Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain

Find out why some foods seem to expand your waistline

Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain

We’ve all felt miserable from overeating after a big meal, especially if it involves too many carbohydrates (think: heavy pasta dinner). But have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel bloated even when you didn’t stuff yourself? Certain foods — or foods and drinks with certain ingredients — cause more bloating than others.

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Registered dietitian Anna Taylor explains which foods and ingredients cause problems and why:

1. Excess salt (that you may not even taste)

When you eat foods that are high in sodium, your body holds onto fluids and that can make you feel bloated. But putting down the salt shaker may not solve your problem.

Ms. Taylor says the most sodium, by far, in the typical American diet comes from processed foods, restaurant foods and convenience foods. You may try to cut down on these to minimize bloating. Often, these foods don’t even taste salty, yet they are full of sodium. This is often true when it comes to soups, bread rolls and bagels.

2. Too much fat

Foods that are high in fat can sometimes cause bloating because they’re slow to leave your stomach. So instead of eating that fatty, greasy meal (e.g., fried chicken, coleslaw and onion rings), try a low-fat option like grilled chicken, salad and baked potato, Ms. Taylor suggests. 

3. Soda and carbonated drinks

Drinking carbonated beverages can often cause you to swallow excess air, which leads to bloating. “That air has to go somewhere, and once it passes from the stomach to the intestines, burping won’t help,” says Ms. Taylor.

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4. High fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup, a type of sweetener used in soda and some fruit drinks, is also a surprising ingredient in other foods that don’t even taste sweet, such as some breads. (This is why it’s important to read food labels). In large quantities, it can cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain. This is because your body can’t absorb it quickly enough. 

RELATED: 3 Reasons You Should Kick Your Diet Soda Habit 

5. Dairy products (for some people)

Maybe you know you’re lactose intolerant, or you just suspect that you are. But, if you are lactose intolerant, you can feel bloated after eating high-lactose foods such as ice cream or milk. Depending on the severity of your intolerance, your body won’t be able to break down the lactose easily, so you’ll likely experience gas, abdominal pain and bloating. 

RELATED: Your Practical Guide to Lactose Intolerance 

Why do carbs cause bloating?

So let’s get back to the pasta dinner example. You know too much causes you to feel bloated, but do you know why?

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It’s not just about the portion, although eating an overly large amount of any food can cause you to feel bloated, according to Ms. Taylor.

When it comes to carbohydrates, if you eat more of them than what you need for fuel, your body stores some in your muscles as glycogen. Your body then processes the rest through your liver and stores it as fat.

Glycogen attracts water, so large portions of carb-heavy foods cause you to retain fluid, and that is what gives you that bloated feeling.

Keep in mind that your stomach is only about the size of your fist. Although it’s able to stretch to accommodate more food, eating excessively can also make you feel bloated, Ms. Taylor says.

RELATED: Should I Cut Out Carbs? (Diet Myth 3)

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