Many of my clients complain about bloating. Bloating is generally the result of not being able to properly digest foods. These not-so-digested foods feel like they’re just sitting around causing discomfort and a general feeling of being stuffed and “gassy”.
It can happen at any age but if it seems to be more frequent as you’re getting older it can very well be because of your stomach’s reduced ability to produce enough acid for proper digestion.
Normally, when we eat cells in our stomach release more acid which is important for so many digestive processes like breaking down foods and activating enzymes. As we age this process can become less efficient and the result can feel like it’s wreaking havoc on the rest of the digestive system.
Unfortunately, this can have wide-ranging effects on all of our digestion abilities “downstream” and that can result in bloating.
Bloating Reason #1:
Sometimes our bodies are (or become more as we age) sensitive to the fiber in certain fruits or veggies. This can also occur when we introduce new ones into our diet as it may take a while for our body to get used to them.
Pro Tip: Try chewing your fruits and vegetables more thoroughly, or lightly cooking or steaming raw ones. If a fruit or veggie seems to be consistently related to bloating try eliminating it for a few weeks and monitor your symptoms. See the elimination diet table below.
Foods to Remove:
Highly-processed veggies (ex: battered and fried)
Nightshades: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes
|Foods to Keep:|
All fresh, raw, steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetables (except eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and white potatoes)
|Fruit||Dried fruit (with sugar), canned fruit||All fresh or frozen fruit without added sugar|
|Starches||Gluten-containing grains: barley, bulgur, couscous, farro, kamut, rye, spelt, triticale, wheat|
Gluten-containing bread, cereal, crackers, pasta, and wraps (including bran pellets, couscous, muesli, orzo, naan, roti)
|Gluten-free grains: amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff|
Roots and tubers: beets, parsnip, rutabaga, squash, sweet potato, taro, turnips, yuca
|Legumes||Soybeans and soybean products: edamame, miso, natto, soy sauce, soy milk, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, tofu|
Peanuts, peanut butter
|Beans & lentils|
|Nuts & seeds||N/A||Tree nuts: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts|
Seeds: chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pinenuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
Oils & nut butters made from tree nuts, seeds
|Meat, fish, meat substitutes, & shellfish||Eggs|
Processed fish: smoked, canned, and breaded options, such as canned tuna and fish sticks
Processed meat: bacon, burger patties, canned meats, cold cut, cured sausage, deli meats, hot dogs
Soy-based meat substitutes and seitan
|Meat: chicken, duck, lamb, pork, turkey, wild game|
Fresh fish, shellfish
Rice-based protein powder
|Dairy & dairy alternatives||Milk: cow, oat, goat|
Buttermilk, cheese, condensed milk, cottage cheese, cream, ice cream, custard, non-dairy creamers, sour cream, yogurt
|Unsweetened coconut, rice, almond, and hemp milk|
|Fats & oils||Butter, dips, canola oil, margarine, mayonnaise, processed and hydrogenated oils, spreads, salad dressings (unless made from oils on the Foods to Eat list)||Oils: avocado oil, coconut butter, coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil|
Foods: coconut meat, flakes, and milk (unsweetened), olives, avocado
|Beverages||Alcohol: beer, coolers, hard beverages, mixed drinks, spirts, wine|
Caffeinated beverages: black tea, coffee, green tea, energy drinks, soft drinks
|Water, non-caffeinated herbal teas, mineral water|
|Spices & condiments||Barbecue sauce, caviar, cayenne pepper, chocolate, chutney, cream-based sauces, curry paste, ketchup, mustard, pasta sauce, paprika, relish, soy sauce, tomato-based sauces, tzatziki||Apple cider vinegar (and other vinegars without sugar or flavorings)|
Most fresh herbs and spices (see exceptions in red list)
|Sweeteners||Brown sugar, corn syrup, coconut sugar, desserts, high fructose corn syrup, honey, jam, maple syrup, raw cane sugar, white sugar||Stevia (if needed)|
Bloating Reason #2:
Decreased stomach acid can reduce the activation of a key protein-digesting enzyme “pepsin”. This means that the proteins you eat aren’t broken down as much and they can pass through your system somewhat “undigested”.
Pro Tip: You may consider reducing the amount of animal-based foods you eat and see if that helps you out.
Bloating Reason #3:
One thing that can seriously cause bloating is when your digestive system slows down. Then things seem to be a bit stagnant, just hanging around in there a bit (a lot?) longer than you’d like.
Ginger has been found to help with digestion and reduce nausea for certain people. And peppermint is thought to help your digestive muscles keep pushing food through, so it doesn’t stay in one spot for too long.
Pro Tip: Consider drinking a digestive tea like peppermint or ginger. See my recipe below.
Bloating Reason #4:
All this lack of digesting in your stomach and small intestine puts extra stress on the large intestine. The large intestine is the home of all of your wonderful gut microbes that have SO many functions in the body. The problem is when undigested food enters the large intestine it can feed the not-so-great microbes. These “unfriendly” bacteria produce waste material and gas as a part of their natural metabolism. The more of these microbes you have in your system (they will multiply if they are constantly being fed by undigested food in the large intestine) the more gas that will be produced in the large intestine.
Pro Tip: Try eating more fermented foods. Fermented foods contain probiotics which will feed the good bacteria and microbes in your system to keep the bad guys at bay This includes things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (as long as these don’t cause bloating for you!). Make sure they’re unpasteurized and contain live cultures. If you cannot tolerate dairy based yogurt and kefir dairy free options are available or you could make your own dairy free versions.
You can also consider taking a probiotic supplement. Just check the label first to make sure it’s right for you.
Bloating Reason #5:
With reduced stomach acid you also have a reduction of the “activation” of several of your digestive enzymes (protein-digesting pepsin being one of them). In order for certain enzymes to go to work digesting your food they need to be activated. This usually happens with the assistance of stomach acid.
Pro Tip: You may consider trying an enzyme supplement to assist your body in digesting food while you work on reestablishing your own production of stomach acid (a healthy diet and lifestyle can do this!). But before you do make sure you read the labels because some of them interact with other supplements, medications, or conditions, and may not be safe for long-term use.
You can try the “pro tips” I’ve given you in this post. Maybe you’d prefer working with a practitioner on an elimination diet to get to the bottom of which foods you may be sensitive to? If bloating is a serious problem you should see your doctor or alternative health care practitioner.
Recipe (Tummy Soothing Tea): Ginger Tea
Fresh ginger root (about 2”)
Lemon slices (optional)
Pour the water into a saucepan and heat it on the stove.
Grate the ginger root into the saucepan. Let it come to a boil, and then simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Strain the tea into a cup with a fine-mesh strainer, wait till the tea cools down to drinkable temperature and add lemon and/or honey as desired.
Serve & Enjoy!
Tip: If you don’t want to use a grater and strainer then you can peel the ginger and thinly slice it into your cup before adding boiling water. The pieces should be big enough that they will sink to the bottom.