Bloating: 15 Causes And Expert Tips to Get Rid of Bloating
Your belly feels like a blown-up balloon. You look six months pregnant (but aren’t). Your gas is out of control. You might be bloated. And while you can easily brush it off as no big deal, bloating is uncomfortable, can affect your day (and even self-confidence), and may be a sign of a larger health problem. Here’s your guide for why it’s happening and what you can do to get rid of bloating for good.
What is Bloating?
The word “bloated,” is used to mean many things. You can feel bloated before your period. You can wake up after a meal of pizza and beer bloated. Or, your stomach can stick out a bit after you’ve chowed down on a big salad with lots of raw veggies. But what is bloating, really, and what does bloating feel like?
“Bloating is a condition that happens when your gastrointestinal tract gets filled up with air or gas,” says gastroenterologist Supriya Rao, MD. “You feel full and if there’s no more room in your stomach, and you can also visually see the effects of bloating. Patients will say that they look pregnant or their clothes feel tight,” she explains.
This type of bloating is different from when you feel puffy after retaining water, which can happen around your period or after eating a salty meal. With water retention, you may see a difference on the scale from extra water weight, and this type of bloating can affect your whole body (not just your abdomen). Abdominal distention, on the other hand, is a telltale sign of bloating from this buildup of gas in your GI tract.
Bloating vs Fat
What’s the difference between bloating vs fat? Bloating is not the same as weight gain. Bloating is temporary, while weight gain will stick around, and you will see a measurable and lasting increase when you step on the scale.
It can often be tough to identify what your body is going through. If you’re wondering ‘how do I know if I’m bloated?’ here are several symptoms of bloating to watch for:
- Feeling of tightness, pressure, or fullness after eating
- Abdominal distension (visible swelling in your belly)
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Gas or burping frequently
- Stomach gurgling
What Causes A Bloated Stomach?
Bloating is often a sign that something more is going on in your body that needs to be looked at, from medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome to dietary habits, here’s what causes bloating in the stomach:
IBS and Bloating
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects 20 percent of US adults, most often women who are younger than age 50, according to the Office on Women’s Health. While there is no known cause, symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Sound like you? To help ease digestive issues that can arise after eating, try HUM’s Flatter Me, which contains enzymes that help your body better digest food to reduce bloating.
Imbalanced Gut Bacteria
Your gut microbiome is a collection of microbes in the digestive system that plays a role in whole-body health, including sleep, brain function, mood, immunity, and healthy aging. Certain eating habits and behaviors, such as drinking too much alcohol or consuming too many processed foods, can contribute to gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria. Taking a probiotic, such as HUM’s Gut Instinct, can boost good bacteria.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Another type of bacterial imbalance, SIBO is an overgrowth of the bacteria in the small intestine that creates more gas and can affect nutrient absorption, according to Cleveland Clinic. “For whatever reason, bacteria from the colon proliferate in the small intestine, and when that happens, you can have diarrhea and bloating,” says Dr. Rao. SIBO is common in people who have IBS.
Lack of Digestive Enzymes
Your body naturally contains a host of digestive enzymes for bloating that help your body break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you eat into energy, and these enzymes are also necessary for nutrient absorption and comfort after meals. Without enough of these enzymes, you’re more likely to have bits of undigested food sitting around in your intestines, where they can ferment and cause gas, which is where you may notice bloating after eating.
This is another time where HUM’s Flatter Me, a blend of 18 full-spectrum digestive enzymes, plus ginger, peppermint leaf, and fennel seed, may help support healthy digestion to reduce bloating.
Too Many Processed Foods
When it comes to bloating causes, you may notice that every time you have a busy season where you’re relying too much on processed and fast foods, you experience bloating more often. Processed foods are a triple whammy on your digestion. First, they provide sodium that can cause water retention, so you feel puffy. They also typically have added sugar, which feeds the bad bacteria in your GI tract. Finally, they may contain sweeteners that contribute to excessive gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners are a big culprit of bloating, specifically sugar alcohols, says Dr. Rao. “When these sugar alcohols interact with gut bacteria, it can cause bloating,” she says.
Celiac disease is a digestive and immune disorder that’s triggered by eating gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Over time, this damages the small intestine and can contribute to severe nutrient deficiencies. GI symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, foul-smelling stools, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain. Your doctor can test you for Celiac disease with a simple blood test.
You may be getting bloated because your body doesn’t agree with what you’re eating. Dairy—or lactose intolerance—is a common intolerance where you cannot completely digest milk sugar called lactose, leading to diarrhea, gas, and bloating, notes Mayo Clinic. Similarly, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (an intolerance to gluten) can also leave you with bloating, gas, diarrhea/constipation, as well as non-GI symptoms, such as headache, nausea, and brain fog, according to Beyond Celiac. Doing an elimination diet is one of the best ways to discover food sensitivities or intolerances.
