Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain

Find out why some foods seem to expand your waistline
woman eating ice cream

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel bloated after a meal even when you didn’t stuff yourself? Certain foods and drinks — or the ingredients in them — can cause you to feel more bloated than others.

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Registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, 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 salt, your body holds onto fluids you eat and drink. That can make you feel bloated. But putting down the salt shaker may not solve your problem.

Taylor says the most sodium, by far, in the typical American diet comes from processed foods, restaurant foods and convenience foods. 

“If you cut down on these, you should see a difference with less bloating,” says Taylor.

She says often, these foods don’t even taste salty, but they’re full of sodium as a preservative. Pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts, canned soups, bread rolls and bagels are some of the biggest places salt hides. These are part of “salty six” – the main six contributors of sodium in the American diet, Taylor says.

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2. Too much fat

Foods that are high in fat can sometimes cause bloating because they’re slow to digest. So instead of eating a fatty, greasy meal like fried chicken or onion rings, try a low-fat option like grilled chicken and salad.  

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, it can’t escape your body as a burp,” says Taylor.

Instead of carbonated beverages, increase your intake of water. Not only will it relieve your bloating from carbonation, studies show increasing your water intake can help you lose weight if you’re trying to. 

4. High fructose corn syrup

High-fructose corn syrup, a type of corn-derived 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. That’s why it’s important for you to read food labels. In large quantities, it can cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain for some people. This is because your body can’t absorb it quickly enough.

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.

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Top foods that cause bloating

There are certain foods that can cause you to feel more bloated than others. Some of the most common culprits include: 

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
  • Beans. Other legumes, like soybeans, peanuts, and lentils, tend to not be as bloating. 
  • Onions.
  • Carbohydrates.

Carbs can cause you to feel overly full. But the reason for that is twofold. For one thing, the average stomach is only about the size of your fist. Although it’s able to stretch to accommodate more food, eating a large portion can definitely make you feel bloated, says Taylor. 

Finally, Taylor says “When you eat more than what your body needs for fuel, it stores those extra calories as glycogen,” she says. Glycogen attracts water, so large portions of carb-heavy foods cause you to retain fluid. This magnifies that bloated feeling. 

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