Do you get bloated or experience digestive symptoms following meals? Do your symptoms seem to appear randomly, with no consistent indication of what foods you’re reacting to? Well, you’re in luck – because I may have your answer. When Friendly Food Becomes Your Foe Bloating can often be a case of consuming foods that you are either sensitive to, or are actually good for you but can be improperly processed or producing mild reactions in your body. An example of the latter is the consumption of certain vegetables such as broccoli, which can produce bloating through fermentation reactions occurring through your intestinal bacteria. Today I’m going to run you through a few anti-bloat diets that have shown to significantly alleviate symptoms in individuals experiencing bloating or digestive distress, such as those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Common Results from Dietary Restriction Before I begin, I’d like to note that many of these anti-bloat diets will provide symptomatic relief, however will not actually fix the root cause. In some individuals, sticking to a particular diet below for an extended period of time can actually provide enough relief from symptoms that the body has time to adequately repair itself, therefore allowing a non-problematic reintroduction of restricted foods. In many individuals however, such diets may simply remove the irritant, while the reasons underlying hypersensitivity to certain foods may still persist. Therefore, anti-bloat diets are a great for providing some relief at the start of your journey towards a healthier gut, however I encourage you all to aim for comprehensive repair in order to avoid living on a restricted diet which can be isolating and limit healthy food choices. 5 Anti-Bloat Diets to Bloating and Digestive Symptoms 1. Low FODMAPs The diet low infermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) has shown to significantly benefit individuals experiencing symptoms of IBS, including bloating, pain and bowel consistency1,2, with 82% reductions in bloating3. The elimination should be as clean and accurate as possible, and if done correctly results can be expected in less than four weeks4,5,6. Who should try it? The significant success rate and reach of benefits from the FODMAPs diet has placed it as one of the first dietary interventions that individuals with IBS should try7. You can find a list of what to eat and avoid here: Stanford Low FODMAP Diet Also, you can print out this simplified version to hang on your fridge for easier access: IBS Group FODMAP Intolerances 2. Low Histamine Reactions to histamine are common amongst individuals experiencing digestive symptoms8,9 and have been shown to occur in 58% of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome10. Although histamine is impossible to eliminate entirely from the diet, these stats make it clear that a low-histamine diet is worth trying for those experiencing bloating, IBS or other inflammatory symptoms. A bonus of trying this diet is that improvements should be seen within 1-2 weeks for histamine-intolerant individuals. Who should try it? Those who are also experiencing headaches, eczema, fibromyalgia, urticaria or other inflammatory symptoms should especially try a low histamine diet, as these are common symptoms that accompany histamine intolerance8,9,11,12. You can find a list of what to eat and avoid here: NutriGold High and Low Histamine Foods 3. Specific Carbohydrate Diet The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) was developed by gastroenterologist Sidney Haas to induce remission in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The diet excludes disaccharide and polysaccharide carbohydrates, while being supplemented by long-fermented yogurt for a minimum of twelve weeks to assess efficacy13. Who should try it? The SCD appears to be more well-studied and effective for individuals with inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders such as Chron’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis, and has been clinically demonstrated for its safety and efficacy in children14,15,16. You can find a list of what to eat and avoid here: SIBO Info Specific Carbohydrate Diet 4. Gluten-free The presence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has been reported to occur in 6% of the United States population16, meaning over 1 in every 20 Americans possesses this disorder. The issue with these statistics however, is that there are way more people who are entirely unaware that they have NCGS, likely making the disorder way more prevalent than we are currently aware of. NCGS can be a common culprit behind gastrointestinal symptoms, with symptoms showing to improve rapidly after the removal of gluten from the diet17,18. Gluten is highly prevalent in even the most unexpected foods, such as soups and deli meats, so checking the list below can ensure you stay fully clean during your trial period. Who should try it? This sensitivity is relatively common and may or may not be coupled with other disorders. A gluten-free approach can be tried by anyone experiencing bloating and digestive symptoms, and is great to pair with one of the diets above to minimize symptoms and maximize gut repair. You can find a list of what to eat and avoid here: Celiac Disease Diet Guide 5. Lactose-free Lactose intolerance is typically caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase, for which production declines with age. This is very common, and is in fact entirely biologically normal, and may be responsible for causing digestive issues following the consumption of lactose. Many people experiencing IBS however, possess a form of lactose malabsorption, or secondary secondary lactase deficiency, which is produced through infection, disease, or small intestinal injury19,20,21. Lactose can be present in a variety of packaged and restaurant foods, so it’s important to double check the ingredients for milk products. This product can easily be combined with a gluten-free diet, however if this is done at the same time, a temporary reintroduction of each will need to be done separately in order to identify if you’re sensitive to just one or both of these common culprits. Who should try it? Due to the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among the general population, along with irritation from milk products experienced by individuals across a range of