Eating more than is comfortable—something we all do (hello, Thanksgiving and birthdays)—happens, but it can leave you with digestive discomfort and a need to unbutton your pants. Though HUM’s Flatter Me cannot fully fix bouts of overeating, it can help your body break down food and contains fennel seed, a common after-meal digestive.
Constipation is one of the most common causes of bloating, says gut health specialist Heather Finley, DCN, RD. Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week or stools that are hard, dry, or difficult to pass, according to the NIDDK. You may also feel as if you’re not having full or complete BMs. “That can cause you to go to bed bloated—and also wake up bloated,” she says.
The longer stool hangs out in your colon, the longer bacteria is fermenting in your intestines, leading to more gas and painful bloating, says Dr. Rao. Addressing constipation with some of the remedies mentioned below, such as upping fiber intake, drinking more water, and fitting in more physical activity will help keep your stool moving so you can stay comfortable.
Acid Reflux or GERD
We all get reflux every so often, like when you sit down to a large plate of pasta smothered in tomato sauce. Reflux happens when food and acid bubble back up into your esophagus, which can feel like heartburn, explains the University of Chicago Medicine. If it happens often, you may have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can be serious and increases the risk of cancer. Along with heartburn, GERD causes other symptoms, such as bloating, chest pain, belching, nausea, and more.
Eating too Fast
Digestion starts in the mouth, and one of the best things you can do to help out your GI system is to chew your food completely before swallowing, says Finley. You should be chewing your food to applesauce consistency and taking 15 to 20 minutes to eat, she recommends. Faster than that leaves your stomach with large pieces of food that cause bloating and make digestion more difficult and result in swallowing more air, creating the perfect recipe for bloating.
Foods that Cause Bloating
Stomach bloating and pain may be because of perfectly healthy foods you’re eating. And that can be completely normal. Let’s say you ate a huge plate of broccoli and cauliflower—bloating is a normal response to eating gas-forming cruciferous veggies, and your belly should deflate again in a couple of hours, or at least by the time you wake up after sleeping, says Finley. Other healthy foods that cause bloating include raw veggies, garlic and onion, and beans. Some people even report coffee causing bloating.
What Foods Cause Bloating?
- Brussels sprouts
- Raw vegetables
- Sparkling Water
- Artificial sweeteners
What is period bloating?
One of the symptoms of PMS (btw, over 90 percent of women say they have PMS) is bloating. This type of bloating will predictably show up around your period. Tracking your cycle can help you prepare for PMS symptoms. If bloating is severe, Office on Women’s Health says that you may consider diuretics (also called water pills). Talk to your doctor to find out if this is an appropriate option for you.
How long does period bloating last?
Period bloating can last for one to two weeks before your period begins. It will typically subside in a day or two when your period begins. Some women may not experience bloating and some may only have it for a shorter time period.
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition where the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. This is painful, but to no fault of their own, many women chalk this up to regular period pains. It’s not. Severe bloating is one symptom—dubbed ‘endo belly’—but other symptoms include pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and infertility, according to Johns Hopkins.
“One of the biggest things people forget when they have bloating is to ask themselves if they are stressed,” says Finley. For example, do you notice that you’re constantly bloated during the week but not on weekends?
When you’re stressed, your body will divert blood from your gut to the muscles in order to give your body the best chance at running away from the perceived threat. Of course, these days you can’t run or hide from your inbox, but your body—and GI tract—reacts all the same. “Stress leads to lower saliva production, lower stomach acid production, lower enzyme output, and slower gut motility,” Finley says. In addition, during times of stress, you may not be drinking enough water, eating healthy fiber-rich meals, and exercising—all things that keep you regular.
How to Get Rid of Bloating?
Here’s the number one thing you want to know: ‘How to reduce bloating?’ Often, it’s not about the quick fix. “Many times when clients come to me, bloating is their number one concern. So many things contribute to bloating and constipation. While they want to learn how to relieve bloating, you have to get to the root cause and address that first before symptoms resolve,” says Finley. From supplements to home remedies, here’s what helps with bloating:
1. Address Underlying Medical Issues.
If you notice that you are bloated immediately after eating or bloat doesn’t go away, you’ll want to work with your doctor to uncover possible underlying medical issues for conditions like IBS, SIBO, or gynecological causes and seek treatment accordingly. Treating these issues is the only way to relieve bloating, but it will also help improve the range of symptoms that these conditions cause that can impact your quality of life so you can feel better in the long run.
2. Use Digestive Enzymes.
Enzymes can be helpful for some people depending on the underlying digestive issue, but since there are so many different kinds of digestive enzymes, it’s helpful to ask your GI doctor about what they recommend specifically for you, says Finley.
