Whether it’s the desire to constantly graze throughout the day, or those late-night cravings before going to bed, sometimes the need to snack is unavoidable.
In these moments, it’s often easier to grab something unhealthy and tasty, but you might be left paying the consequences. Dr. Kenneth Brown, a gastroenterologist from Texas, has explained how unhealthy snacking habits can lead to uncomfortable, and frankly unwanted, bloating.
Dr. Brown told Newsweek that “snacking can contribute” to cause bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so it’s important for people to monitor what they’re putting into their body.
Modern life is fast-paced and chaotic, so we often find ourselves reaching for the ready-made snacks that are high in sugar because we want the extra fuel. But there are healthier alternatives that won’t lead to bloating down the line.
“If you have issues like IBS or bloating, it is more than likely you have some bacteria growing where they should not be, in the small bowel, and this is called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” he continued.
“The more often you eat, the more frequently you are feeding these bacteria. They multiply and over time this can be a chronic problem which can make your digestive issues worse.”
Between 10 and 25 percent of healthy people experience bloating, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and 75 percent described their symptoms as moderate to severe.
Bloating is usually excess intestinal gas, which leads to the stomach feeling painfully full and tight, as though there is a pressure weighing down on it. The Cleveland Clinic says it’s usually caused by digestive problems, but in some instances, it may be a result of hormones or stress.
What Snacks Do Not Cause Bloating?
Cutting out snacks altogether is a pretty big move, and probably not sustainable in the long term. Thankfully, Dr. Brown, the founder and chief medical officer at Atrantil, a manufacturer of digestive supplement products, has offered some suggestions for healthy snacks to consume, which aren’t going to cause bloating.
“Cucumbers are 96 percent water, which makes them a great choice for hydration and feeling full,” he said. “They also contain vitamin K, vitamin C, and a small amount of potassium. Cucumbers do not have hard-to-break-down carbohydrates known to cause gas.
“Olives are a good source of healthy fats and offer mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids that can promote health. With the low amount of fermentable carbs and fiber, they generally do not cause bloating. Olives also contain polyphenols that enhance your microbiome, which can decrease systemic inflammation.
“Blueberries are low in fermentable carbs, high in water content, and easy to digest. Blueberries also provide vitamin C, manganese, and small amounts of prebiotic fibers that support overall health. Their mix of water and anti-inflammatory compounds allow blueberries to provide key nutrients without taxing digestion, making them a smart choice for avoiding bloating.”
It’s always good to maintain a varied diet, so if these options don’t quite cut it, there are more to consider:
- Chicken or turkey slices
What Snacks Should Be Avoided?
It’s usually clear whether a snack is healthy or not—if it’s fried or coated in chocolate, chances are it isn’t going to be good for you. But Brown explained how useful it could be to cut down on the intake of fermentable carbohydrates, known as FODMAPs.
“These are short chain carbohydrates that tend to be poorly absorbed in the small intestine, but bacteria can break them down which produces gas and bloating,” he said.
FODMAP is an acronym (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols) for the carbohydrates that can cause digestive issues.
The symptoms of these digestive issues include cramping, diarrhea, bloating and gas. So, when trying to ease these symptoms, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends avoiding beans, wheat-based products, dairy, and some vegetables, such as asparagus, onions and garlic.
Brown added that “even healthy foods can provoke symptoms” of digestive distress if they have a high content of fermentable carbohydrates. So, paying attention to the nutritional values of your food is hugely important.
Why Can Snacking Cause Bloating?
While swapping unhealthy options for healthier alternatives is a great way of tackling uncomfortable and sometimes even painful bloating, Brown insists that there is no better solution than cutting out snacks altogether.
“I tell my patients to try to avoid snacking,” he told Newsweek. “Eating small amounts of food throughout the day can disrupt your body’s natural decrease in insulin and cause insulin resistance, which prevents using our own fat as fuel.
“Snacking can also negatively affect your digestion. The digestive system is designed to operate without food for certain periods of time, allowing it to repair itself, remove bacteria and improve the health of your beneficial bacteria known as the microbiome.”
If you find yourself snacking but you aren’t necessarily hungry, it may be more of a comforting habit rather than actual hunger. Brown suggests having prolonged periods without eating at all, as he adds that “fasting is beneficial.”
“Fasting can be done in many ways, but I like doing something called intermittent fasting. This is when you try not to eat any calories for at least 16 hours, then you can eat within an eight-hour window. This has been shown to help digestive health as well as cellular health.”
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