Do fruits cause bloating?
Fruits make up an important part of our diet, offering us plenty in terms of nutrition: they’re rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Why then, does fruit sometimes play havoc with digestive symptoms like bloating or trapped wind? Well, the answer could lie in fructose, a type of sugar that plenty of fruits contain in abundance.
You see fruit, rather than chocolate or cake, was originally designed to be our primary source of sugar. Back in our scavenger days, sugar, instead of being associated with health problems like diabetes and high blood glucose levels, was a valuable form of energy that our body needed to survive and thrive. These days though, sugar is far too readily available and is often highly processed, hence why it’s so inherently linked with poor diet and health.
The fructose derived from fruit is usually absorbed into your bloodstream in the small intestine thanks to the help of transporter proteins like GLUT2 and GLUT5. Problems only really occur with fructose when it enters your large intestine, where it can feed the unhealthy bacteria in your gut and ferment, causing those tell-tale bloating symptoms.
However, fructose isn’t the only cause for concern when it comes to fruit. In addition to containing fructose, fruit also contains other forms of sugar, such as fructans. Fructans are made up of fructose molecules but remain a separate class of sugars. Unlike fructose, only 5-15% of fructans actually make it to your small intestine so here, the problem is less with your transporter proteins and more with the digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down fructan.
Finally, in addition to containing fructan and fructose, fruit also contains plenty of fibre, as I’ve mentioned. Now fibre is definitely a good thing – it supports your digestive system and prevents constipation – however, it can be difficult to break down. Soluble fibre in particular is the main problem here as, in excess, or alongside too little water, it can back up the digestive system which does slow down digestion and can cause fermentation in the gut - hello bloating!
What fruits are the worst for bloating?
Now, here at A.Vogel Talks Food I’m always encouraging my readers to do all they can to get their ‘5 a day’ (or even 10!), so obviously boycotting fruit completely from your diet isn’t the answer. In the long-term, you should be looking at the best ways of supporting your digestive tract so it’s better able to tolerate and process fructose but, in the meantime at least, you could try looking at a low FODMAP diet.
What exactly are FODMAPs? This acronym stands for ‘Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols’, referring to a specific class of short-chain carbohydrates. Fructose and fructan both fall into the FODMAP category and foods that contain these components are deemed high FODMAP. This doesn’t mean that these foods are bad or unhealthy, but if you suffer from a digestive disorder like IBS, it might be worth treating high FODMAP foods with some caution.
Below, I’ve listed a few fruits that are on the high FODMAP spectrum:
- Dried fruit
Are there any fruits you can eat?
Just as there are foods that are quite high in FODMAPs, consequently there are groups of foods that are considered to be ‘low FODMAP’ options. Fortunately, there are quite a few different types of fruit on this list so, if you are conscious of bloating, you might want to swap some of your usual choices for a few of these:
How can I relieve bloating?
It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that some fruits might be more capable of affecting you than others but, as I mentioned earlier, what really matters is improving your overall digestion. This can be pivotal not only for relieving the symptoms of bloating, but also for preventing their return in the future. That’s why below I’ve listed some of my favourite top tips when it comes to easing bloating!
1. Avoid eating fruit near meals
One of the real problems with fruit, and why it can cause bloating, is that very often we’re not eating it at the right time. The issue is that for many of us, we tend to view fruit as either the sequel or prequel to a good meal.
This can be troublesome as, if this fruit then starts to ferment in your stomach, you will need some good, strong stomach acid to break down all those fats, proteins you’ve just eaten too! Since some fruits are also incredibly rich in fibre, this means that your digestive system will become slower, which is going to inhibit how the other foods you’ve just eaten are broken down and processed. The end result is can be a whole lot of discomfort, bloating, nausea or even cramps!
My top tip: If you are going to eat fruit, try to eat it separately from other meals. Ideally you want to wait at least an hour or 30 minutes before tucking into lunch or dinner in order to avoid any nasty bloating symptoms.
