Foods to Avoid if You’re Feeling Bloated

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 16, 2021
3 min read

We all have gas in our bodies, but some people experience uncomfortable amounts of it, making them look and feel bloated. Bloating is usually caused by three main conditions: swallowing excess air, eating certain foods, and having bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. While there's no universal cause or treatment for bloating, people often find that cutting out certain foods and implementing a specialized diet can bring immense relief.

It can be challenging to determine the cause of stomach bloating. Some known causes of stomach bloating include:

  • Excess gas in the intestine
  • Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth ( SIBO)
  • Irregular amounts of microorganisms in the bowel (dysbacteriosis)
  • Sensitivity or intolerance to food
  • Sensitivity of perception to digestive tract
  • Spinal curvature of the lumbar spine resulting in lessened abdominal capacity for gas 
  • Gastroparesis, a motility disorder that delays the stomach’s ability to empty itself
  • Anxiety, depression, and other gut-brain connections

If you're experiencing regular bloating, you should see a doctor and discuss your symptoms with them. Together, you can come up with a treatment plan. As previously discussed, because there are many causes for abdominal bloating, it can be challenging to determine what causes an individual’s stomach to bloat. 

The first line of treatment for bloating that a doctor may prescribe is the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for:

  • Fermentable Oligosaccharides. These are found in wheat, onions, garlic, legumes, and beans.
  • Disaccharides. A class of sugars that are found in lactose products like milk, yogurt, and ice cream. 
  • Monosaccharides. This is a type of sugar that includes fructose. It's often found in fruits like apples and pears. 
  • Polyols. Also called sugar alcohols, they're found in apricots, nectarines, plums, and cauliflower. They can also be added to chewing gums and candy.

A low FODMAP diet cuts down the number of carbohydrates listed above that you consume. It has been found the small intestine can have a difficult time absorbing them, so it then passes the unabsorbed carbohydrates to the colon. In the colon, they become fermented and then make gas and cause bloating. 

Some people may not have a sensitivity to FODMAP foods. The best way to find out if this diet will work for you is to start cutting FODMAP foods out of your diet slowly and then slowly start bringing them back. 

The best type of treatment centers on what's causing the bloating. To fully understand what's causing you to look and feel bloated, you need to seek medical treatment with a qualified doctor.

What you eat won't decrease the bloating in your stomach as much as particular lifestyle and diet techniques will. Some of these can include:

  • A fiber-rich diet in combination with regular exercise and plenty of drinking water. A time-tested methodology in which you can quickly and effectively treat bloating from milk constipation.
  • Antispasmodics. These are medications that relax the muscles of the bowel and aid in the digestion process as a whole. In the U.S., the most popular are dicyclomine and hyoscyamine.
  • Probiotics. You can purchase over-the-counter dietary supplements to help your intestines balance out naturally occurring bacteria. These can be bought in both pills and yogurt varieties. If you have a more severe case of bloating, your doctor might also prescribe probiotics with a much higher bacteria count.
  • Rifaximin. A type of antibiotic, rifaximin is typically used to treat IBS patients who don't experience constipation. It can be specifically used to help reduce bloating.
  • Prokinetics. These are medications that help food travel through the digestive tract. Some of these medications have been proven to help with bloating, but access to these depends on your specific case and whether it's allowed in the country where you live.
  • Antidepressants. There are known links between the receptors in the gut and brain. Prescribed in lower doses than for mental health reasons, citalopram, SSRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants have been found to help reduce some IBS symptoms, including bloating.
  • Psychological therapy. Certain types of therapies, like hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help reduce bloating by regulating moods and emotions.