What kind of food causes bloating abdomen?

After you eat, do you feel your waistline start to expand?  Do you feel pressure and cramping in your abdomen area that only happens after certain meals or snacks?  Although bloating is common with digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, a specific food intolerance or a variety of foods may be causing your bloating abdomen.  There is not one food that causes this type of bloating, but there are several common culprits of this uncomfortable digestive symptom.


Lactose intolerance is a common food intolerance that occurs in about 2 out of 3 people after infancy. This intolerance can be worse in some than others, but all the same can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating after eating certain dairy foods. This is because those who have lactose intolerance do not make enough of the enzyme lactase in their bodies. This enzyme helps to break down the milk sugar lactose found in milk products. When a person cannot break down lactose, the undigested lactose can cause bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

Not all dairy products cause symptoms in those who have lactose intolerance. Those dairy products that cause the most issues are those highest in lactose. These foods include:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Cream cheese
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Cow’s milk-based ice cream

Cheeses that are aged such as cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, feta, and swiss may be well-tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. It will be important that if you do think you are lactose intolerant to note any symptoms in a food diary so that you know which dairy foods you can tolerate, and which cause symptoms. Also, it may be helpful to try plant-based milk products such as almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk to quench your milk craving to help you stay bloat-free.


Gluten-containing foods such as those made with wheat, barley, and rye often cause bloating in those who cannot tolerate such grains.  Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity may experience bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach cramps after eating such foods. Those with irritable bowel syndrome may also experience symptoms from gluten-containing foods since such foods are high in FODMAPs.

If you experience such symptoms after eating gluten-containing foods, then you may want to stick to gluten-free products to fulfill your bread and pasta cravings.  Try brown rice flour-based pasta or bread made with almond flour, rice flour, or potato starch.

Cruciferous vegetables

Vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, also known as cruciferous vegetables are common causes of bloating abdomens. Although these foods are very healthy and full of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, they also contain FODMAPs which can cause bloating in some people. Other cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, and leafy greens like kale, although small amounts of broccoli or kale (about 1 cup) should be tolerated ok in those on a low FODMAP diet.

Other foods that can cause bloating

Besides those foods listed above, the following foods may also cause a bloating abdomen in some people, especially in those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Onions or garlic are high in fructans, which is a soluble fiber that can cause bloating in some people.
  • Legumes such as lentils and beans like pinto beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans, to name a few can cause bloating. Although they are fiber-rich and full of healthy nutrients like protein and iron, beans can produce gas when digested. They are also high in FODMAPs which can cause abdominal bloating and discomfort in those with certain digestive conditions.
  • Carbonated drinks like cola or seltzer water can cause bloating since these types of beverages get their fizz from carbon dioxide. When consumed, this carbon dioxide gas can get trapped in the digestive system and cause cramping and/or bloating.
  • High-fructose fruits like apples can cause bloating and abdominal cramping in some people. Other fruits that are high in fructose include cherries, blackberries, mangoes, watermelon, pears, and peaches. If these fruits cause discomfort, stick to lower fructose fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, cantaloupe, and oranges.


Written by Staci Gulbin, MS, RD a Board-certified dietitian.

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