Stomach bloating can be painful and leave people feeling self-conscious. The puffy sensation typically follows a blowout meal. A dietary overhaul can help to identify the worst culprits and ease the digestive issue. Recent evidence suggests a low-gluten but fibre-rich diet may help to banish the bloat.
In an intervention study of healthy Danish adults, reported in Nature Communications, an international team of scientists showed that a low-gluten but fibre-rich diet changes the community of gut bacteria and decreases gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating and is linked to a modest weight loss.
The changes in intestinal comfort and body weight relate to changes in gut bacteria composition and function.
“We demonstrate that, in comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fibre-rich diet induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation, and leads to improvements in self-reported bloating,” explained the leading principal investigator of the trial, Professor Oluf Pedersen, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at University of Copenhagen.
He added: “Moreover, we observed a modest weight loss, likely due to increased body combustion triggered by the altered gut bacterial functions.”
The researchers undertook a randomised, controlled, cross-over trial involving 60 middle-aged healthy Danish adults with two eight week interventions comparing a low-gluten diet (2g gluten per day) and a high-gluten diet (18g gluten per day), separated by a washout period of at least six weeks with habitual diet (12g gluten per day).
The two diets were balanced in number of calories and nutrients including the same amount of dietary fibres. However, the composition of fibres differed markedly between the two diets.
Based on their observations of altered food fermentation patterns of the gut bacteria, the researchers conclude that the effects of low-gluten dieting in healthy people may not be primarily due to reduced intake of gluten itself but rather to a change in dietary fibre composition by reducing fibres from wheat and rye and replacing them with fibres from vegetables, brown rice, corn, oat and quinoa.
In his concluding remarks, Professor Peterson said: “We think that our study is a wake-up call to the food industry. Gluten-free may not necessarily be the healthy choice many people think it is.
“Most gluten-free food items available on the market today are massively deprived of dietary fibres and natural nutritional ingredients.
“Therefore, there is an obvious need for availability of fibre-enriched, nutritionally high-quality gluten-free food items which are fresh or minimally processed to consumers who prefer a low-gluten diet.”
He added: “Such initiatives may turn out to be key for alleviating gastro-intestinal discomfort and in addition to help facilitating weight control in the general population via modification of the gut microbiota.”
For a quick bloating fix, people should try not to swallow too much air, advised the NHS.
People can cut down on their air intake by:
- Not talking and eating at the same time
- Sitting down to eat (sitting upright and not slumped over)
- Reducing the amount of fizzy drinks they consume
- Stop chewing gum and chewing with their mouth closed so that they’re not taking in excess air.
The NHS also recommended keeping a food diary to identify the worst culprits. This will also help people determine whether the cause is a food sensitivity.