- Why a Healthy Diet Can Cause Gas
- Watch What You Eat
- Help! My Healthy Diet Gives Me Gas!
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Healthy Eating
- 1. Cruciferous Veggies
- 2. Superfood Smoothies
- 3. Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit
- 4. Refreshing Watermelon
- 5. Whole Healthy Grains
- 6. Onions and Garlic
- 7. Drinking Too Much Water During Meals
Why a Healthy Diet Can Cause Gas
Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are the staples of good nutrition, but if you’ve recently ramped up your diet, you may not have been prepared for the unpleasant side effect of excessive gas.
It’s no coincidence, however. Some of the healthiest foods are also foods that cause gas.
Why is this? It all comes down to carbohydrates, says Toby Smithson, RDN, LDN, CDE, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Complex carbohydrates — carbohydrates made up of more than one sugar unit — are called oligosaccharides, and the oligosaccharides called raffinose, stachiose, and verbicose are found in legumes, such as beans. “The bacteria that live in our guts love these oligosaccharides,” she says, “and when they consume them, the bacteria produce nitrogen gas, which we release as flatulence.”
Foods that contain complex carbohydrates — including beans, whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables — are also high in fiber. And a high-fiber diet can certainly be to blame for excessive flatulence and belching.
“Fiber isn’t digested and absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract,” Smithson says. “People will experience more gas buildup because of the fermentation of fiber or other non-digested carbohydrates in the large intestine.”
So if you’re suddenly eating much more fiber than usual — maybe you’re trying to lower your cholesterol or you’re switching to a vegetarian diet — you’re going to feel it in your gut.
Foods that often cause gas can include veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage; fruits like peaches, apples, and pears; and whole grains like bran. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may trigger excessive gas in people with dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.
Keep Reaping the Benefits of Fiber
Still, don’t overlook the importance of a high-fiber diet and the value of eating fiber-rich foods, even with their potential to cause gas. “Fiber-containing foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are nutrient-dense, which means they’re chock-full of nutrients for the calories they provide,” Smithson says.
High-fiber foods are healthy for everyone, and especially for people with chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. More and more evidence confirms that fiber intake is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a review of 22 studies published in the December 2013 edition of BMJ.
“Foods that are high in a particular fiber called soluble fiber are heart-healthy and help with blood sugar control,” she says. “This type of fiber acts like a sponge by absorbing bad cholesterol and excreting it from the body.” Soluble fiber also helps decrease how much glucose (sugar) is absorbed from the food you eat, which can help control blood sugar.
Over time, eating a high-fiber diet can actually improve gastrointestinal function by helping to keep you regular. “Another great health benefit of foods higher in fiber is that the insoluble fiber components contribute to the ‘exit factor,’” Smithson says. “These foods increase the volume and transit time of your stool, which can help reduce constipation.”
Getting Rid of Excessive Gas
You don’t have to suffer through excessive gas and bloating just to get the health benefits of a healthy diet, however. There are many things you can do to help keep gas under control while still eating well.
Try these tips to help ease gas:
- Slowly ease into a high-fiber diet, gradually increasing your fiber intake over a period of a few months.
- Stick to small portions of foods that can cause gas. This will help your digestive tract get used to digesting them.
- As you increase your fiber intake, also be sure to increase your water consumption. “Drinking more water will help decrease the effects of both intestinal gas and constipation,” Smithson says.
- Before cooking dry beans, allow them to soak overnight in water, then drain and rinse them before cooking in fresh water. “The water the beans have been soaked in will contain much of the gas-producing carbohydrate,” Smithson says. “When using canned beans, rinse the beans, draining the liquid to help remove some of the gas-producing carbohydrate.
- Cut down on sugar-free products, which contain sugar alcohols. “Sugar alcohols are poorly digested and absorbed, and therefore can be gas-forming,” Smithson says.
A healthy diet offers many benefits, but excessive gas can be a problem. By following these tips to curb it, you can eat healthy, high-fiber foods without worrying about gas.
Watch What You Eat
The friendly bacteria in our guts help digest foods that our bodies have trouble breaking down. These bacteria also produce gas, usually as they digest food in the large intestines. Foods most often linked to intestinal gas include:
- Beans and lentils
- Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other vegetables
- Fructose, a natural sugar found in artichokes, onions, pears, wheat, and some soft drinks
- Lactose, the natural sugar found in milk
- Fruits, oat bran, peas, and other foods high in soluble fiber, which gets digested in your large intestine
- Corn, pasta, potatoes, and other foods rich in starch
- Sorbitol, the artificial sweetener
- Whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat
That list covers a whole lot of healthy food, but you don’t have to severely restrict your diet. Most likely just a few give you gas. “Some people have problems digesting milk. Others don’t,” says Lawrence R. Kosinski, MD, MBA, a spokesman for the American Gastroenterological Association. “And food sensitivities may change with age. Many people develop problems digesting milk products as they get older, for instance.”
