4 Carbs to Eat If You Want to Debloat, According to a Dietitian
Bloating is a complaint many gastroenterologists and dietitians constantly encounter in private practice. Most people living with bloating are on a constant quest to identify a specific food sensitivity that's underlying their problem or a silver-bullet solution in the form of magical de-bloating food. All that said, if bloating is not uncomfortable, it could be normal and healthy.
In truth, it's pretty rare to identify an individual food that's singularly responsible for one's bloating, and rarer still to find a single food remedy that erases it. Rare, but not impossible. In the case of celiac disease, eliminating wheat and other gluten-containing foods is absolutely a de-bloating solution for most.
But for everyone else seeking to minimize their distended belly through dietary strategies, the answer is usually found in changes to the overall dietary pattern rather than zeroing in on a single food. And a more realistic expectation from food isn't that eating something specific will deflate an already-bloated belly, but rather that identifying 'safer' foods that are less likely to create or aggravate bloating can prevent the problem from happening.
Which foods are more or less likely to prevent or minimize bloating, of course, will depend on the particular reason you're bloated, to begin with. Certain foods that are the absolute safest and gentlest for people can be among the worst bloating triggers for others. When it comes to de-bloating diets, they are in no way one-size-fits-all. This is particularly true when it comes to carbs, since carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that may contain both fiber AND fermentable (read: potentially gas-producing) material, both of which can contribute to bloating from a variety of causes. Don't forget—vegetables and fruits also contain carbs!
So forget those infographics you see all over social media listing a common set of foods that alleviate bloating, and think twice before resigning yourself to a low-carb diet for the rest of your life just to control your bloating. Instead, start getting in tune with your body's specific bloating patterns to figure out what carb-containing foods are actually safest for you.
1. When You Follow a Grain-Free Diet:
Pictured Recipe: Spinach & Egg Sweet Potato Toast
If your bloating got worse soon after adopting a lower carb, grain-free diet plan—whether Paleo, keto or Whole30—you're in very good company. Many people are shocked to discover that adopting a low-carb diet can sometimes result in constipation... and that this constipation results in a type of bloating that builds and builds as the day progresses, making them gassy as all get-out by bedtime.
The unexpected worsening in bowel regularity some people experience on low-carb diets may result from eliminating all forms of dietary soluble fiber—the moisture-retaining, regularity-promoting type—found mostly in higher-carb foods like non-berry fruits, oatmeal, beans, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Fixing the dietary fiber balance usually fixes constipation, which alleviates the bloat. Including a sizeable portion of soluble fiber-rich sweet potato at breakfast may be worth trying out.
2. When You Have Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity
Pictured Recipe: Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread
There are many folks who find that eating wheat products, like bread, bagels and pasta, really bloats them even though they've been tested for celiac disease and don't actually have it. These people might have "non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS)." While the cause is unknown, there are some components of wheat (and similar foods) that could be the potential culprits, per a 2020 article published in Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. Similar to celiac disease, gluten—a protein found in wheat products, could cause bloating in people with NCWS. Additionally, fructans are another wheat component that causes bloating and gas in some people. Fructans are molecules that consist of a chain of fructose with a glucose molecule at the end. Both fructose and glucose are two types of sugars. Fructans are also high in other non-grain foods like onions, garlic and artichokes.
If this feels familiar, you may not have to break up with wheat and wheat products entirely to avoid bloating: try sourdough instead, whether whole-wheat or white. Sourdough bread's fermentation process breaks down those hard-to-digest fructans and may give you at least one great, gluten-containing bread option that you can enjoy without worrying about setting off bloating. Plus, sourdough bread actually helps your digestion, in addition to other health benefits.
3. When You Have a Bacterial Bloat
Pictured Recipe: Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Bowl
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition that affects the digestive system and happens when excess or abnormal type of bacteria grows in the small intestine. Those who have SIBO can experience GI symptoms including bloating and abdominal pain. People with SIBO can benefit from higher fiber, low-starchy carbs quinoa. Also, quinoa contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is gluten-free—which can be enjoyed by people with celiac disease and has tons of other health benefits.
4. When You Follow a Plant-Based Diet
Pictured Recipe: Rice & Okra
White rice is a carb that might seem controversial to some, and many folks wonder if it's actually healthy. White rice has less fiber, protein and fat compared to brown one. And while a high fiber intake is key for your digestive health, following incredibly high-fiber, plant-based diets can trigger bloating for some. Fiber is not digested by the body; so the fiber that goes in must eventually come out. For those who may struggle with emptying their bowels completely, extremely high-fiber diets can create quite a bit of bloating. Since white rice is more easily digested, it's a great option to minimize bloating from piling onto a high gas or stool burden.