What Causes Bloating? the Food Allergy Connection Explained
For millions across the world bloating is a big issue. Here we explain what causes bloating, focusing in particular on the connection between this problem and food allergies and sensitivities. We also explain how to cure bloating if it is caused by food intolerances.
Bloating is a big issue for those who are sensitive to certain foods. When we eat something that does not agree with us it tends to have an adverse effect on our digestive system.
Not only is bloating uncomfortable, the accompanying additional gas can be very embarrassing. The suggestions below will help you to reduce the level of bloating you suffer and deal with it should it happen.
First, a quick note about the connection between food intolerance and bloating.
What Causes Bloating – Is bloating a sign of a food allergy or intolerance?
Bloating after eating a certain food can be a sign that you are sensitive to that food, but usually it will only be one of several symptoms. If your only adverse reaction to a particular food is bloating, you are highly unlikely to actually be allergic or intolerant of that food.
Those who are truly intolerant of a food, will have other symptoms too.
Avoid the foods that cause bloating in you
Naturally, the best approach is not to eat the foods that cause you to bloat. If you know you are intolerance of, or sensitive to, a food not eating it is the best way to avoid all kinds of symptoms.
You can work out which foods cause bloating by keeping a food diary, which makes it easier to avoid the foods that do not agree with you. Not all bloating and gas is caused by intolerance to foods.
It could be that you can eat the food without any risk of an allergic reaction such as swelling or a rash, but that safe food may still end up causing excess gas. Keeping a food diary will help you to narrow things down and determine which foods cause indigestion. It will help you to determine whether it is food allergies that cause bloating in you or another underlying issue.
Practical steps to reduce bloating caused by food intolerance
If you do suffer from bloating here are a few foods you can consider reducing or cutting out from your diet to solve the problem.
Limit the yeast
Excess yeast in the gut is a common underlying cause of bloating. Reducing the amount of bread and alcohol you eat can bring down the levels of yeast in your body, which can quickly reduce bloating.
There are yeast free alternatives such as soda bread, so try eating them instead for a while.
Limit sugar intake to reduce bloating
Reducing the amount of sugar you eat can also help to reduce bloating. Sometimes bloating is caused by sugars fermenting in the body. Eating less sugar leads to less fermentation, so reduces gas levels.
Avoid malted products to avoid bloating
In most people malted products like malt beer, or malt cereals can cause excess gas. Try cutting these foods out of your diet too.
Avoid moulds to avoid bloating related to food intolerances
Another potential culprit is mushrooms or blue cheeses. Both of which contain high levels of moulds. In most people, these do not cause wind, but in some, they do. So try cutting them out too.
Fresh food is always better than processed for those who suffer from food intolerances
Many people who suffer from bloating avoid fresh fruit and vegetables. Studies show that processed foods are far more likely to cause bloating than fresh, so always opt for fresh food.
With vegetables, try cooking them for longer to reduce bloating. If you eat fruit try not to eat pieces that are overripe.
As well as avoiding certain foods there are some that can actually reduce bloating. Here are a few:
Take a pro-biotic to reduce the chances of bloating
Taking a biotic for bloating can sometimes help. Restoring the balance of bacteria in your gut can help you to digest your food more efficiently. When your digestive system is working efficiently, it produces less gas.
You can do this in several ways.
Buy dairy products that contain pro-biotics
Take a pro-biotic tablet or capsule
Follow a diet that is rich in foods that feed your gut bacteria
Bear in mind that some things challenge your gut bacteria. A bout of diarrhoea and sickness can reduce the amount of good bacteria in your digestive system. Some antibiotics have a similar affect. If you know your digestive system has undergone a strain like this consider giving your gut bacteria a boost using pro-biotics, or by eating more fermented foods.
Of all of the above suggestions avoiding the food that you think is causing your bloating is definitely the most important. It will take only a few days for your symptoms to disappear completely.
If you are unsure of what foods may be causing your wind taking an elimination diet approach is definitely the most effective way of finding out. It might sound like a lot of hassle, but an elimination diet brings other benefits. You will learn a lot about your body, what works for you and what does not. In addition, your body will have the chance to detox, so you should feel better. Because you will be eating a healthier diet you will have more energy and you are also likely to lose inches and weight.
