, says that her bloating belly can get really unpleasant, especially in the days leading up to her period. According to period tracking app Flo, bloating is a common early symptom of menstruation that women experience.
An avid fitness enthusiast, Mntumni says that she will feel heavy and tight or even swollen in her stomach and other parts of her body.
Siphe Ntsabo (34) of Ntsabo African cuisine believes that bloating can be triggered by eating late in the evening.
“In order to prevent stomach bloating, I advise lighter meals and more fibre and fluids foods instead. Overeating is another factor I think may contribute to it in most cases.”
Why you get bloated
Khumalo says that it is normal to experience bloating after certain meals. If you do notice that the feeling is becoming persistent though, it may be related to a gut disorder.
“[Some] diseases can cause serious adverse health effects if not treated. If bloating persists for more than a few days despite diet change and is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, severe abdominal pain and distention, blood in the stool, and severe nausea and vomiting, you should seek medical attention from your GP.”
Foods that may trigger bloating includes:
- Legumes/beans – they take a bit more effort to digest because they contain complex carbohydrates so they can cause gas and bloating.
- Dairy products – this is mainly due to the inability to digest the lactose in dairy products.
- Cruciferous vegetables – “the gas-forming vegetables” include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and raw onions.
- Extremely fatty/greasy foods – these foods are also a bit more difficult to digest and take longer to complete the process in the stomach and can therefore lead to more gas formation during digestion.
- Other foods like eggs, carbonated drinks, beer, and some high-fibre foods may also cause bloating in some people. Fibre-containing foods are, however, very important for good gut health, and bloating does decrease over time if fibre-containing foods are used in moderate amounts and plenty of water is consumed along with them.
Which foods can bring relief?
A diet that is high in fibre can help to alleviate bloating. Fibre must be increased gradually if not already included in the diet, says Khumalo.
“This consists of having whole grains, bran, wheat based foods such as:
- Brown/whole wheat breads;
- Whole wheat cereals such as all-bran, oats, Weetbix;
- Fruits and vegetables – with the skin on where possible (bananas, papaya, avocado, broccoli – in small amounts);
- Brown rice/whole wheat pasta;
- It is important to drink plenty of water to prevent bloating from getting worse. When increasing fibre intake, aim for 6-8 glasses per day.
Other remedies include regular exercise. “Regular physical activity can help to alleviate bloating. About 20 – 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 2 – 3 times a week is recommended.”
Khumalo shares six other tips you can try to alleviate bloating:
- Try green tea/ginger tea.
- A tummy massage may also help to alleviate bloating.
- Avoid chewing gum as this makes you more prone to swallowing air and increases bloating.
- Eat slowly, have small request meals in the day and chew your food properly – this also reduces chances of swallowing air when you eat and makes it easy for food to be digested therefore reducing excessive gas formation when eating.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid fizzy drinks.
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