The potential causes of bloating can vary drastically from person to person. It can often take trial and error to identify what the causes are. Over the years of working one on one with clients, I have had quite a few self-identify that rice causes them to bloat.
In this article, I will discuss common causes of bloating and why rice often is not the cause. It can be difficult to identify the cause, but rice is actually one of THE least common causes of bloating and other IBS symptoms, which is also part of why The Vertical Diet uses rice as the main carbohydrate source.
The gold standard when it comes to treating bloating is The Low FODMAP Diet. This is because high FODMAP foods are frequent causes of bloating and other IBS symptoms due to fermentation in our large intestine, which produces gas. This gave then causes expansion of the intestines.
Regardless of the type of rice, it is a low FODMAP food.
Some people are more sensitive to FODMAPs than others. There is also individual variation since some of these foods will cause symptoms for some people but not others.
A very brief list of high FODMAP foods includes:
For a more comprehensive guide, check out our FODMAP food list covering all common foods.
When you look at it like that, you will identify that quite a few of these foods could be common in rice-based dishes. For example, garlic and onion are high FODMAP foods that commonly trigger bloating.
From this perspective, it is easy to see why rice could be identified, even if it is not actually the cause. For example, let’s say you consume a meal at a restaurant that has garlic. You probably would not even think of the garlic as a potential cause, which is why rice could seem like the likely candidate.
It can be important to distinguish between being bloated and simply being full.
If you eat a large meal, you should expect to feel full. Your stomach likely will be distended. This is normal. It isn’t the same as being bloated.
If this feeling is solely related to eating a large portion of food, you should not be trying to identify ways to prevent it that are unrelated to portion size.
There could even be downsides to this, for example, there are potential negatives to following the low-FODMAP diet for an extended period of time without reintroducing foods.
The bacteria in our gut thrive on diversity and a lot of high FODMAP foods are also great prebiotics.
While FODMAPs appear to be the most common cause of bloating, food chemicals can also cause issues.
From my perspective, the gold standard is to trial a low-FODMAP diet first and if that doesn’t work, I would then try the RPAH Elimination Diet.
That being said, I am aware of at least one other prominent dietitian in this space who does things in reverse and trials the RPAH Elimination Diet first because they believe food chemicals are such a common cause as well.
Salicylates and amines are the most common types of food chemicals. Rice-based dishes often include other ingredients that are high in these compounds. For example, certain sauces are going to be high in amines and salicylates.
With both FODMAPs and food chemicals, there is somewhat of a threshold level as seen in the image below.
By individual foods in small amounts might not cause symptoms, but the combination of foods and/or larger portion sizes can trigger symptoms or increase the severity.
This threshold effect makes it even more difficult to identify foods via trial and error alone.
Using the above example in the image, if an individual experienced that situation, they would likely pinpoint the chocolate as the cause of symptoms. But this would make things more confusing down the line when those other foods caused symptoms.
That is why it is beneficial to undertake these diets properly, with guidance from a professional, or at a minimum, doing thorough research first.
If you have a particularly high fibre intake from a meal or spread across the day, this could also contribute to bloating.
Fibre is an indigestible form of carbohydrate. If you dramatically increase your fibre intake, it often leads to an increase in gas production, which leads to bloating.
Since fibre has a lot of benefits, it is a good idea to have a decent amount of it each day. The trick is to slowly increase your intake over time.
One concern some people have is that different types of rice can have different fibre contents. Brown rice has more fibre than white rice, for example.
Although brown rice is higher in fibre than white rice, that does not make it high in fibre. One cup of cooked brown rice still only contains ~3.5g of fibre.
The recommended daily intake in Australia for men is 30g and 25g for women. When it is put into context like that, even brown rice is not high fibre enough to be causing issues. White rice has almost no fibre.
One Way Rice COULD Cause Bloating – Resistant Starch
Resistant starch is found in rice that has been cooked and then cooled. This includes if it is re-heated later for leftovers.
It is found in a lot of other options such as unripe bananas and cooked and cooled potatoes, among other things.
Typically people talk about the health benefits of resistant starch. It is usually a good thing.
But if either you are particularly sensitive to resistant starch, or you rapidly increase your intake of it, there is a good chance it could contribute to bloating.
The mechanism for this is that resistant starch quite literally is resistant to digestion. When it reaches the large intestine, bacteria feed on it which can produce gas.
This mechanism is the same reason it has positive adaptations, such as increased production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. But it also explains why some people might experience bloating from rice in some cases.
Rice Typically Does Not Cause Bloating
While I would not completely rule out rice as a cause of bloating, and it is possible, there are so many other options that are far more likely to cause bloating. It would be worth addressing the other areas identified in this article prior to pinpointing rice as the culprit.
Rice is one of the least likely foods to cause bloating, but it is frequently consumed alongside other foods and ingredients that are common causes of symptoms. It can be difficult to identify these causes though, so it is worth undertaking the proper protocols to identify triggers since trial and error can be quite misleading.