Smoothies have become an increasingly popular way to get a nutritious breakfast or snack on the go. Blending together fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk, juice, and other ingredients into a cold, thick beverage seems like a healthy and convenient option. However, some smoothie drinkers may experience abdominal discomfort like bloating, cramping, and gas after enjoying their favorite blended concoction. So what ingredients in smoothies could be causing these unwanted gastric issues?
Fruits and Vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables contain sugars and fibers that can lead to gas and bloating when consumed in a smoothie, especially for those with sensitive digestive systems. Here are some of the top gas-inducing produce to look out for:
|Fruit/Vegetable||Compounds That May Cause Gas|
|Brussels Sprouts||Raffinose, fiber|
The fructose and fiber found naturally in many fruits and vegetables may not get fully digested and absorbed, allowing gut bacteria to ferment these compounds and release gas as a byproduct. Combining multiple high-fiber fruits and veggies into a smoothie significantly increases total fiber and gas-producing potential.
Many smoothies include dairy ingredients like milk, yogurt, kefir, and ice cream. These all contain the milk sugar lactose, which can be difficult to digest for those with lactose intolerance. People with lactose intolerance lack enough of the enzyme lactase to properly break down lactose. Undigested lactose gets fermented by intestinal bacteria, producing carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane gas that leads to bloating and other digestive issues. Using lactose-free dairy or non-dairy milks like almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk can help reduce excess gas from lactose.
Some low-calorie or sugar-free syrups, juices, protein powders, and yogurts include artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol. While these sugar alcohols provide sweetness without some of the drawbacks of real sugar, too much can have a laxative effect and cause bloating and gas since they pull water into the intestines and get fermented by gut bacteria. Moderating intake of products with artificial sweeteners can prevent digestive troubles.
Beans, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
While not as common, some smoothies incorporate protein-rich ingredients like beans, legumes, nuts, or seeds. Compounds like oligosaccharides in beans and legumes, fiber in nuts, and trypsin inhibitors in soy can make these difficult to digest and may increase gas production if not soaked, sprouted, or cooked before blending. Stick to small amounts of these nutritious additions or prepare them properly to reap benefits without excess gas.
Adding a splash of soda water or another carbonated drink into a smoothie may provide some fizz and flavor. However, the carbon dioxide released from the dissolved gas can lead to belching, bloating, and other undesirable symptoms. Avoid carbonated mix-ins or let them lose the fizz before adding to smoothies.
High FODMAP Foods
The low FODMAP diet is often used to manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive issues sensitive to short-chain carbohydrates that can cause gas production. High FODMAP fruits like apples, pears, watermelon, and mango are common smoothie ingredients, as well as high FODMAP vegetables including onions, garlic, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Those with IBS may see reduced gas by avoiding blending multiple high FODMAP items.
Liquid Calorie Overload
Smoothies allow you to drink a large number of calories quickly through blended whole fruits and veggies along with yogurt, milk, nut butters, juice, sweeteners, and other mix-ins. Consuming more calories than your body can handle, especially in liquid form, can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to gas, bloating, diarrhea, and cramping. Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid an abrupt calorie overload.
How to Prevent Gas From Smoothies
While smoothies do commonly cause gas for some people, there are ways you can alter ingredients and preparation to still enjoy your blended beverage without unpleasant symptoms:
– Use non-dairy milks like almond, coconut, oat, or soy milk if lactose intolerant
– Limit high-fiber fruits like apples, pears, bananas, and mango to 1-2 servings
– Avoid cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
– Go easy on high-fructose fruits like dates, watermelon, and pears
– Stay under 30 grams of total fiber per smoothie
– Limit serving size to 16-24 oz smoothie
– Reduce or nix carbonated ingredients
– Use spinach instead of kale for lower gas veggies
– Try digestive enzymes or Beano to help break down compounds
– Slowly acclimate to increase tolerance of beans/legumes
– Properly prepare nuts/seeds/legumes before adding
– Avoid excessive artificial sweeteners
– Use probiotic yogurt or kefir to support digestion
– Blend in ginger, fennel, peppermint or chamomile to reduce gas
The Bottom Line
Smoothies can be a nutritious and delicious meal or snack, but some ingredients may increase gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort in sensitive individuals. Paying attention to your own tolerance levels and moderating or avoiding gas-producing foods can allow you to keep enjoying smoothies without undesirable symptoms. Focus on balanced nutrition, smaller portions, and proper food combining and preparation to get the benefits without the gas.