Stomach bloating is uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. There’s often a sensation like your midsection is being stretched, swollen, and stuffed to the brim—even if you didn’t go back for second helpings. Bloating can also make your stomach appear bigger or more distended than normal. The discomfort can make it hard to focus, relax, or enjoy life until it passes.
If your stomach bloats from time to time, you’re probably wondering: what causes bloating, and how can you find relief? Keep reading for bloat-busting tips.
What Causes Bloating?
Most cases of occasional bloating are caused by what you’re eating or the physical environment within your digestive system.
The primary cause of bloating is excess gas trapped in your digestive system. There are a few ways this extra gas gets into your system:
Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow excess air.
Overeating can tax your digestive system and cause your body to produce more gas as it works to digest large quantities of food.
The bacteria in your intestines, known as your gut microbiome, help break down the food you eat and normally produce gas as a byproduct of carbohydrate digestion. An unbalanced microbiome is a contributing factor to frequent bloating.
Your digestive system struggles to break down foods you’re sensitive to, so individuals with food sensitivities and intolerances are more likely to experience gassiness and bloating after eating the offending foods.
Many people are sensitive to a group of short-chain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are known for producing excess gas. This is because they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. FODMAPs are found in foods like dairy products, certain grains, legumes, artificial sweeteners, and fruits and vegetables like onions, apples, garlic, and asparagus.
Other factors that can cause bloating include:
- Hormonal fluctuations/menstrual cycle
- High stress levels
How to Relieve Bloating
Here are a few tips to help you reduce and relieve belly bloating:
Drink water and herbal teas.
Fluids help move food and waste through your intestines more efficiently, so they don’t become trapped. There’s evidence that herbal teas that are made with fresh ginger or peppermint oil can help improve bloating symptoms.
Try over-the-counter antacids.
These medications may provide short-term relief in some situations by helping to break up large gas bubbles stuck in your digestive system so you can pass them with ease.
Take a walk.
Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re bloated, but moving can help move gas and waste through your intestines.
Eat fiber-rich foods.
Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and legumes helps maintain your gut microbiome, move food through the intestines, and promote regular bowel movements.
Look for food sensitivities.
If you suspect a certain food is the reason behind your bloat, such as FODMAPs, you can try an elimination diet to see if your bloat subsides or speak with a registered dietitian for support.
Start a daily probiotic.
Bloating can be a sign your gut is in need of extra nourishment. Probiotics help support a balanced gut bacteria, normal digestion, and lessen bloating. Look for a supplement that contains bacterial strains matched to your needs, such as Dr. Formulated Probiotics for Gas and Bloating.
Bloating should improve within a few hours or overnight. If home remedies don’t work or you’re regularly experiencing bloating no matter what you eat, schedule a check-up to talk with your doctor about what you’re experiencing.
You should see a doctor immediately if a bout of bloating gets worse no matter what you try and/or is accompanied by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms.
Bloating often occurs in response to eating too quickly, eating too much, or eating foods that don’t agree with you. Habits that promote good digestion, like staying hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods, taking probiotics, and getting regular exercise, can help break the cycle of bloating.
Some people may need to take prevention a step further and limit or eliminate foods they’re sensitive to. A registered dietitian trained in gastrointestinal health can help you pinpoint food sensitivities and come up with a meal plan that meets your nutrient needs.