We’ve all been there: making a conscious effort to eat the healthiest we ever have, exercise daily and consume more water, but still finding that the bloating we’ve been trying to avoid just doesn’t quit. After consulting the expert opinion of nutritionist Lisa De Fazio, we learned that there are some very unexpected reasons your stomach always seems to swell—even some you’d think would have the reverse effect—and scientific reasons behind them that actually make a lot of sense. Here, the top seven things that are causing swelling and how to avoid each, because there’s nothing more sabotaging than a bloated belly.
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You Didn’t Know You’re Lactose Intolerant
De Fazio explains that many people are lactose intolerant and don’t realize it. When you are lactose intolerant, De Fazio says that the milk, sugar and even the whey in dairy products cannot be digested properly, which causes gas and bloating. “If you think this is the case, avoid all dairy for a week and see if you are less bloated,” she suggests, adding that healthy substitutes for dairy include almond milk, coconut milk and even yogurt made from coconut milk.
You’re Eating the Wrong Fruits
Fruits like bananas, apples, cherries and peaches contain a sugar called fructose, which is difficult for our bodies to digest when consumed in large quantities (read: more than one or two of these fruits a day). If you end up consuming more fructose than your body can handle, it ends up being broken down by fermentation, which causes both gas and unwanted bloating.
Your Diet Is Too Salt-Heavy
“You may not realize how much sodium you eat,” De Fazio warns, explaining that sodium holds on to water (hello, water weight), making you swell up and look bloated. “Read all your labels, and if you’re dining at a restaurant, look up the nutritional facts online first. You should be consuming 2,400 mg of sodium daily and the typical American diet has 6,000 mg per day.”
You’re Not Cutting Carbs
Sorry carb lovers—wheat is another food that’s extremely difficult for the body to digest. While breaking it down, your insulin levels are spiked (which also trigger the body to store more fat in your stomach), gas is produced and your stomach swells up as a result. If you have an event you’re trying to slim down for, try going gluten-free for a few days and watch your tummy flatten like magic.
Your Go-To Veggies Are Making You Swell
And now, for the most confusing reason of all, De Fazio explains that while leafy greens are (extremely) good for your health, foods like beans, broccoli and cabbage are also very gas-producing. “All of that gas being produced in your stomach makes you look and feel bloated,” she says. “If you plan to eat gas-producing foods, just watch your portions! Plus, soaking beans before eating them can decrease the gas production, too.”
You’re Drinking Too Many Carbonated Drinks
Sugar-laden sodas aren’t the only culprits for causing a bigger stomach. While it’s marketed as a healthy alternative to these fizzy beverages, carbonated water is just as bloat-inducing. Why? Both contain bubbles that take up space in your stomach while also allowing gas to become trapped. For a little something extra, try infusing fruits like lemon and strawberries into your water for a flat-tummy-pick-me-up.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
We all know the power water has when it comes to healthy skin and beauty, but did you know the direct effects it has when fighting belly bloat? “The more water you drink and better you stay hydrated, the less bloating you’re likely to deal with,” says De Fazio, explaining that dehydration slows down digestion and makes it harder to de-bloat. “When your body tries to recover from being dehydrated, it holds on to excess water to prevent the situation from happening again and you might find yourself becoming constipated. This means that when you do finally drink more fluids, you’re likely to store them around your midsection and feel bloated.”
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