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When you embrace healthy habits, so many good things happen…
Your skin clears up. You have more energy. Your mood is lighter. But occasionally, healthy living comes with a side effect or two. Take a high-fiber diet as an example…
A lot of people pump up their fiber intake because they know fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut and reduces disease risk. But as good as fiber is for you, a high-fiber diet can cause some serious bloating…
Your belly swells up. You have pain and cramping. You may even get a little (or a lot) gassy. It’s a real buzzkill. More importantly, it makes you second guess the healthy changes you’ve made.
So, the question is, how can you keep eating fists full of fiber-rich foods without this uncomfortable and embarrassing side effect?
Researchers from John Hopkins University may have just discovered the answer…
Less protein means less bloating
A new study from researchers at John Hopkins University figured out how to stop your high-fiber diet from making you bloated — eat less protein.
Their study included 164 people who alternated between different versions of a high-fiber diet. One version was super rich in plant protein. Another version was high in carbohydrates. And guess what?
People on the high-protein, high-fiber diet were 40 percent more likely to get bloated than people on the high-fiber, high-carb diet. Besides the protein and carb content of these diets, everything else was the same. So, researchers are positive that it was the protein that made the difference between a happy belly and a bloated one.
But hold up a sec… eating a lot of protein is supposed to be good for you. And eating a lot of carbs isn’t, right?
Not necessarily. Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, a cardiologist with a fondness for nutrition, believes the fuss over protein is a waste of time. According to Dr. Klodas, we don’t actually absorb protein from our diet. We absorb amino acids — the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are what’s left after we break down protein inside our digestive system. And those amino acids can come from breaking down plant-based foods, including carbohydrates, just as much as they can come from animal sources.
So, if it’s the overall combination of food that matters, if you need to cut down on protein a little, you’ll probably be just fine.
Gut-altering effect of a high-fiber diet
Researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly why fiber and protein are a recipe for bloating. But the reason they suspect might surprise you…
High-fiber diets most likely cause bloating because they’re altering the bacteria in your gut. They’re increasing the number of healthy bacteria that feed on fiber. Unfortunately, these good guys produce gas as they’re digesting all that fiber.
Researchers think protein may create more bloating for a similar reason. It’s triggering healthy changes in your microbiome, and bloating is just an uncomfortable side effect.
One more thing to mention here…
In this study, participants tried three different diets in total. They were all high fiber, but the fat, carb and protein content in the diets varied. All three diets increased bloating. The high-protein diet increased bloating the most. But no one got off the hook completely.
That means, no matter how you shake it, adding more fiber to your diet will most likely make you bloated. In fact, that’s why a lot of people don’t eat enough fiber. They don’t like the bloating. And who can blame them?
Are fiber’s benefits worth the bloating?
What you have to ask yourself is… are the benefits of fiber worth the bloating?
Fiber can fight brain inflammation and fend off memory loss. It can support your immune system and keep everyday — and even super — bugs at bay. It can increase your odds of living a longer and healthier life. It can decrease your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
So, maybe a little bloating isn’t so bad.
If the bloating really is unbearable, you can decrease your protein intake a bit. Replace some of this protein with carbs from healthy sources, like whole grains. Previous research from John Hopkins shows that reducing salt in your high-fiber diet can reduce bloating too.
If you really can’t handle the belly bloat from your high-fiber diet, reduce your fiber intake for a while and then gradually increase it. This gives your belly to time to adjust.
You can also get more insoluble fiber from foods like whole grains and veggies, and less soluble fiber from foods like fruit, oats, beans, and peas, and nuts and seeds. Soluble fiber triggers more gas and bloating than insoluble fiber, so that could help.
Whatever you do, make sure that (once your belly allows) you’re eating at least 25 grams of disease-fighting fiber a day.
- With high fiber diets, more protein may mean more bloating — MedicalXpress
- Effects of High-Fiber Diets and Macronutrient Substitution on Bloating: Findings From the OmniHeart Trial — Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology
- What causes abdominal bloating? — Medical News Today
- How to Eat Enough Fiber Without Gas and Bloating — Health