Here are links to two excellent books that explain more about elimination diets. You can use them through the process of following this type of diet and doing it right first time around to save you having to go through the whole process again.
However, medical studies show that probiotics do help cure bloating and other stomach issues. For a significant percentage of the population they can be very beneficial for health.
You just need to be careful to buy a good quality probiotics. Foods that contain them can help, but if you have gut issues it is better to buy something stronger. Unfortunately, in most countries, biotics are not laboratory tested or available on prescription.
Therefore, the best we can do is to list a few products below that users say have helped them. If you have contact with a nutritionist or allergist asking them which brand and dosage they recommend is a good approach.
The other thing you need to bear in mind when buying biotics is the other ingredients they contain. For example some capsules can contain rye, barley, gluten, dairy products and other products that you may be intolerant of. The last thing you need is to accidentally ingest a food product you are allergic to when taking biotics. Doing so would make your symptoms worse not better. This means that you need to do a bit of research before ordering any products.
Below are a couple of biotics that have a good reputation and should meet most people’s needs.
Allergen free probiotics
This version is labelled as free from dairy, lactose, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, eggs, yeast, sugar, artificial flavorings, or preservatives.
This is a also a dairy free and gluten free probiotic.
Natural sources of pro-biotics for a healthy gut
If you prefer you can dump the pills and get more healthy bacteria into your gut to help you to digest your food properly and get more nutrients out of it. Certain foods boost the healthy flora in your gut.
Bearing in mind that pro-biotic means literally ‘for life’it would be strange if natural foods did not provide this health enhancing bacteria, and it does, there are numerous ways to boost your levels of pro-biotics and do so naturally. Here are our favourites.
Natural fermented cheeses
Tempeh made from soy beans
Clearly you have to be careful with these foods if you have multiple food allergies. For example if you have a dairy intolerance eating yoghurt is bad full stop. But if you are lucky you can incorporate at least some of these foods into your diet.
Fermented foods boost pro-biotics naturally in the gut
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that including fermented or naturally cultured foods in your diet boosts the good bacteria in your digestive system. This is because these foods contain high levels of the bacteria we need to digest our food. There is a very good article on this subject here.
These are the main types of fermented foods that contain high levels of good gut bacteria:
Kimchi – fermented vegetables
However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is possible to eat too much fermented food and end up making your bloating worse. The action of all bacteria digesting your food naturally generates a certain amount of gas. A little gas is necessary to help the stool to make its way through the intestine. Too much action means too much wind. The more fermented foods you eat the more bacterial action there is and the more gas you produce. Too much gas will result in bloating.
Using prebiotics to boost your gut bacteria
An often forgotten way to boost the good bacteria in your gut and reduce bloating is to eat prebiotics. These are foods that pass largely undigested through the gut. The effort of attempting to digest this food stimulates and speeds up the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Natural sources of prebiotics
Fortunately, most of the best sources of prebiotics are vegetables meaning that most people with food allergies or intolerance can safely eat them. Here are the main ones:
Most root vegetables
It is really easy, for most people, to incorporate one or two of these foods into your diet without any risk of an allergic reaction.
A bloating action plan for those with food intolerances
OK that was longer than I meant to be. To make things simpler here is what I suggest you do next if you are suffering from bloating.
Go on a proper elimination diet. Note if any foods cause bloating and eliminate those from your diet full time.
During the challenge phase of your diet choose to add pro-biotic and pre-biotic foods ahead of other foods. This will give the healthy bacteria in your gut a natural boost.
When you know which foods cause an adverse reaction or give you wind leave those out of your diet.
If you still have problems with wind and bloating consider taking a good over the counter pro-biotic.
After a couple of months you can try to re-introduce foods that cause bloating to your diet one by one. You may be able to eat them in small quantities because your gut will be stronger and healthier, but you should still minimise your intake of these foods.
If you have any questions about what causes bloating, please ask them below. I would really like to hear about how you have eliminated bloating.