What Foods Cause Bloating?

  • Hana hailu Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

What is bloating?

Bloating is a term used to describe an upper abdominal feeling of fullness, gassiness or distension. It can be caused by too much gas or too much food in the stomach.1 When you have a bloated stomach, you might feel as though you have had a large meal. You might get a full and uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, and it can make you feel tight. Your stomach may also look bigger than it is, and your clothing may get snug as a result. 

Causes of bloating

Bloating can be caused by breathing in too much air, a phenomenon known as aerophagia. Chewing gum might cause people to swallow more than usual. 

Carbonated drinks, such as fizzy drinks or beer, can also cause an increase in stomach air. People who suffer from anxiety can also swallow excessive amounts of air. Excessive air swallowing can cause a lot of gas to enter the stomach and small intestine, which causes bloating.1,2,9

Some foods that are carbohydrates pass through the small intestine mostly undigested.  Bran, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans are a few examples of such food. Some people may experience bloating and excessive flatulence as a result. Many people get stomach cramps, bloating, and gas when they drink milk or eat certain cheeses because they don't have the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk sugars (lactose).1,2

Another cause of bloating and stomach distension is bacterial overgrowth. This is not an infection but happens when there are too many normal bacteria in the small intestine. Bloating and a feeling of abdominal distention may also be caused by underlying constipation.1,2,3

Common symptoms of bloating

Common symptoms of bloating include:1,2,3 

  • Your stomach hurts or feels larger than normal.
  • Your stomach is rumbling or making sounds
  • You pass wind or burp more frequently than usual

Foods that can cause bloating

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym for a certain class of fermentable carbohydrates, called Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.  They have been implicated in several gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS and bloating.  Long-chain sugars like FODMAPs can’t be broken down in your gut like simpler sugars and may be fermented due to the action of your natural gut bacteria.  This can cause the generation and accumulation of gas in the intestines.  Examples of FODMAP-rich foods are given below. 5

What is Fibre?

Fibre comes in two main forms: soluble and insoluble.  Insoluble fibre, sometimes called “roughage” is very good for your digestion because it helps your food pass through your gut properly.  Sources of insoluble fibre include wholemeal foods and fruit.  Soluble fibre, including many complex sugars and FODMAPs, also helps with digestion but is also known to cause gas and bloating in some people, at least in the short term.  When we say fibre causes bloating in this article, we mainly mean soluble fibre.


Beans are rich in fibre and carbohydrates, but they also contain raffinose, a type of complex sugar that our bodies have trouble processing. Oligosaccharides such as raffinose and stachyose are broken down by bacterial fermentation in the intestines, where they cause bloating and gas production. 4,5


Lentils are nutritious, rich in fibre, well-balanced, and contain carbohydrates, healthy protein, and minerals such as iron, copper, and manganese. Due to their high fibre content, they may induce bloating in people with sensitive stomachs.  Similarly to beans, lentils contain FODMAPs).5 These sugars may increase the production of gas and cause bloating. If you soak or sprout the lentils before you eat them, they can be easier to digest. Lighter-coloured lentils tend to have less fibre than darker ones and may cause less bloating.


Milk from cows and goats includes lactose, a sugar that can lead to gas buildup. In addition to this, it is estimated that around 65 per cent of the adult population of the globe has some kind of sensitivity to lactose, which means that consuming dairy products might leave people feeling bloated and gassy.6

Cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and several other vegetables belong to the cruciferous vegetable family. These are nutritious and include a variety of important nutrients, including fibre, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. However, they also contain FODMAPs, which means that they might cause bloating in certain people.5,7

Apples and pears

Fruits, such as pears, apples and mangoes, are associated with a variety of health benefits due to their high levels of naturally occurring sugar fructose as well as antioxidants and vitamin C. However, it's been shown that consumption of some fruits might lead to bloating and a variety of other digestive issues in certain people.   Both fructose and fibre have the potential to cause gas and bloating in the short term when fermented in the large intestine. As a result of their inability to digest the sugars properly, some people find fructose to be difficult to digest and may have flatulence after eating them. Cooked apples may be easier for the body to digest than raw apples. 5,8

Carbonated beverages

Soft drinks can cause bloating. These drinks contain a large amount of carbon dioxide, which is a gas.  In addition, some of the gas can become trapped in the digestive tract, which can lead to painful bloating and even cramping in some people. It's better to drink water instead.1,2,9

Onions and garlic

Onions are one of the key sources of fructans. These soluble fibres have the potential to cause bloating. Some people also have sensitivity or intolerance to other compounds found in onions, particularly raw onions. As a result, bloating and other gastrointestinal distress are known to be brought on by onions. The preparation of onions in food might lessen the negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Like onions, garlic contains fructans, which are FODMAPs that can make you feel bloated. Garlic-related allergies or intolerances are also rather frequent, and symptoms include bloating, burping, and gas. Preparing the garlic might reduce these symptoms.10

Barley and rye

Rye is a type of grain like wheat. It has excellent fibre, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and B-vitamin content and is extremely nutritious. However, rye also contains gluten, a protein that many people have a sensitivity or intolerance to. Rye can cause bloating in some people because of its high fibre and gluten content. 11

Barley is a cereal grain that is used in bread, beverages and other dishes. Due to its high fibre content and high vitamin and mineral content, including selenium, manganese, and molybdenum, it is very nutritious. However, due to its high fibre content, whole-grain barley may result in bloating in individuals who are not used to eating a lot of fibre. Barley also contains gluten. Those who are gluten intolerant may experience problems after ingesting this grain. It is preferable to use refined barley, such as scotch barley or pearl barley, to reduce bloating. Oats, quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat are just a few of the grains that can be substituted for barley.11


