Maybe you are perpetually bloated and have reached the point where you’re so used to it, you’ve forgotten that it’s an actual problem and not supposed to be a fact of life. Or maybe you’re bloated now and then, and just can’t seem to figure out what’s causing your belly to balloon.
There are a few reasons bloating can happen just when you don’t want it to. Special event? You’re doing something different. Find out what it is and what is causing you to bloat. Eating healthily? There are a few culprits there too. All manner of drinks can also cause bloating. Even the most innocuous of things may trigger bloating, not in everyone, but maybe it’s the root cause of your bloated belly. Also, there are a lot of steps you can take to prevent bloating, pre-empt bloating or treat bloating. Wanna know all there is to know? Read on.
1. Avoid Carbonated Drinks
Fizzy drinks are of course full of gas. And where are all those cute little bubbles going to end up? Yep, you got that right, they release carbon dioxide gas into your stomach. So, cut down on carbonated drinks and beer and swap carbonated water for mineral water.
2. Don’t drink through a straw
Yes, using a straw to sip acidic drinks such as fruit juices and sodas has the benefit reducing contact between the drink and teeth, which decreases the risk of tooth decay and cavities. But if bloating is an issue, step away from the straw now. Sipping your drink through a straw causes you to swallow extra air, causing bloating.
3. High-Acid Drinks
Were we not just talking about those? Not only do acidic beverages cause tooth decay, but according to the Flat Belly Diet, alcohol, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and acidic fruit juices can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, causing swelling. You don’t have to cut them out entirely, reducing your intake to a minimum will do.
4. Drink Water to Beat the Bloat
Mild dehydration is bloating. You should be drinking about 8 glasses of water a day to be sufficiently hydrated, more if you’re exercising or lead an active lifestyle. Providing your body with adequate amounts of water restores the body’s sodium balance, which will help your body ward against water retention. Drinking water will also flush your digestive tract, keep it moving and reduce constipation. Plus, water is calorie free. If you’re not a fan of plain water, especially flat/ mineral water (no fizzy water allowed!), try Sassy Water (see next) or herbal tea.
5. Infused Water
The popular book Flat Belly Diet advocates drinking about 8 glasses of sassy water to help calm and soothe your gastrointestinal tract and ward off bloating. Sassy water recipe:
- 2 liters water (about 8 ½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
- 12 small spearmint leaves.
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and allow to steep overnight. Drink the entire pitcher by the end of each day.
6. Skip chewing gum & hard candy to stop bloating
This may not be an obvious cause of bloating, but chewing gum and sucking on hard candy causes you to swallow more air than what is normal. Air gets trapped in you gut, increases pressure and can make you bloat. Not only that, but gums and mints that are sugar-free often contain certain sugar alcohols that in and of itself can cause bloating.
7. Reduce Salt Intake to Get Rid of Bloating
For the same reasons you should drink more water, so you should reduce your salt intake. Salt makes the body retain water, causing bloating. Foods of which to be particularly aware are packaged foods, processed foods, canned foods and restaurant meals. These foods tend to be incredibly high in salt to make them tasty. Endeavor to prepare fresh meals at home, as much as you can. Also, try swapping your normal table salt for natural sea slat or koscher salt which are lower in sodium. Before you try to grab a condiment to flavor your food, you should know that soy sauce is also very high in sodium and can cause bloating. Instead, go for fresh garlic, peppers, herbs and spices to make your meals scrumptious and flavorsome.
8. No more gassy veggies?
Unfortunately, a lot of healthy foods can cause bloating. Raffinose found in many vegetables is an indigestible carb will cause you to expand like a Michilin Man. Humans do not possess the enzyme needed to break down this complex carbohydrate, but the gas-producing bacteria that live in our colon do. In the process of breaking down this carbohydrate, the bacteria release carbon dioxide, methane and/ or hydrogen. Basically, the carbohydrate ferments in your colon, producing gas and intestinal distress, though people are affected to varying degrees. Vegetables that’ll bloat you are legumes and cruciferous vegetables, which include:
- Brussels sprouts
If you like eating these healthy foods and want to continue eating them (as you should!), supplement with an over-the-counter digestive aid such as “Beano”, which contains that missing enzyme. This allows you to break down the indigestible carbohydrate before those pesky, gas-producing bacteria in your gut can get their hands on it. Ergo, less (or no) gas!
