I thought that bloating of the stomach was just something I’d had to live with.
I thought I’d tried everything to get rid of it. I gave up dairy and gluten for a while. I drank herbal teas. I took Gas-X and detox pills. I gave up chewing gum and carbonated drinks. My diet was the healthiest it had ever been.
But I was still bloated. Painfully bloated.
Then one day, I Googled something else and landed on a blog post that changed my life.
No, I’m not being overly dramatic. Eliminating bloating of the stomach is life-changing.
And all it took was one little change…
Eating less fruit.
I know, I know. It’s cool to eat fruit. It’s cool to have an Instagram photo of your super colorful fruit-filled fridge. (I dare you to say “fruit-filled fridge” five times fast.)
Everyone tells you to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The USDA recommends 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, right?
Well, not exactly. It recommends 5-9 servings total, with more vegetables than fruit. Not 5-9 servings of fruit and 5-9 servings of veggies. Just 5-9 total.
I was eating a lot of fruit… way too much fruit. I snacked on it. I had it for dessert. I ate it with meals.
And I never once thought it was making me bloated.
My “a-ha” moment
Over the Fourth of July, my friend invited us to stay with her family in a VRBO in Ojai, Calif. I knew that she drank a lot of smoothies, but after watching her for a weekend, I thought I should try adding smoothies into my diet.
But I wanted to lose some weight, and I was concerned about all the sugar from the extra fruit. So I Googled “how much fruit per day,” and one of the results that popped up was a blog post titled “5 Signs You’re Eating Too Much Fruit” by Lily Nichols, a registered dietitian. The very first sign she lists is “You’re frequently bloated.”
Holy crap. (Literally and figuratively. The second sign she lists is frequent diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.)
The USDA’s daily recommended fruit amount for a woman my age (36 years old) is 1.5 cups per day. Ms. Nichols recommends approximately one cup of fruit per day.
I was eating way more than that.
So I started paying attention to my fruit intake, and my bloating went away. In the four weeks since then, I’ve been bloated one time. Once! And I actually think it’s because I drank my smoothie too quickly through a straw. (See below for other reasons you might be bloated.)
I’ve been full, but I haven’t been bloated. There’s a big difference between the two.
Why fruit causes bloating of the stomach
Fruit contains a type of sugar called fructose that many people can’t digest properly. If the body doesn’t break it down, the fructose reacts with naturally occurring bacteria in the bowels and may cause bloating and other symptoms.
The American Gastroenterological Association has a list of foods to avoid with excess fructose. (And yes, avoid high-fructose corn syrup. The name says it all.)
How I control the amount of fruit I eat
Remember how my discovery all started because I wanted to drink more smoothies? Well, smoothies are actually how I control my fruit intake!
I no longer eat fruit with my meals, and I rarely snack on it anymore. But if I really want something to munch on and my choices are fruit or a cookie, I do allow myself some extra fruit.
I don’t typically eat breakfast/brunch until 10:30 or 11 a.m., so my lunch/midday snack typically ends up being a smoothie. My breakfast is heavy on the veggies and protein (think a potato hash with scrambled eggs), and my dinner is usually protein, veggies, and a grain.
I make all my smoothies from recipes, so I know exactly how much fruit I’m eating because I measure it before I throw it in my blender.
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Other causes of bloating of the stomach
If you try eating less fruit and you still have bloating of the stomach, here are some other things that might be causing it:
- Eating too fast (swallowing air)
- Chewing gum (swallowing air)
- Drinking from a straw
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Lactose intolerance
- Gluten intolerance
- Eating beans**
- Eating some cruciferous vegetables
**You may remember this ditty from childhood: “Beans, beans, the magical fruit / The more you eat, the more you toot / The more you toot, the better you feel / So eat your beans at every meal.”
As I mentioned earlier, I did have some bloating that I think was caused by drinking my smoothie too quickly through a straw. I also believe that chickpeas cause some discomfort so I avoid them. And I mostly avoid gluten only because the things I want to eat with gluten are treats like breads, cakes, and cookies. 😉
I’m still shocked by the fact that eating too much fruit has been causing my bloating all this time. Mind blown.