Due in large part to the presence of a protein complex called gluten, wheat has been the subject of intense debate in recent years. Despite the controversy, grain is still consumed widely. In addition to baked goods like cakes, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles, it is a common component in bread, pasta, tortillas, and pizza. Wheat causes serious digestive system problems for people who have gluten intolerance and gastric disorders.11

Sugar and sugar substitutes

Artificial sweeteners can have a negative impact on gut microbial activity, which can lead to a variety of health problems and can cause bloating. Artificial sweeteners can cause issues to health, causing glucose intolerance.12

Fatty foods

Fatty foods can make you feel bloated because they are not compatible with water and float to the top of your stomach, which slows down digestion.13


Excessive alcohol intake can cause inflammation by changing the composition and function of the intestinal microbiota. Many alcoholic beverages are also derived from difficult-to-digest grains like barley and wheat.14 

Foods that may help reduce bloating

According to Women’s Health, Eating Well and Prevention, foods that reduce bloating include:

  • Cucumbers. Cucumbers are 96% water, which means they can help get rid of digestive problems caused by being dehydrated
  • Celery. Celery is mostly water and has a good amount of insoluble fibre, which helps reduce bloating. 
  • Ginger. Ginger helps relieve stomach pain and soothes your intestines as it breaks down proteins with an enzyme called zingiber.15
  • Yoghurt. Yoghurt has probiotics that help your body digest food and keep a healthy gut flora (healthy bacteria naturally present in your gut)
  • Green Tea. Green tea is a natural laxative and helps you stay hydrated
  • Oats. Oats are full of fibre and also beta-glucans, which are great for digestion
  • Pineapple. Pineapple contains a natural enzyme known as bromelain, which is good for digestion. It breaks down the proteins in the food, which makes it easier for your body to process the food
  • Watermelon. Watermelon contains more than 90% water, which might help you stay hydrated and avoid bloating, although some sources associate it with increased bloating
  • Berries. There is a lot of fibre in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  They also have a pretty high in water, which should help keep you hydrated
  • Avocado. These are high in water, fibre and potassium, helping with digestive transit.
  • Fennel. Fennel, in its many forms (root vegetables, leafy tops, and seeds), aids digestive health. The seeds are used as a herbal medicine to treat bloating, and the vegetable itself is full of fibre and water

Other ways to help prevent bloating 

There are many things you can do to avoid bloating: 

  • Stay away from foods that cause bloating, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans and lentils1,2
  • Avoid chewing gum2
  • Avoid using straws
  • Drink less carbonated drinks9   
  • Avoid using artificial sweeteners that contain fructose or sorbitol12
  • Take your time when you're eating.1
  • Chew more when eating. Since smaller pieces of food are simpler to digest than larger ones, food is less likely to remain undigested for an extended period of time.1
  • Stay away from dairy products if you notice they make you feel bloated or gassy6
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid overeating. Overeating can put a strain on your digestive system1,2
  • Keep yourself hydrated. Increasing your water intake will keep your GI tract functioning properly.
  • Exercise. Exercise helps keep your bowels moving and reduces water retention. It can also help keep you from gaining weight. 
  • Get plenty of fibre. Soluble fibre will initially cause more gas to be produced in your digestive tract, but after it begins moving through the digestive system, it will help clear any faecal matter that is lodged, which will result in less bloating. Fibre makes you want to drink more water and can make you feel full faster. Fiber is also a prebiotic that promotes good bacteria in the gut. 

When to see a doctor?

If you're getting bloated because of something more serious, your doctor may be able to treat the problem. However, you should see your doctor if you have stomach pain, find blood while using the toilet or on the toilet paper after wiping, vomiting, diarrhoea, or weight loss. 

Most of the time, temporary bloating isn't a big deal. However, if it keeps happening, your doctor will do some more tests. These may involve an imaging test of your abdomen. This could be an X-ray or a CT scan


Having a bloated stomach can be uncomfortable.  Even though it's common and usually only lasts for a short time, it can be frustrating when it affects how your clothes fit. However, if you're always feeling bloated, try keeping a journal of your symptoms. Take note of your diet, stress factors and hormone level. Your doctor may carry out medical tests to identify the cause of the bloating. If symptoms worsen over time, it’s best to speak to a doctor. 


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  4. Ioniță-Mîndrican C-B, Ziani K, Mititelu M, Oprea E, Neacșu SM, Moroșan E, et al. Therapeutic Benefits and Dietary Restrictions of Fiber Intake: A State of the Art Review. Nutrients [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 14(13):2641. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9268622/.
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  6. Malik TF, Panuganti KK. Lactose Intolerance. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532285/.
  7. Peng Z, Yi J, Liu X. A Low-FODMAP Diet Provides Benefits for Functional Gastrointestinal Symptoms but Not for Improving Stool Consistency and Mucosal Inflammation in IBD: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 14(10):2072. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9146862/.
  8. Fedewa A, Rao SSC. Dietary fructose intolerance, fructan intolerance and FODMAPs. Curr Gastroenterol Rep [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 16(1):370. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934501/.
  9. Cuomo R, Sarnelli G, Savarese MF, Buyckx M. Carbonated beverages and gastrointestinal system: Between myth and reality. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases [Internet]. 2009 Dec [cited 2024 Feb 29];19(10):683–9. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0939475309000787
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology.

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