Eating some foods may cause abdominal bloating, due to the fermentation of some substances that are in them. In fact, this process generates gas as a byproduct. Doctor Manuela Pastore, dietician at Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview for the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Such foods are, for instance, the so-called FODMAPs. This is the name of bloating-inducing sugars.
- F for fermentables (gas-producing carbohydrates),
- O for oligosaccharides (such as those in legumes),
- D for disaccharides (such as lactose),
- M for monosaccharides (such as fructose),
- P for polyols (sorbitol and mannitol, artificial sweeteners).
Patients who suffer from irritable bowel (and thus bloating) should not eat foods containing these components.
“The digestion of legumes and other vegetables causes meteorism. The fact is, that our intestine has gotten accustomed to very refined foods, thus growing unaccustomed to fiber. It reacts in a strange way to foods that are rich in fiber. It ferments, fills your belly with air and slows your digestion down. Begin, eating legumes only once a week, starting with little portions and then increase, both frequency and quantity. It is better to choose high-quality dried legumes instead of pre-cooked, canned ones. Dehulled lentils and peas are ready to be cooked, while the other ones have to soak for 12 hours (with one or two changes of water) in order to soften as much as possible. Use fresh water to cook them, and add bicarbonate instead of salt, in order to make them softer and lighter. You can also add carminative herbs that avoid fermentation, such as laurel, fresh ginger, savory and mint. If the bloating persists over some time, you should only eat lentils (in particular the red ones) because they are easier to digest”, Doctor Pastore advises.
Cruciferous plants, such as cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbages, turnips and radishes ferment and cause bloating too. However, these foods are fundamental in our nutrition, and we should not pull back on them. “They are for the most part winter vegetables, and they are important because they are reach in vegetable compounds, sulphoraphane and indole-3-carbinol with an anti-tumoral action, anti-oxidants, B-group vitamins, potassium and calcium. People with particularly delicate or dysfunctional intestines should eat cruciferous plants in small portions and no more than once a week. On that meal, reducing fat dressings, choosing proteic foods that are poor in fats, and reducing the overall carbohydrate intake may facilitate digestion.
Fruit: pay attention to apples
Apples, prunes and raisin are the most common bloating-causing fruits. “Fruit contains fructose, fructans and polyols, short-chain carbohydrates that may cause some problems to people suffering from irritable bowel or digestive issues. Sugars and fibers ferment, thus stimulating the production of gases such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide that cause bloating, meteorism, cramps, diarrhoea and constipation. Eating them slowly, while drinking a lukewarm fennel or lemon balm infusion, may help to minimize the discomfort and relax muscles in the digestive tract”, the specialists says.
What if it were lactose intolerance?
Some people can’t completely digest lactose due to a deficit in lactase, the necessary enzyme, thus suffering from bloating. “In case of lactose intolerance, the easiest choice is using lactose-free milk and dairy products. The nutritional properties of these foods are the same as those of foods containing lactose, such as the percentage of calcium, vitamin D and fats, but lactose is divided into two simple sugars (galactose and glucose) that may be absorbed without causing intestinal problems. Grana and Parmigiano cheeses that aged for over 30 months are really easy to digest, because lactose has completely fermented. Yogurt contains very low percentages of lactose, and for this reason it is tolerated better than milk. Generally, lactose intolerances are not absolute and little quantities distributed over the day, are tolerated better than big quantities, eaten over a single meal. Soy milk and tofu, instead, are the utterly lactose-free alternatives”, Doctor Pastore concludes.