9. Eat slowly. Don’t Gulp
You may swallow excess air if you eat or drink too fast, talk while you eat. Often, when you eat quickly, you take in large gulps of air which gets trapped in your digestive system and causes bloating. Eat slowly. Try to make meals relaxed occasions. Eating when you’re stressed or on the run, it can interfere with digestion 10. Hide the caffeine Caffeine may over-stimulate the gut, causing it to puff up and bloat.Try to cut back on caffeine-laden drinks such as coffee, tea, chocolate and cola. 11. Cut back on Fatty Foods to Prevent Bloating
Fatty foods, especially fried foods, can cause bloating because fat delays stomach emptying, which also increases the sensation of fullness and the feeling of heaviness after eating. Cut back on fatty foods and make sure that the fat you do eat are of the healthy sort – monounsaturated fatty acids (aka MUFA). This type of healthy fat is found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
12. Less Alcohol Please
Yes, alcohol can make bloating worse. Firstly, alcohol is dehydrating and constipating, which exacerbates bloating. Secondly, many alcoholic drinks are carbonated (e.g. beer, cider, fizzy mixers and champagne of course), which will puff you up like a balloon. Stay off the carbonated alcohol and remember to rehydrate with some water before you head for bed.
13. Spicy Foods
Hot spicy foods are associated with bloating, especially if you are not used to it. Foods seasoned with black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, chilli powder, hot sauce, onions, garlic, mustard or horseradish may irritate the stomach and cause bloating.
14. Throw out the Sugar substitutes
Sugar substitutes such as xylitol, manitol, maltitol, isomalt, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol tend to be found in sweet-tasting products marketed as low-calorie, low-carb or sugar-free such as gum, cookies, snack bars, hard candy and flavored water beverages. While it does help you cut back on calories, it remains longer in your digestive tract where it is broken down and fermented by bacteria, playing havoc with your gut. The result can be excessive gas, abdominal distention, bloating and even diarrhea.
15. Tolerate Milk?
Milk contains a natural sugar known as lactose. The enzyme that breaks down lactose, is known as lactase. People who are lactose intolerant lack enough of the enzyme lactase and are therefore unable to complete digest lactose. It is the undigested lactose that causes cramping and gas. Lactose intolerance in fairly common, and as we get older we are more likely to become lactose intolerant. Not all dairy contains a lot of lactose. Dairy products such as cheese and yogurt can have very low levels of lactose, because much of it is broken down during processing. In any case, people tend to suffer with varying degrees of lactose intolerance, with many able to eat cheese and take small amounts of milk (with coffee for example). Your family practioner will be able to test very easily for lactose intolerance.
16. To Beat the Bloat: Dietary fiber
In some cases dietary fiber or the type of fiber used to treat constipation may cause bloating. It does this without actually increasing the amount gas in the digestive tract. It is thought that bloating arises from the fiber slowing the movement of gas through the bowels. However, some types of fiber may also directly increase the amount of air because they are partially digested by the bacteria that live in the colon.
Eating little and often is easier on your body and allows your digestive system to break down and assimilate food more easily, which will reduce bloating. Remember that your stomach is only about the size of your fist; eating large meals means you’re overloading and stretching it. Reduce your portion sizes and aim to eat between 4 and 6 smaller meals throughout the day. If eating that often seems fussy, simplify it by going for 3 main, but smaller meals, and 2 snacks (containing protein and carbs) between meals.
18. Eat Potassium-Rich Foods to Help Stop Bloating
Fluid balance in the body is regulated by sodium and potassium levels. Potassium helps the kidneys to excrete more sodium, while sodium causes the body to retain water. Basically, potassium helps relief bloating by reducing water retention. Fruits and vegetables that are packed with potassium include:
19. Eat Balanced – Macronutrient ratios
Eat balanced meals. Try not to cut out fat, protein or carbs excessively. The best way of eating is in moderation. Too little protein may cause bloating, too much fat slows digestion and puffs you up, too many carbs promote water retention.
