There are many, many reasons why you may be experiencing bloating after meals. If you’ve examined the more common causes and addressed all of those issues, but are still suffering from otherwise inexplicable post-meal bloating, I may have the answer for you.
Certain spices in your food could be causing your bloating
There are a few spices that are considered FODMaPs, which stands for Fermentable Oglio-Di-Mono saccharides and Polyols. Notice the keyword in that phrase: fermentable. Yes, that’s right, some of your favorite spices are very easily fermented, leading to intestinal bloating, gas, and a feeling of indigestion.
So what are the spices that could be causing your bloating?
The following common spices contain some form of FODMaPs:
All of these are easily fermented and that’s why they can cause you to bloat.
Why this is interesting (and frustrating)
If you read the so-called ‘good advice’ for improving digestion and reducing bloating, you will find one of the most recommended solutions is fennel–chew on fennel seeds, drink fennel tea, use fennel for cooking all for better digestion. Likewise, if you’ve looked for digestive ‘teas’ (infusions), you may have noticed many blends include fennel.
If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant, as you finish your meal, you may have been offered fennel seeds (or candied fennel seeds) to freshen the breath and settle the stomach. While they do in fact freshen the breath (with a licorice flavor), they don’t necessarily ease digestion in those sensitive to FODMaps.
Fennel has commonly, across cultures and times, been thought of as a digestive spice.
I’m here to tell you to rethink that advice.
Also in Ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) garlic is considered a prime way to increase digestive fire (“agni”) to improve digestive ability. But if you’re sensitive to FODMaps, not only is garlic not going to make your digestion feel better, you’re actually going to feel bloated, stuffed, and gassy. And perhaps be burping up garlic.
Garlic is in so many foods: lending its characteristic savory (even spicy) flavor, adding potency to dishes, and supplying its antiseptic properties to prevent proliferation of bad bacteria.
Since so many dishes contain garlic it can difficult to avoid completely, which could explain why you’re experiencing bloating after many (though not every) meal.
What to do
You might need to do a FODMaP elimination or sensitivity testing to figure out if garlic, fennel, and other FODMaPs are causing your bloating and therefore should be limited in your diet.
Besides these four spices, many other common foods contain the fermentable compounds of FODMaPs, including asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, jicama, shallots, plums, apples, mangoes, peaches, pears, pistachios, and chocolate.
In a future post, I’ll explore more about FODMaPs and what may be the cause of a sensitivity to them.
In the meantime, if you want to test your own ability to digest FODMaPs, and potentially reduce or eliminate your bloating, I suggest cutting out all 5 spices mentioned, as well as all the items listed above (asparagus, broccoli…) for 7-10 days. Over that time, while avoiding (or at least minimizing) all FODMaPs, notice if you’re less bloated after meals and if you feel less gassy.
If you do notice major improvements with the FODMaP elimination, then you’ll need to do some serious gut-healing work to be able to eat FODMaPs again liberally while remaining free of bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Tell me, in the comments below, have you noticed that consuming garlic, fennel, or wasabi has increased your tendency to bloat?