If you have every suffered with excess gas and bloating you will know how uncomfortable it is. Knowing how to alter your diet to help can be a key cornerstone of treatment. Which brings me to my question, do lentils cause gas? How about chickpeas, do they cause gas? Let’s take a dive into the what foods can help with bloating and what to avoid.
IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, is a functional gut disorder that causes gas, bloating, abdominal pain, excess wind, diarrhoea or constipation. It is diagnosed using the ROME IV criteria . Whilst in the past IBS has often been seen as a label for mild digestive issues, as a dietitian with digestive issues herself, I know how much it can impact life! IBS is best treated with the support of a professional as the treatment needs to be highly individualised. If you are suffering from IBS, please do go to your doctor and ask to see a dietitian if you can. Here are some top tips for reducing some of those symptoms.
What causes bloating, gas and IBS?
As far as we know, there is no single cause of IBS. There can be some risk factors and triggers that can lead to IBS symptoms worsening.
Gut causes of IBS and bloating:
- Gut hypersensitivity. IBS sufferers can have a digestive system that is especially sensitive to the processes of digestion. They just notice and feel it more and their digestive system is more “chatty”. If you have every had a gurgling gut or swooshing system you will know what I mean. Additionally fermentation of food by gut bacteria (a normal process) can trigger gut symptoms. The nerves in the digestive system can also be more sensitive, causing a greater reaction to foods.
- Gut infections – certain pathogens can lead to an 4.5x increased risk of IBS over the following 2 years. Using antibotics can affect the gut microbiome and this can also be a trigger for symptoms.
- Gut microbiome – an imbalance of bacteria in the large intestine may contribute to IBS symptoms. The bacteria in the gut break down food via fermentation, releasing gases as a byproduct. Fermentation is a normal process, but can trigger symptoms in some people.
Other causes of IBS and bloating:
- Anxiety and stress – IBS is more common in people with depression and anxiety. Many people report worse gut symptoms are worse during stressful periods. This makes sense, think about when you are more anxious, before an exam maybe. Ddi you feel queasy, bloated or have an upset stomach? We can feel things in our gut. Pretty magic I think. Your enteric nervous system is a collection of neutrons in the intestine that you can think of as the brain of your gut. This interacts with your actual brain, and vice versa. This means that for some people, a traumatic even of period of stress can be the trigger for IBS.
- Genetics – twin studies show that you are more likely to have IBS if a close family member also does. This may be to do with the environment rather than genetics, we just don’t know. If you live in the same house and eat the same foods, for example, you will share the same gut bacteria.
- Dietary triggers – Keep reading to understand the link between IBS and food. We will come on to answer the question of “do lentils cause gas”.
Which foods are common IBS triggers and do lentils cause gas?
Food plays a key role in IBS -in fact, 70-89% of people with IBS report that foods trigger their symptoms. Because of this, many people limit the foods that they eat. However, limiting too many foods can cause deficiencies or even worsen IBS symptoms. How? Well by restricting you diet you can end up cutting out the foods that your gut bacteria need to thrive. This is where it is key to work with a dietitian experienced in gut health who can help to identify a suitable diet and help you reintroduce foods.
Trigger foods in IBS can include:
- Onions and garlic
- Fatty foods
- A whole selection of fruit and vegetables
- Lentils, beans and pulses
To answer the question: “Do lentils cause gas? Yes they can. “Do chickpeas cause gas” Yes they do for some people. The foods that casue symptoms are all very individual and therefore it is important you find out what your own trigger foods are.
You can see how cutting out all of these foods could lead to your diet not being nutritionally balanced. These foods fit into the category of FODMAPS. You can read more about FODMAPS here. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are all short chain carbohydrates that may be absorbed poorly by the large intestine.
Remember, although these foods are common triggers, they may not be specific problem for you. Cutting out these foods long term can lead to your diet being extremely limited, bland and takes the joy out of life. Working with a dietitian can help you find alternative foods and ways to add flavour to a meal without triggering symptoms.
Are there any foods that can prevent bloating?
You may find that reducing spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol helps to reduce symptoms.
HOW you eat can also be a factor in IBS symptom management. Many of us rush through meals, eat on the go or whilst distracted. This can lead to swallowing air and not chewing foods enough. Digestion starts in the mouth, with your teeth helping to manually break down food and amylase enzymes breaking down starch. Taking time over meals, sitting at a table, away from distractions (including work and screens), focusing on what you are eating and letting your brain and gut connect are all really important.
Tips to reduce bloating in IBS
Here’s some useful tips:
- Cook meals yourself where possible -other options may be high in salt or contain trigger ingredients
- Keep a food and symptom diary to help track triggers
- Try to find ways to relax or manage stress everyday. Breathing practices, reading, crafts, puzzles, tending to plants, playing an instrument.
- Try to include forms of movement and exercise in your day. Yoga and Pilates can be effective at helping digestion.
- Consider trialling probiotics for 1-2 months, but it is important to seek advice for the right one that is effective in IBS.
- Do not delay or skip meals
- Do not eat too quickly
- Do not eat lots of fatty, spicy or processed foods
- Do not eat more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day (a portion is 80g)
- Do not drink more than 3 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee per day
- Do not drink lots of alcohol or fizzy drinks
Where to go for further support
Also do pop to the IBS network for resources.