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6 Healthy Foods That Can Cause Bloating & Discomfort


by Dr. Nancy Rahnama

Director of Health & Nurition

These days, we know more about food intolerances than ever before. We know that if you have lactose intolerance, then you are going to have diarrhea when you eat dairy. And we know that if you eat a food you're allergic to, your gut is going to respond accordingly. 

But what does it mean when rice, dried and fresh fruit, and garlic—foods we perceive as healthy—trigger gut bloating and abdominal discomfort? And are there replacements we can look for, so we don’t miss out on our favorite fruits and vegetables? Read on to find out which foods may be causing your symptoms, as well as why it’s happening.  

 

I eat healthily, why am I still bloated? 

If you eat a healthy, balanced diet and you’re still experiencing abdominal discomfort, it may be a symptom of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

SIBO is caused by an increase in the small intestine’s bacterial population. This bacteria can also be found in other parts of the gut, and often causes pain and diarrhea.

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that triggers frequent changes in a patient’s bowel movements. Rather than being caused directly by bacteria, IBS is usually caused by disruptions in the way the brain interacts with the gut. It’s often a chronic gastrointestinal disorder and usually develops in patients under the age of 50.

 

Healthy Foods That Can Cause Bloating

  1. Brown Rice: While brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, it might not be the best option for someone with bloating or IBS. Brown rice comes from the whole grain and only the first outer husk is removed during milling. It retains its fiber and most vital nutrients, but it’s the fiber that often irritates the bowels.

  2. Sweet Potato: Surprisingly, white potato is a better option if you have IBS or SIBO.

  3. Asparagus: This vegetable’s high fructose content is much higher than other vegetables. It also contains fructans, which can worsen IBS symptoms.

  4. Garlic: While garlic is healthy for someone with a balanced gut, it can cause all sorts of problems for someone with IBS. Garlic can be difficult for your intestines to break down, resulting in gas and cramping, even if it’s cooked.

  5. Leeks, onions, chives, shallots, and other members of the genus Allum of the lily family: These vegetables are hard for the intestines to break down, so can worsen SIBO and IBS symptoms.

  6. Watermelon, cherries, and all dried fruits: These fruits are high in fructose which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. 

 

I think I might have SIBO or IBS: what symptoms should I look out for?

Common symptoms of SIBO and IBS often include:

  • Constipation 

  • Diarrhea or leaky gut

  • Food sensitivities or intolerances

  • Nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption

  • Weight loss

  • Stomach pain or cramps

  • Chronic illnesses like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, neuromuscular issues

If you believe you may have IBS or SIBO, speak to your doctor or gastroenterologist about your symptoms. Testing for SIBO is usually straightforward.

 

How are IBS and SIBO treated?

Because IBS and its subtypes are such complex disorders, there isn’t just one treatment.

Instead, treatment focuses on a combination of dietary changes, adopting healthier habits, medications, and supplements. These medications may involve antibiotics or probiotics, depending on the patient’s needs. 

The first step toward treating SIBO is finding out what’s causing it. Once we’ve established the cause, the patient and I can work towards eliminating it as a trigger and restoring the patient’s gut-bacteria balance. 

Diet modification plays a vital role in a patient’s long-term success. If a patient has been experiencing bloating or abdominal discomfort due to SIBO or IBS, they’ll likely feel less discomfort with a low FODMAP diet. This sort of diet is low in fiber and is helpful for those with IBS or SIBO as it doesn’t trigger the bad bacteria that often live in the gut.

Here are some low FODMAP foods that I recommend to patients with gastrointestinal issues:

  • Cucumbers 

  • Tomatoes

  • Zucchini

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce

  • Cantaloupe and honeydew melon 

  • Bananas

  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes 

  • Berries such as strawberries, blueberry, cranberries, and boysenberry

Many people also choose to cut down on “high-gas” food and drink such as alcohol, fizzy drinks, and coffee. It’s also worth noting that, as long as you don’t have celiac disease, you should be able to eat gluten and still stick to a low-FODMAP diet.

 

When it comes to our gut health, paying attention and eating mindfully is the most important. If something doesn’t feel right or you think you may have an intolerance to a certain food, it’s always worth speaking to your doctor. Making dietary changes may seem daunting at first, but if it makes a positive difference to your gut health and overall wellbeing, it’s always worth the effort. 

 


Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. In addition to her private practice in Beverly Hills, she is also the co-founder and Director of Nutrition for Dr Nancy MD.

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