20. Big Event?
Got a big event coming up? It’s today or tomorrow and you really want to make sure your tummy is flat as it can possibly be, then you’ll want to cut back on bulky raw foods. Bulky raw foods, e.g. carrots, provide a similar level of nutrition as cooked, but take up a whole lot more room in your tummy. So, rather than eating bulky foods that will expand your tummy more than necessary, go with cooked vegetables and small portions of fruit/ dried fruit. If you’re on a beach vacation and want to avoid looking bloated on the beach, skip the bulky foods for lunch and have them for dinner instead.
21. Walk after eating to get rid of gas!
Walking may be the last thing you feel like doing after a nice meal, but a brief five-minute walk will help release any air trapped in your digestive tract. If you’re eating small meals 5 times a day, a post-meal walk is less necessary, but certainly wont hurt and you’ll burn a few extra calories!
22. Step Away from the Cigarettes!
Smoking causes a lot of things, but this time it’s not the chemicals in the cigarette that’s causing the trouble. When you inhale during smoking, you also inhale and swallow extra air. It’s as simple as that.
23. Mind your Stress Levels to Stop Stomach Bloating
I know. Stress always causes something bad. While stress can help you get things done, it does come with a bevy of healthy related problems, especially if you’re suffering with chronic stress. When you’re stressed your body releases hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” response, which basically makes you more awesome to ensure your survival. But what also happens is that the body diverts resources away from non-essential organs, such as the digestive system, to your heart, brain and muscles instead. Thus, your digestive system slows down considerably; the last meal you ate lingers a lot longer in your gut, which causes you to bloat. Beat stress through relaxation techniques and/ or daily physical exercise. Exercise reduces stress hormones and releases happy hormones (endorphins).
24. Calcium for PMT Bloating
Bloating, abdominal fullness and feeling gaseous can all be symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). If you think your bloating is related to PMS, calcium may help. Supplementing with calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 just before you know you’re going to suffer with PMS will help ward of bloating. Also, drink plenty of fluids to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
25. Natural remedies to Reduce or Prevent Bloating
- PARSLEY. A natural diuretic that helps reduce bloating.
- ACTIVATED-CHARCOAL CAPLETS (sold at most drugstores).
- PROBIOTICS. Help break down food, preventing bloating and gas.
- PREBIOTICS. Encourages the growth and/or activity of friendly gut bacteria.
- TEA. Peppermint, camomile, and fennel tea can relieve gas and bloating. Also, try lemon/ lime in hot water.
- PINEAPPLE. Is high in the enzyme bromelain, which breaks down protein and thus aids the digestive process.
- GINGER. Grate some fresh ginger, put it in a pan with water, bring to the boil and you’re made fresh ginger tea, which can be incredibly effective in relieving bloating.
- BITTER ORANGE TEA, relieves bloating, as well as belching.
- CARAWAY & PEPPERMINT OIL capsules calms the stomach and reduces bloating.
26. Excessive stomach gas from bacteria
Common causes of bloating include Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation. However, there are a few other causes of bloating. For chronic bloating you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
There are several reasons that the bacteria in the gut may produce excessive amounts of gas causing bloating:
The amount of gas bacteria produce varies from individual to individual.
Some people may have more bacteria or bacteria that produce more gas.
Poor digestion/ absorption of food in the small intestine.
This means more undigested food reaches the bacteria that live the colon. And the more undigested food the bacteria have to feast on, the more gas they produce. Poor digestion/ absorption of food in the small intestine may be caused by:
- Lactose intolerant (lactose is found in dair products)
- Sorbitol intolerant (sorbitol is commonly used sweetener in low calorie foods)
- Fructose intolerant (fructose is commonly used sweetener, candies and drink)
- Pancreatic insufficiency (lack of enzymes that break down food)
- HCL deficiency (insufficient stomach acid)
- Celiac disease
Bacterial overgrowth can occur in the small intestine
Bacteria usually are confined to the colon (large bowel). However, sometimes bacteria spread into the small intestine (bowel). In the small bowel the food is still being digested, which means that the bacteria have a lot more undigested food on which to feast than they would in the colon, and that produces a lot of gas. This is known as Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO).
27. Air Swallowing
Air swallowing caused by:
1. Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes swallowing of air.
2. Swallowing air as a nervous habit.
28. Poorly functioning stomach/ intestinal muscles
In some people bloating may be due to the intestinal muscles not functioning properly, such that air is not transported through the digestive tract and expelled as it ought. Fats have a similar effect on the intestines. In both cases food, air and liquid accumulate causing bloating and/or distention.