2. Chew your food!
Yes, I know this is one I regularly recommend, but it’s for good reason! One of the really big problems with how we eat these days is that most of us will either eat on-the-go or slumped over a computer. We don’t really take the time to appreciate our food anymore which is a real shame as, if you’re not taking the time to chew your food properly, it means your stomach has to work that bit harder to break it down. This not only increases your chances of experiencing bloating symptoms, it also means you won’t be absorbing all those lovely nutrients as efficiently either!
My top tip: If you really want to give your digestive system the best possible chance of being able to process what you’re eating properly then you need to set aside a decent amount of time to eat your food. Don’t rush; instead savour each mouthful and try to chew your food at least 20 times – not only will this help to break down your food, it can also prevent you from over-eating! Remember to sit up straight too as, if you’re slouched over, that’s going to restrict your digestive juices, minimising their efficiency.
3. Invest in a pre and probiotic
When it comes to your digestive system, more and more research is shouting about how important your gut bacteria are, not only for maintaining a healthy digestive tract, but also for your wider health too! As I mentioned earlier, one of the real problems with fructose is that can act as a food source for your unfriendly bacteria and, if these start to overwhelm your friendly bacteria, this can cause what is known as ‘gut dysbiosis’, which in turn can give birth to a whole plethora of problems, including bloating and other issues like constipation or diarrhoea.
Thankfully, one way you can help to support your friendly gut bacteria is by investing in a good, high quality pre and probiotic. Now, you’ve probably heard of probiotics before – they’re the friendly bacteria that help to regulate your gut environment. Optibac are one brand that I’m particularly fond of but, one of the real problems with taking any probiotic is that, if your gut environment isn’t optimal all those friendly strains of bacteria will die off very quickly.
This is where a good, high quality prebiotic can help. Prebiotics help to feed your friendly gut bacteria and create a better overall gut environment for them to thrive in. Molkosan is our gut-friendly prebiotic here at A.Vogel and this contains plenty of L+ lactic acid, a food source your friendly bacteria are especially fond of!
4. Get some exercise
If you are feeling bloated, don’t use it as an excuse to lie down and remain sedentary. Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga, or even just a brisk walk, can actually help to relieve bloating symptoms such as trapped wind by gradually compressing and releasing your digestive tract. That’s why the next time bloating strikes, it can be really worthwhile to try some simple stretches or move through a low-impact yoga flow!
My top tip: One of my favourite stretches to do is the apanasana pose. You start this pose by lying vertically on your back and then, slowly, draw your knees in to your chest. If you like, rock gently back and forward or repeat several times for relief from your symptoms.
5. Try stewing your fruit
If you really can’t abide cutting out some of your favourite fruits, you could try stewing them instead of eating them raw. Cooked foods in general are a bit gentler on your digestive tract and stewing your fruit may actually help to lower their fibre content, which won’t slow your digestive system down as much. I quite like stewing pears, for example, with a little bit of cinnamon as this provides some sweetness without any excess sugar!
My top tip: If you’re looking for suggestions when it comes to food choices and easing bloating, you could try our Easy De-Bloat Smoothie, which contains anti-inflammatory ginger as well as mint and coconut water.
6. Incorporate more bitters into your meals
In the Mediterranean, it’s quite normal to start a meal with a light, bitter salad and this could have all sorts of benefits for our digestive system. Bitter foods can actually help to kick-start your digestive processes, encouraging the secretion of gastric juices which ultimately helps to break down your foods a lot more efficiently.
When it comes to bloating specifically, this actually helps to prevent bloating from occurring in the first place and can even provide relief if you’re in the midst of experiencing the symptoms. Here are a few of my favourite bitter foods you could try incorporating into meals:
If these foods don’t really appeal to you, then you could try a bitter tincture like our Digestisan. This contains a combination of artichoke, dandelion, peppermint and boldo which can help to promote healthy digestive secretions, easing bloating symptoms such as trapped wind or feelings of fullness.