digestive disorders including IBS and ulcerative colitis, this diet can be tried by anyone experiencing bloating and digestive symptoms, and is a great supplement to any of the diets above for reducing symptoms and allowing repair. For a more comprehensive understanding of lactose-related digestive issues, check this out: NIDDK Lactose Tolerance You can find a list of what to eat and avoid here: Lactose Intolerance Guide Starting Your New Anti-Bloat Diet Although these anti-bloat diets can seem tough or confusing at the start, the great news is that I’ve linked all necessary resources containing clear-cut instructions on what you can and cannot eat. Additionally, with online health resources constantly on the rise, it’s become easy to find plenty of creative and delicious recipes that cater to individuals on restricted diets. When I first began my journey towards repairing my gut, plain chicken with steamed veggies was basically my every-day boring meal. I didn’t know what I was doing – and nobody wanted to come to my house for dinner. It took me years of research, and now my meals are just as delicious and inventive as anything I could have created with the help from readymade ingredients, and my cooking is constantly raved about by those who try it. Even better, it’s all pure, fresh, whole food that’s actually improving my gut health on a daily basis. And this is coming from someone who, until a few years ago, could barely boil an egg. The gist of what I’m getting at is that although it’s not easy, it can be done by anyone – busy, inexperienced, etc.! It’s worth warning that you may occasionally feel isolated when following a restrictive diet in social situations, and it’s basically impossible to avoid explaining it to at least some people, many of whom may criticize your choices. This is one of the reasons why I highly recommend probing the underlying causes of your bloating and digestive symptoms: because food is a huge part of life. As used to these restrictive diets as you may become, they’re always accompanied by feelings of limitation. Even though we may not want to eat what our friends or colleagues eat on a regular basis, it’s impossible to avoid exposure 100% of the time in modern society, and therefore it’s better to build a biological tolerance through repair, rather than living in fear of ever cheating in case your symptoms flare up. Eat well always, but treat yourself in moderation. Health begins in the gut! Anita Tee, MSc Personalized Nutrition References 1. Sullivan S. Functional Abdominal Bloating with Distention. ISRN Gastroenterology. 2012;2012:1-5. 2. Marsh A, Eslick E, Eslick G. Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Nutrition. 2015;55(3):897-906. 3. Maagaard L, Ankersen D, Végh Z, Burisch J, Jensen L, Pedersen N et al. Follow-up of patients with functional bowel symptoms treated with a low FODMAP diet. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016;22(15):4009. 4. McIntosh K, Reed D, Schneider T, Dang F, Keshteli A, De Palma G et al. FODMAPs alter symptoms and the metabolome of patients with IBS: a randomised controlled trial. Gut. 2016;:gutjnl-2015-311339. 5. Halmos E, Power V, Shepherd S, Gibson P, Muir J. A Diet Low in FODMAPs Reduces Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2014;146(1):67-75.e5. 6. Böhn L, Störsrud S, Liljebo T, Collin L, Lindfors P, Törnblom H et al. Diet Low in FODMAPs Reduces Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome as Well as Traditional Dietary Advice: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Gastroenterology. 2015;149(6):1399-1407.e2. 7. Mansueto P, Seidita A, D’Alcamo A, Carroccio A. Role of FODMAPs in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2015;30(5):665-682. 8. Rosell-Camps A, Zibetti S, Pérez-Esteban G, Vila-Vidal M, Ferrés-Ramis L, García-Teresa-García E. Histamine intolerance as a cause of chronic digestive complaints in pediatric patients. Revista Española de Enfermedades Digestivas. 2013;105(4):201-207. 9. Smolinska S, Jutel M, Crameri R, O’Mahony L. Histamine and gut mucosal immune regulation. Allergy. 2013;69(3):273-281. 10. Böhn L, Störsrud S, Törnblom H, Bengtsson U, Simrén M. Self-Reported Food-Related Gastrointestinal Symptoms in IBS Are Common and Associated With More Severe Symptoms and Reduced Quality of Life. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(5):634-641. 11. Worm M, Fiedler E, Dölle S, Schink T, Hemmer W, Jarisch R et al. Exogenous Histamine Aggravates Eczema in a Subgroup of Patients with Atopic Dermatitis. Acta Dermato Venereologica. 2009;89(1):52-56. 12. Kollmeier A, Francke K, Chen B, Dunford P, Greenspan A, Xia Y et al. The Histamine H4 Receptor Antagonist, JNJ 39758979, Is Effective in Reducing Histamine-Induced Pruritus in a Randomized Clinical Study in Healthy Subjects. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 2014;350(1):181-187. 13. Kakodkar S, Farooqui A, Mikolaitis S, Mutlu E. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Case Series. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(8):1226-1232. 14. Cohen S, Gold B, Oliva S, Lewis J, Stallworth A, Koch B et al. Clinical and Mucosal Improvement With Specific Carbohydrate Diet in Pediatric Crohn Disease. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2014;59(4):516-521. 15. J. Response to strict and liberalized specific carbohydrate diet in pediatric Crohn’s disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016;22(6):2111. 16. Mansueto P, Seidita A, D’Alcamo A, Carroccio A. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Literature Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2014;33(1):39-54. 17. Elli L. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: Time for sifting the grain. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2015;21(27):8221. 18. Yang J, Fox M, Cong Y, Chu H, Zheng X, Long Y et al. Lactose intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome patients with diarrhoea: the roles of anxiety, activation of the innate mucosal immune system and visceral sensitivity. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2013;39(3):302-311. 19. Yang J, Deng Y, Chu H, Cong Y, Zhao J, Pohl D et al. Prevalence and Presentation of Lactose Intolerance and Effects on Dairy Product Intake in Healthy Subjects and Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2013;11(3):262-268.e1. 20. 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