The Unexpected Reason You Could Be Bloated—Plus, How to Fix It
A new study from John Hopkins University identified a major cause of bloating and a crucial component to beat it.
Regular bloating affects about one-third of American adults, and occasional bloating affects many more—especially after a heavy meal or a quick trip through the drive-thru. But a recent study from Johns Hopkins University found that eating a healthy diet could also be contributing to your belly bloat. But before you ditch your kale salad, keep reading.
Researchers analyzed data from the two-year DASH-Sodium Trial, comparing a low-fat, high-fiber diet with a low-fiber control diet, and had all participants consume various levels of sodium throughout the study. The trial was set up primarily to determine the effect of sodium and other factors on blood pressure, but it also included data on participants' reported incidences of bloating. Almost 40 percent of the 412 participants reported bloating at baseline, and even more throughout the various trials.
Both following a high-sodium diet and the high-fiber, low-sodium DASH diet led to increased reports of bloating. Out of the three various levels of sodium participants consumed, participants felt 27 percent more bloated following the diet highest in sodium than when they were following a low-sodium plan like the DASH diet.
The DASH diet increased the risk of bloating by a whopping 41 percent compared to the low-fiber control diet, but the researchers determined that sodium intake was also a factor in bloating. They advise reducing sodium levels to enjoy all the benefits that come with a healthy, high-fiber diet—like weight loss, regular digestion, and reduced risk for chronic diseases—sans a constantly bloated belly.
Looking for tips on how to banish belly bloat for good?
- 10 Nutritionist-Approved Snacks That Reduce Bloating and Water Retention
- Ate Too Much? Here’s How to Feel Better ASAP
- Best and Worst Foods for Bloating
While it’s tempting to be heavy-handed with the salt shaker, it's worth monitoring your sodium intake to see you’re accidentally consuming more than you need to be. The current recommendation limits sodium intake to 2,300mg per day (or 1,500mg if you have high blood pressure), but most of us are eating closer to 3,400mg per day!
It’s also worth preparing most of your meals yourself, instead of ordering dinner via app or dining out on your lunch break every day. Even “healthy” restaurant food is notorious for being high in not only sodium, but calories, saturated fat, and sugar. By controlling our sodium intake through preparing a majority of our meals, we can help beat the bloat and enjoy all the wonderful benefits of a high-fiber diet with ease.
Try preparing your favorite veggies with less salt and more herbs and spices. Our Lemon-Herb Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables are the perfect healthy side for regular bloaters who still want to increase their veggie intake, without the gastrointestinal issues. Our Morroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots and Braised Fingerling Potatoes With Oregano and Thyme rely more heavily on fresh, natural flavoring agents and less on the salt to make a delicious dish.