Two simple steps can help you discover your problem foods.
- Keep a food diary. When you have bloating or gas, look back over the foods you’ve eaten within the last few hours – that’s typically when gas occurs.
- Experiment, one by one, with the foods you suspect. Eat one of the foods by itself. Does it give you gas? If not, wait a day, then experiment with another of your suspect foods. Keep going through the list on different days until you find the food that gives you gas.
Help! My Healthy Diet Gives Me Gas!
Q. I’ve been eating “raw” for lunch for over 8 months. My lunch consists of raw kale, broccoli, tomato, carrots, celery, avocado, peanuts, apples, and strawberries. I feel great–with one exception. Any ideas on how to decrease the gas I get after lunch everyday?
A. That certainly is a healthy sounding list of foods! But I’m not surprised that you’re experiencing gas after lunch. Several of your daily stand-bys are known for their ability to produce excess gas. (In fact, I think I recently got an email from one of your co-workers.)
Although you might be fine with one or two of these foods in smaller amounts, it could be that the combination of all of them is simply more than your system can process.
See also: What are the Benefits of a Raw Food Diet?
If you’ve been doing this for 8 months and the problem hasn’t improved, then I don’t think we can hope that your digestive system will adjust. It might be time to adjust the menu!
- Kale and broccoli (along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and other members of the cabbage family) are notorious for causing gas–especially when eaten raw. Consider replacing the kale and broccoli with easier-to-digest veggies like peppers, or zucchini.
- Apples are relatively high in fructose, which can cause gas in susceptible individuals. Try fruits with a lower fructose profile, such as grapes, kiwi, or melon.
- Avocados contain polyols, another nutrient that promote gassiness in some people.
See this list for other foods that are more and less likely to produce gas. See also: What is the FODMAP Diet?
A couple of other suggestions:
- Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly. Chewing helps to break down carbohydrates that can disrupt digestion later on.
See also: How Chewing Affects Nutrition
- Don’t overfill your stomach. Raw fruits and vegetables take up a lot of space in your stomach. This can be a plus in terms of banishing hunger. But an over-filled stomach can also impair digestion and cause gas. If your raw lunch is especially voluminous, try eating it in two smaller installments, about 90 minutes apart.
See also: Got Gas?
Let me know if any of that makes a difference?
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Many of us will try to load up on fruits and vegetables while on a health kick. These colorful foods can do our body good, but they can wreak havoc on our digestive system. It’s not a coincidence that we develop stomach bloating and smelly gas after eating these healthy foods in excess.
It’s not uncommon to experience digestive discomfort when we go through a diet change. Specifically, fruits and vegetables contain a number of nutrients, including oligosaccharides, soluble fiber and natural sugars, like fructose, that can cause excessive gas in the intestines. It’s the breakdown of foods during the digestive process that can lead to passing gas, burping, and gas pains or cramping.
Read More: Fruits And Vegetables Are Just As Important For Your Legs As They Are For Your Heart
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend most adults consume two and a half to three cups of vegetables per day, along with two cups of fruit. Yet, close to 90 percent do not meet vegetable intake recommendations, and over 75 percent do not meet the fruit intake recommendations. However, adding more than the recommended amount to our diet isn’t always healthier.
A 2014 study published in The BMJ found for every portion of fruit and vegetables consumed, there’s a lower risk of premature death; the average risk of death fell about 5 percent for every extra serving, up to five servings per day— after five there’s no further impact. In the U.S. and China, eating more fruits and vegetables was linked with a lower risk of dying from any cause, especially heart disease.
When it comes to fruit and vegetable intake, moderation is key.
Below are six foods that cause bloating and gas, from carrots to mangoes.
This gas culprit contains a natural sugar, known as oligosaccharide, which the human body cannot completely break down. These large molecules are not digested in the same way as other sugars because the human body does not make the enzyme that breaks them down. Instead, they make their way through the digestive tract to the large intestine intact and not digested, waiting to be broken down by bacteria in the intestine. It is this process that produces smelly gas.
Carrots are one of the healthiest foods that provide us with essential vitamins and minerals. However, eating too many carrots can leave us with uncomfortable side effects, like veggie bloat. A cup of raw carrots contains about 12 grams of carbohydrates with 4 of these grams being fiber. High-fiber vegetables, like carrots, cause gas because bacteria within the colon produces it as a by-product of its digestion of fiber.
Vegetables like kale, cabbage, and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber, but they can also make us feel bloated and gassy. Cruciferous vegetables contain the complex sugar known as “raffinose,” which makes it difficult to digest for people with a sensitive stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These vegetables not only cause flatulence, they also produce an odiferous smell.
