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The question

Which foods cause bloating?

The answer

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Everyone experiences bloating from time to time, the sensation that makes your stomach feel larger than normal. Bloating is the common term for gas build-up in the stomach and/or intestines.

When it comes to diet, the best way to fight bloating is to avoid - or limit - your intake of foods that can cause bloating. Foods that get fermented by bacteria in the intestine can produce gas. These include gassy foods like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, legumes and carbonated drinks.

Other foods that can cause bloating include protein powders, protein bars and foods made with artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol or malitol. These sugar alcohols are found in many diet and "no sugar added" food products.

As well, eating large portions of starchy foods such as bread, pasta and rice can contribute to bloating. These foods break down into sugar quickly and some make their way to the large intestine where they get broken down by gas-producing bacteria.

Fatty foods like bacon, sausage, and oily dishes may also cause bloating because they are slowly emptied from the stomach. They don't necessarily produce gas, they just hang around in the gut longer and increase the feeling of fullness.

Eliminate dietary suspects for two weeks to see if your symptoms improve. If you find that dairy products or gassy vegetables are causing bloating, consider using digestive enzyme supplements such as Lactaid or Beano. Beano can be used for all gassy foods, not just beans.

It's also important to eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly to reduce the amount of air you swallow. Eating quickly, gulping foods and drinks, chewing gum and sucking on hard candies can all contribute to excessive air swallowing.

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If constipation is causing bloating, gradually increase your fibre intake over a period of three weeks. Focus foods rich in insoluble fibre - the type of fibre found in wheat bran, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts and certain vegetables. And be sure to drink nine to 13 cups of water per day to help fibre do its job in the colon.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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