One good option is HUM’s Flatter Me, one of the more common bloating remedies that users say has decreased episodes of post-eating bloating, diminished gas, and generally helps them feel better after eating.
One note: Even though digestive enzymes can be a helpful supplement for bloating, you’ll still want to practice other bloat-banishing tactics, such as eating slower, chewing more thoroughly, and avoiding foods that bother your stomach for max comfort.
3. Incorporate Foods that Reduce Bloating.
Certain foods can help you feel better because they either work to flush out excess water in your body or naturally provide enzymes that aid in digestion. Try chewing fennel seeds after meals, incorporating papaya or pineapple as a dessert, and cooking with turmeric to see if any of those changes make you feel better.
What Are the Best Foods for Bloating?
Reducing foods that cause bloat is one of your best bets if you find yourself impacted by food bloat, but these are some of the best foods for bloating that can also help eliminate your symptoms:
- Fennel seeds
- Peppermint tea
4. Try Probiotics for Bloating.
When it comes to supplements for bloating, one of the most popular habits is popping a probiotic. The most important quality in a good probiotic is that yours contains the specific strain for your digestive condition, says Finley. Alone, a probiotic may not be the fix for bloating, since chronic bloating is often multifactorial and multiple causes need to be considered, she explains.
However, you may find that you feel really good taking a probiotic. HUM’s Gut Instinct contains 10 strains of bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to promote a diverse microbiome and good digestion.
5. Eat More Fiber.
The majority of Americans don’t get the fiber they need, according to the American Society for Nutrition. The recommendations differ depending on sex and age, but in general, women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day and men should aim for 38 grams per day. Interestingly, too much fiber too soon can trigger a bout of bloating, so add higher fiber food sources into your diet gradually, recommends Dr. Rao. “Eating enough fiber helps regulate your BMs and prevents constipation,” she says.
Finley recommends aiming for eating 30 plants per week, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, beans, and legumes. Cooked vegetables are easier on your digestion compared to raw, so prioritize steaming or roasting, especially when you’re upping your fiber intake in the beginning.
6. Exercise regularly
How to stop bloating after eating? Get up and get moving: Physical activity encourages gut motility to keep things running, says Dr. Rao. A good walking routine is a great place to start. If you find that you get bloated, take a walk after dinner rather than retiring to the couch.
7. Consider a low-FODMAP diet
A low-FODMAP diet is one where you temporarily eliminate high-FODMAP foods. FODMAPs are types of fermentable sugars such as fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols that may trigger GI symptoms, such as bloating and gas, in some people, especially those with IBS.
The low-FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet, though it’s not one designed to be a permanent change. That’s because it’s rather restrictive and, at the outset, eliminates many good-for-you foods, including many fruits, dairy, beans, certain vegetables, and whole grains that contain wheat.
With an elimination diet, the goal is to identify the foods and amounts that trigger GI symptoms and reintroduce the other foods in amounts that your body can comfortably digest. Staying on this strict diet for too long can negatively impact your microbiome, setting up a whole new problem, says Dr. Rao, so it’s important to talk to a doctor or dietitian with knowledge of the low-FODMAP diet who can help walk you through it safely and effectively.
8. Prepare your body for digestion
Managing stress and getting enough sleep are key for happy digestion. But if you’re feeling especially keyed up after a rough day, one trick Finley suggests is humming “Happy Birthday” twice when you sit down to the table before eating. Doing so “activates the vagus nerve, which gets your body into its ‘rest and digest’ state faster so you can digest food easier,” she says.
9. Try a peppermint or ginger tea for bloating
What tea helps with bloating? Consider peppermint or ginger. “Ginger tea is amazing for bloating and constipation. You can drink this in between meals,” says Finley. The rhizome has also been shown to decrease flatulence and reduce abdominal cramping, research shows.
In addition, peppermint tea can do the same if you like that flavor better. As for what to take for bloating, you can also purchase peppermint oil capsules over-the-counter, suggests Dr. Rao. “These can sometimes help with indigestion and bloating,” she says, as peppermint can calm stomach muscles and improve digestion.
After you’ve talked to your doctor and ruled out any underlying conditions that may be causing bloating, this quick bloating guide can help you remember some of the best ways to prevent bloating.
|Foods to Eat||Foods to Avoid||Best Supplements||Best Drinks||Best Activities|
|Fibrous foods||High-FODMAP foods||Probiotics||Peppermint tea||Regular exercise|
|Fennel seeds||Artificial sweeteners||Digestive enzymes||Ginger tea||Activate vagus nerve|
|Papaya||Garlic and onion||Water||Reduce stress with meditation, yoga|
|Bananas||Beans and lentils|
|Certain fruits: apples, pears, cherries mangoes, watermlon|