Pectin is a gel-like substance rich in fiber and carbohydrates. It is found in apples, oranges, pears, guavas and plums, and a few other citrus fruits. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain
This popular fruit is filled with antioxidants, especially green apples. However, apples are loaded with fructose, or fruit sugar, which can be tough on a sensitive stomach. Fructose requires no digesting; they are already broken down into the simplest form the body can absorb. However, when fructose doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall, it is sent down the bowels and consumed by bad bacteria that make by-products, like methane and hydrogen gas, causing bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea, and bad breath.
Read More: Eating More Fruits And Vegetables Improves Well-Being Fast
The antioxidant-rich fruit is packed with polyols, the main component in sugar substitutes, also known as sugar alcohols. Polyols linger around the digestive system, and are only partly absorbed by the small intestine. The remaining polyols pull water into the small and large bowel and are then fermented by intestinal bacteria, leading to excessive gas.
This sweet fruit contains more fructose than glucose, which makes it difficult for fructose to be absorbed by the body. This imbalance can lead to bloating and flatulence. Moreover, fructose is sweeter than glucose, which can make it more difficult to digest for those with gut issues.
Remember, eating these healthy foods in excess will make your stomach hurt.
Which Fruits, Vegetables Have Highest Pesticide Levels?
Fruits And Veggies May Be The Key To Happiness
It’s happened to many of us: you pride yourself on eating healthy – you drink superfood smoothies, eat dark leafy greens or a hearty chickpea salad, and still, somehow, a swollen belly pops out, forcing you to unbutton your pants and sit in bloated discomfort. Bloating isn’t as surprising when you consume foods you know aren’t good for you, but it can be an incredibly frustrating feeling when you do your best to eat healthy.
The gut is made up of billions of microflora that maintain your health – they support the immune system, help with weight loss, prevent disease and uplift your mood. Bloating is usually associated with poor digestion, bad diet, and an overgrowth of unwanted bacteria in the gut, but sometimes even healthy eating habits can lead to that unwanted protruded belly. Here are the top seven healthy culprits triggering a bloated tummy.
1. Cruciferous Veggies
It’s common knowledge that cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, are some of the most nutritious and antioxidant-rich foods, but they also have a bad rap for inducing a bloated belly and embarrassing gas. These veggies contain raffinose, an indigestible carbohydrate that passes through the digestive system without being broken down. When it reaches the large intestine, bacteria feed on it, releasing gas and causing a bloated belly.
This isn’t a reason to remove these veggies from your diet altogether. Sometimes lightly steaming or cooking these vegetables make them more digestible and easier to chew, so they can break down further. Populating the gut with good bacteria through fermented foods like kimchi, kefir or sauerkraut can also help.
2. Superfood Smoothies
Smoothies are an easy way to get powerhouse vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fibre all in one quick drink – but, sometimes when all of these ingredients combine together, a distended belly is the result. For some, combining fruit and protein or fruit and fat is a digestive nightmare.
To make your smoothie more gut-friendly, try adding fermented protein, fermented greens powder, kefir, dairy-free coconut yogurt or digestive spices like ginger and turmeric.
3. Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit
Everyone knows this rhyme because beans, like chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and soybeans, are notorious for causing bloating and gas. Many vegans and vegetarians subsist on beans as an essential plant-based protein source. They’re also packed with heart-healthy fibre, minerals and vitamins, making them an optimal choice for any healthy eater. But, like cruciferous veggies, beans also contain raffinose, an oligosaccharide that remains undigested until it reaches the colon, when gas-producing bacteria feed on it, and voila, the bloat and gas duo begin.
Luckily, soaking dried beans overnight helps to reduce the gassiness. Cook them with seaweeds like kelp or kombu to increase their digestibility further.
4. Refreshing Watermelon
Watermelon may be a refreshing summertime fruit, but it’s also a bloating nightmare for some. You think you’re being healthy by skipping out on sugary dessert and opting for this juicy treat instead, but sadly, you may end up in a post-meal bloat-fest. Watermelon contains a variety of short-chain fermentable carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the gut and then fermented by bacteria, causing unwanted abdominal bloating.
Try fruits like pineapple or papaya instead, which contain natural enzymes that help with digestion.
5. Whole Healthy Grains
Whole grains like whole wheat, spelt, kamut, rye and barley can be found in salads, wraps, bread and pasta. These fibre-rich grains help eliminate waste and toxins from the body, but they also contain gluten and fermentable carbs like fructans. If there’s an underlying gluten sensitivity, which many people have, these gluten grains can cause mild to severe abdominal pain and bloating. The gas-producing bacteria in the colon will feast on the fructans, also leading to bloating and unwanted gas.
Switch to gluten-free recipes (check out these 30 delicious gluten-free dinner ideas) and grains like quinoa, rice or gluten-free oats as a healthy alternative that will beat the bloat. Or, try spelt, wheat or kamut in a sourdough or sprouted bread to increase the digestibility.
6. Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are the base ingredients of most dishes, adding flavour and also immune support, but, like other foods on this list, they contain fructans that poorly pass through the small intestine and are then fermented by gas-producing bacteria in the colon, leading to bloating and flatulence.
Switch to other alliums like chives, or the green tops of scallions and leeks that are easier to digest. Use different flavours to build your dish like ginger, cumin or turmeric.
7. Drinking Too Much Water During Meals
Most people are dehydrated and, in an effort to consume more water, drink lots of fluids during meals. Drinking while eating actually dilutes important digestive juices, so food doesn’t get digested properly, which leads to bloating. Slowly sipping small amounts of fluids during a meal, drinking before eating or at least 30-60 minutes after a meal will help prevent bloating.
Not everyone will experience bloating from these healthy foods, but if you feel the bloat coming on, it’s usually a sign your gut needs some love and support. Remember to eat fermented foods full of good bacteria (think kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut), try a probiotic or eat a low FODMAP diet that limits bloat and gas-producing foods, like the ones mentioned above.
Looking for more gut-friendly tips and recipes? Here are 30 Tasty Ways to Eat More Fermented Foods along with 15 Flavour-Packed Foods to Boost Your Gut Health.
When you dive into a fruit salad or chomp your way through an apple, you might pat yourself on the back for choosing the healthy, satisfying option instead of diving into a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream. But then…your pants feel tight. Um, WTH?
Listen up, ladies. It’s not you; it’s the fruit. While fruit is full of nutrients your body needs, some of those sweet, healthy treats can cause you to feel like you just devoured a tub of ramen noodles. Here’s why: Fruit is loaded with sugar, in particular fructose and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol), and both of those nutrients can cause gas and bloating. It’s also full of fiber—which, in addition to keeping your belly flat in the long term by moving your GI tract along, can be hard to digest and create gas as a result.
Though you shouldn’t nix these delish and nutrish fruits from your diet, you might want to take extra steps to avoid feeling puffy post-snack. Here, why some fruits make you prone to bloat—and how to deal.
Apples are loaded with antioxidants. In fact, a green apple contains more antioxidants than berries. But it may not be your belly’s favorite daily treat. This fruit is loaded fructose, or fruit sugar, which some people have a tough time digesting. So when their system starts to break down all that sugar, they feel gassy—as in unbuttoning-your-pants-at-your-desk level of gassy. If this sounds like you, try eating half the apple instead of the whole thing—and chew it slowly. Since you’re eating less fruit, you’ll reduce the amount of fructose you’re consuming. And taking your sweet time to chew gives your body more of an opportunity to digest the fiber-packed snack.
RELATED: 21 Recipes to Help Beat Belly Bloat
As part of a healthy diet, pears get a thumbs way up because they contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keeps you full. Unfortunately, pears also contain a small amount of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that can occur naturally and is also added into things like chewing gum. And while a little bit of this type of sugar can be helpful for keeping your digestive system moving, some people might experience serious bloating—even from just a small amount of it. Since sorbitol is absorbed more slowly into the small intestine than other varieties of sugar, it can pass into your colon, where it ferments—which can cause bloating, gas, and cramps in some people. Womp. Unfortunately, there’s no way to reduce the effects of this sugar alcohol other than to avoid it. However, exercise will move that gas through your bod and reduce the bloating.
RELATED: 4 Ways to De-Bloat During Breakfast
Cherries, Grapes, Mango, and Pineapple
Who doesn’t secretly love spitting out cherry pits? But in addition to their fun factor and delicious taste, cherries—along with grapes, mangos, and pineapple—contain a lot of, you guessed it, sugar. Occasionally, some of that sugar doesn’t get completely absorbed in the small intestine—so it ends up getting stuck in the large intestine and causes you to fill up like a parade balloon. The best way to help your body completely digest all of the sugar so it doesn’t make its way into large instestine is to chew these fruits as thoroughly as possible. Sticking with a one-cup serving and limiting the amount of carbohydrates and sugars you eat the rest of the day can also help keep you de-puffed.
RELATED: 15 Ways to Debloat ASAP
Dried Apricots, Raisins, and Prunes
Dried fruit can help make those trips to the bathroom more, um, productive, but it can also cause you to feel like the Michelin man. That’s because it’s a concentrated source of sugar and fiber, and the bacteria in your colon love it. Those little guys get to work fermenting the sugar and fiber that didn’t get digested and produce gas, which makes you feel four months pregnant. When indulging in this sweet fruit, make sure you consume it with extra water to keep your bowels moving and help eliminate bloat.
If you find that you’re consistently filled with hot air after eating these fruits, you may want to start a taking a probiotic supplement to improve the quality of the bacteria in your gut.
Keri Glassman, R.D., is on Women’s Health’s advisory board and is the founder of Nutritious Life.