6 Foods That Are Secretly Making You Bloated

Popcorn is not as innocent as it looks.

December 5, 2016
black coffee
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When it comes to bloating, some foods are obvious culprits. We all know that a salty bowl of ramen or a bean burrito will have our stomachs sticking out faster than you can say food baby. But what about those times when you feel like you’re eating healthy—yet you’re still retaining every drop of water you consume?

Unfortunately, bloat can strike at any time and can be caused by some of the most unsuspecting foods. We're not saying you should stop eating any of these items (in fact, many of them have tons of health benefits!). But if you have an occasion coming up that involves squeezing into something snug, you might want to hold off on fueling with these the night before.

This article was originally published by our partners at Women's Health.

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Sugar-Free Gum

There are two main reasons why sugar-free gum, in particular, can cause stomach pain and bloating, says Ashvini Mashru, R.D., author of Small Steps to Slim. “The first is that you naturally swallow a lot of air while chewing gum,” she says. “But the second, and arguably main reason, is the presence of sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols, which are a form of carbohydrate that are not very well digested, are a common cause of upset stomach, particularly when consumed in high amounts.”

Once in the intestinal tract, the sugar alcohol will meet bacteria that ferments it, releasing gas, which leads to bloating, cramps, pain, and/or diarrhea. It’s similar to what happens when someone who is lactose intolerant eats something with lactose, says Mashru. Because they aren’t fully digestible, sugar alcohols contain fewer calories, hence their prevalence in sugar-free gum. To spot these pesky bloaters, Mashru suggests looking out for the ending –ol on the ingredients list. Some of the most common names for sugar alcohols are xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and erythritol, she says.

Related: 8 Foods To Eat Tonight To De-Bloat By Tomorrow

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Sparkling Water

Bad news for all you La Croix addicts. "I think most people are aware that sugary sodas trigger bloating," says Cynthia Sass, R.D. and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. But the bubbles that give any sparkling drink its fizz are also a factor. Even without any sweetener, that carbonated gas can inflate your belly like a balloon. To see if this is the culprit, Sass suggests you try eating the same meal or snack with flat water, then with sparkling, and compare how you feel.

Related: This Is How Much Weight I Lost After Drinking 2 Glasses Of Water Before Every Meal For 2 Straight Weeks

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Garlic is an example of a FODMAPs food (which stands for fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols), which is a group of foods that are poorly absorbed from the GI tract into the blood, or not absorbed at all. Because of their poor absorption, they drag water into the intestine and get fermented by bacteria, which builds up gas inside the intestines. However, that doesn’t mean you need to nix the garlic just yet. According to Sass, some people are more sensitive to FODMAPs than others, especially people with IBS. So next time you chow down on something seasoned with garlic, keep an eye on how you feel. 

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This weight-loss snack might actually have you feeling a little too full—we know, it just doesn’t seem right. The world is cruel. “Popcorn can cause bloating simply because of its volume,” says Sass. “One serving is three to four cups, the size of three to four tennis balls. That large portion only packs about the same amount of carbs as one slice of bread, but it's going to take up a lot more space in your stomach, which can cause your tummy to look pooch-y temporarily.” Key word: temporarily. If you’ve got nowhere to be tonight, pop away!

Related: The 'Fittest Woman On Earth' Shares Exactly What She Eats Every Day

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Large Salads

The effect here is two-fold, says Sass. First, there’s the volume; like popcorn, a large salad is going to take up more space in your stomach, and therefore expand it more than a compact meal would—even if your salad has less calories. The other issue is that some vegetables contain those darn FODMAPs, including cabbage, mushrooms, and onions. If you have IBS, eating a big salad can be a double-whammy for bloating, so tread carefully.

Related: 7 Foods I Prep Each Week To Make Sure I Eat As Healthy As Possible

black coffee
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Black Coffee

Obviously, if you’re lactose intolerant, you know that adding cream or milk to your coffee will leave your stomach on the fritz. But black coffee can trigger some bloating probs of its own, says Sass. “Because it's acidic, if you have a sensitive stomach, coffee can be an irritant and cause immediate swelling,” she says. “If you add sugar or an artificial sweetener, the effect can be even worse.”     

It’s important to note that just because a healthy food causes bloating doesn’t mean you need to avoid it like the plague. The key is to eat these foods strategically, says Sass. “Avoid potential bloaters before you know you're going to be giving a presentation, or when you'd like to wear a form-fitting outfit,” she says. “But if you're in for the night and in your PJs, there is no reason to nix these healthy foods.” Plus, for most people, bloating resolves itself by the next morning.