What causes bloating & fullness after meals?

Updated November 21, 2016

Feeling bloated of full after a meal is a natural occurrence during digestion, but both can be uncomfortable and painful in some instances. Bloating is usually the result of intestinal gas which accumulates during digestion of certain foods. The feeling of fullness, on the other hand, is usually the result of eating foods that are high in fibre.


Fullness, also called satiety, refers to the feeling of being full and satisfied after eating a meal. Dietary fibre, an essential nutrient found primarily in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, causes the feeling of fullness in the stomach after consumption. While not digestive in humans, dietary fibre provides weight and bulk, which signals to the stomach receptors and brain that the body has had enough and is full.


The terms bloating and bloated refer to the uncomfortable feeling that one's abdomen is larger than normal. Bloating is different from distension, however, where the abdomen actually is physically larger than normal. Distension and bloating are usually caused by the accumulation of gas in the digestive system though they may also be the symptoms of medical illness such as enlarged organs or an intra-abdominal tumour.

What Causes Gas & Bloating?

Gas, also known as flatulence, is caused by intestinal bacteria. Certain bacteria live in the colon and digest or ferment food that has not been previously absorbed by the small intestine. Digestive enzymes found in saliva, the digestive tract and some foods such as papayas, work to break down food so it can be absorbed by the small intestine. An absence or insufficient amount of these enzymes will impair absorption and cause food to be passed into the colon. There the colonic bacteria will break the food down, producing gas in the process. This leads to bloating, distension and flatulence.


Commerical supplements can help prevent and combat intestinal gas and bloating. Gas-X and Beano contain simethicone, a mixture of polydimethylsiloxane and silica gel that reduces bloating and digestive discomfort caused by gas in the stomach and intestines. Other supplements include Alka-Seltzer Anti-Gas, Anti-Gas Ultra Strength, Baby Gasz, Equilizer Gas Relief, Gas Aid Maximum Strength, Genasyme, Maalox Anti-Gas, Mylanta Gas, Mylicon, Mytab Gas and Phazyme.

Foods That Cause Bloating

Sugars, particularly sugar substitutes and by-products like sorbitol and fructose, digest poorly and cause intestinal gas and bloating. Starches such as wheat, oats, potatoes and corn, but not rice, can also be problematic. Often these foods may reach the colon and colonic bacteria undigested, which results in bloating. Many fruits and legumes, such as broccoli, celery, beans and lentils digest poorly, causing individuals to experience gas and bloating after consumption. This is due in part to their high soluble fibre content that keeps the food from being broken down until it reaches the colon. This delayed digestion results in intestinal gas.

High Fiber Foods

These high-fibre foods will cause fullness: whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, rye or whole wheat bread and whole grain cereals. Most vegetables contain a fair amount of fibre per serving, but the best sources for dietary fibre are found in turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, green peas, spinach, lettuce, celery, eggplant, cucumbers, grapefruits, sweet potatoes, beets and shitake mushrooms. Additionally, berries, including blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and blackberries, are excellent sources of fibre. Pears and bananas are also a good source of dietary fibre if their skin is left on. Dried fruits, particularly apricots and raisins, are also full of dietary fibre. Lastly, legumes, which include all beans and lentils, are high in fibre and low in fat. Try eating kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, black beans and soya beans.

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About the Author

Lindsay Nixon has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Vegetarian Times," "Women's Health Magazine" and online for The Huffington Post. She is also a published author, lawyer and certified personal trainer. Nixon has two Bachelors of Arts in classics and communications from the College of Charleston and a Juris Doctor from the New England School of Law.