Q: Which foods actually cause bloating?

A: You already know to avoid bubbly drinks before hitting the beach, but other foods can cause bloating, gas, and discomfort for different reasons. Here are the top foods to avoid the next time you slip into a bikini.

1. Carbonated drinks. Although they won’t cause abdominal bloating like other foods on this list, the air infused in the drinks during the carbonation process may cause gas buildup in your stomach. This leads to discomfort, bloating, and most likely belching, but it’s a very transient effect that should only last a few hours.

2. Sugar-free gum, candies, and desserts. The sugar alcohols in these foods can cause bloating, as they are poorly digested (if at all). This leaves them to be feasted on by the bacteria in your gut, leading to increased gas production and bloating. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol has some added beneficial effects on your oral health, is generally better tolerated, while sorbitol and mannitol are not. Try to limit sugar-free desserts to a maximum of one per day. A few sticks of sugar-free gum a day shouldn’t be a problem—just don’t consume more than one pack a day.

3. Broccoli and cabbage. The class of vegetables that includes broccoli and cabbage is notorious for causing bloating. The bloating has less to do with their high fiber content (a common scapegoat) but more to do with the nondigestible carbohydrates they contain. Reducing the amount of these foods that you eat in one setting could be enough to eliminate the occurrence of any bloating. If you love these foods and don’t want to reduce or give them up, try a supplement like Bean-O, which will provide your body with enzymes needed for the digestion of these carbs. The indigestible carbohydrates will then be broken down and digested, leaving nothing for bacteria to feast on.

4. Dairy foods. Dairy can cause bloating at a variety of levels, due to the malabsorption of lactose, the sugar found in dairy. A person’s ability to digest lactose is on a sliding scale, and the amount of lactose in different dairy foods is also variable. Because of this, it may take some time to determine your personal level of lactose intolerance and how that translates into what kinds and how much of dairy foods you can eat.

Bloating and gas from carbonated beverages is more of a nuisance than a health issue, but excessive bloating from sugar alcohols and other poorly digested carbohydrates, if left unchecked, may be indicative of bigger digestive problems such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Talking to your physician about your response to eating these foods would be a first key step in stopping bloating and getting your digestive tract back on track.


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