Why does bread make my stomach bloat?

You have just enjoyed a warm, fluffy dinner roll topped with a melting pat of butter. Sounds delicious, right? But then about 30 minutes thereafter you feel pressure and puffiness in your stomach that is making it hard to button your pants without discomfort. Ugh, stomach bloating begins. Is it the bread to blame? The butter? Something else completely?  That depends. Let’s explore just why it seems that bread causes the awful stomach bloating you wish to get rid of.

Yeast bloat?

Some theorize that since yeast causes bread to rise, it can also cause the stomach to rise too after eating foods containing yeast.  This is not true for everyone.  If yeast causes your belly to bloat, then you may have what is called a candida overgrowth, or a yeast overgrowth in your gut.  This is thought to occur when excessive antibiotic treatment and/or a diet high in refined carbohydrates has caused an imbalance of “good” bacteria versus “bad” bacteria in your gut.  

Some have found that following a gluten-free diet and/or candida cleanse diet can be helpful in reducing this type of bloat. A gluten-free diet would cut out any foods made with wheat, barley, and rye, and is often used for those with celiac disease and other digestive conditions.  We’ll talk a little more about these conditions in a bit.

On the other hand, a candida cleanse diet would involve eliminating sugar, white flour, yeast, and cheese from the diet and may be combined with a prescribed antifungal treatment to help treat yeast overgrowth. Although there is not much evidence that yeast syndrome exists, people may feel better after being on this sort of cleanse since many processed foods will be eliminated from the diet.

Fiber bloat?

Some people may believe that if they consume a normally low fiber diet, then start adding in whole grains such as whole wheat bread, that they may experience bloating.  The body is actually very adaptable and will learn to deal with the extra fiber intake at a gradual pace. Just be sure to drink plenty of water when adding more fiber into your diet to help with digestion. Also, staying active most days with some sort of exercise can help stimulate healthy digestion and avoid bloating from extra fiber intake.

Eating too fast?

If you find your self inhaling your food at meal time so you can get back to work or to your favorite TV show, then you may be swallowing excess air.  This in turn can cause bloating in your belly. Therefore, you may want to try chewing your food more slowly, about 20-25 chews per bite, to see if this helps reduce some of your bloating after eating.  If you still find yourself becoming bloated after eating bread, then you may have a digestive condition linked to some ingredients in bread.

Bread-bloating-related conditions

Those with conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be particularly prone to belly bloat after eating bread.  Those with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, and intake of gluten causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Those with IBD or IBS, on the other hand, have trouble digesting foods like gluten that are high in FODMAPs, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Consuming foods high in FODMAPs can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort in those with IBS or IBD. These compounds are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed by the body. In these cases, a low FODMAP diet may help relieve such symptoms as bloating.

Take Home Message

Bread does not cause bloating in everyone.  If it does, then you may have an underlying digestive condition that needs to be treated with diet and/or medications.  If you find that you are getting very bloated after eating bread, then it may be a good idea to see a qualified healthcare provider to get further assessment done to see if you may have a digestive condition. 

A good place to start is to go gluten-free and/or low FODMAP and see if either of these diet regimens helps reduce some of your symptoms.  It may be best to see a dietitian to supervise you during this process, so they can help you identify those foods or ingredients that may be causing your discomfort and bloating. A probiotic may also be recommended to help keep your gut bacteria balanced to help improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut.


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

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