Monday, July 11, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Reduce Bloating?

"I have had continuous abdominal distention (swelling) for two years. My abdomen has a dull ache most of the time. I don't eat a lot because I feel constantly full, and when I do eat, I usually have some indigestion. I've undergone several tests, but my doctors saw no fluid, tumors, or swolen organs. What can I do to reduce the swelling?"

Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:

Registered Dietitian Deborah RichterAbdominal bloating and distension can be associated with many conditions. Since there is no specific diagnosis and recommendations from the medical assessments, my suggestion is to go back to basics of good nutrition and promotion of GastroIntestinal and bowel health.

Also, be sure to drink enough water and fluids. And remember that regular physical activity helps aid with digestion; get your walking shoes on and take a 30 minute walk! A healthy eating pattern of plant-based foods is high in fiber and does promote bowel regularity that should help to relieve the bloating and distention, as long as it is done slowly and with adequate fluids.

So what are plant-based foods?


Fresh, frozen and canned without salt are good sources of fiber and phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Aim for 3 or more servings (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw) every day. Choose a variety of colors when selecting vegetables and fruits. Try purple eggplant and dark green spinach as well as the orange carrots, and white/tan foods like mushrooms.


Fresh, frozen, dried and canned without added sugar are another source for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods have a higher water composition, which can assist with bowel regularity and decrease bloating. Aim for 2 or more servings per day, but with all the good summer choices of berries, melons, pears, peaches, why stop at just two? Again, the goal is to gradually increase the dietary fiber. Generally, a serving size is a small piece of fresh fruit the size of a tennis ball size. Dried fruits should be about a ¼ cup, golf ball size and canned fruit serving size is ½ cup.

Dried Beans, Peas, Legumes and Soy

These high fiber foods can offer 6 to 9 grams of dietary fiber and are a good source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel that slows down digestion of carbohydrates and may relieve some of the bloating. Additionally, these foods are good sources of plant based protein with no cholesterol and plenty of nutrition.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, flaxseed are good sources of heart-healthy fats that can be added to the diet. Watch the portion size since many nuts are about 8 to 10 calories a piece. Aim for a 1 ounce portions, NOT the whole can. Using natural nut butters can be a delicious choice with whole grain bread or crackers.

Whole Grains

Brown rice, barley, 100% whole grain bread or cereals are excellent sources of dietary fiber and taste. Try some less familiar grains like quinoa, amaranth or millet.

Additionally, since lactose intolerance may result in bloating and abdominal discomfort, avoid milk and cheese. Substitute soy milk, almond milk or rice milk.

Probiotics may help to relieve abdominal distress. The beneficial bacteria may help support gut health and immune health. By enhancing the intestinal flora, these microorganisms may help aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Look for the good (beneficial) bacteria such a Bifidobacteria or Lactobacilli. Sip on a frosty yogurt smoothie made with fresh berries, ice and a small amount of juice. Prebiotics is the food for the probiotics: sources can be FOS (fructooligosaccharides), inulin fiber with bananas, Jerusalem artichokes examples of food sources.

— Deborah Richter, RD

Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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