How to Reduce Bloating
Abdominal bloating is no fun—to put it plainly.
One bad bloating day can leave you canceling plans and, instead, scouring for home remedies and trying anything to make the belly go down. Whether this is something you deal with occasionally or regularly, there is good news: You don’t have to live with it permanently.
By understanding the root causes of bloating, you can learn how to reduce bloating now and prevent bloating in the future.
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What Causes Bloating
So what is the dreaded bloat most of us know too well?
Bloating is a feeling of tightness and fullness in your stomach that you’re probably all too familiar with. But not all tightness in the belly is bloating. Bloating has become a catch-all term for a lot of internal feelings and external appearances. However, not everything you call bloating is the real deal.
Dr. Linda Lee, M.D. cautions patients not to confuse an internal feeling of fullness with the external reality of a protruding belly. While bloating and distension (enlarging of the belly) go hand in hand, the stomach sticking out more than usual isn’t necessarily the same as bloating.
There are a lot of normal, non-bloating-related reasons that your stomach might protrude. According to Dr. Lee, as your stomach fills with food or stool throughout the day it appears more full because, well, it is.
In other words, a little extra belly by the afternoon is totally normal. Bloating, however, may not be.
How Do You Know If You're Bloated?
Not sure if you’re experiencing bloating or not? A general rule of thumb is that if your stomach looks fuller, but you feel fine, then it’s probably normal daily changes in your digestive tract. The key sign to look for is those internal feelings of fullness and tightness.
It’s essential to determine if you’re actually experiencing bloating so that you can receive proper treatment. That treatment can range from a doctor’s visit to a diet change, depending on the cause behind your specific case of bloating.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine the cause of bloating because there is a wide range of potential influences and explanations.
Bloating Cause #1: Constipation
Constipation is a common cause of bloating, but many people don’t realize that chronic bloating can be a result of ongoing constipation. Even if you have regular bowel movements, you could still suffer from constipation. Look for signs such as:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Hard stool during a bowel movement
- Not feeling finished after a bowel movement
Constipation will cause pain and bloating because as your stool sits in your colon, the bacteria begins to ferment and create gas.
Bloating Cause #2: Food Intolerances
One of the most common causes of bloating is food intolerance. Food intolerances might seem rare, but recent research from the Mayo Clinic estimated that an astonishing one-fifth of the population has a food intolerance on some level.
Here’s what’s happening inside the body when you have food intolerances:
- You eat food that your body doesn’t digest well.
- The undigested food or nutrients travel to your colon
- The bacteria in he colon ferment the undigested nutrients
- A byproduct of that fermentation is gas.
- Your digestive tract feels full and uncomfortable because of the gas.
Sound familiar? It’s a cycle many of us dread. It is also very different from the typical food allergy. Rather than an allergic reaction, your body suffers from digestive distress and bloating.
Bloating Cause #3: Gut-Brain Interaction Disorders
Your gut and brain are connected by complex neural pathways. To begin to parse the complexity of the gut-brain connection, we need to first define two disorders:
- Gut-Brain Interaction Disorders – These disorders include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic idiopathic constipation, pelvic floor dysfunction, functional dyspepsia, functional bloating.
- Sensory Disorders – Sensory disorders include IBS, migraines, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.
Many patients with gut-brain interaction disorders also have sensory disorders. Some researchers believe that these patients perceive the sensation of their body overproducing gas, which can then cause symptomatic bloating.
Anxiety, depression, somatization, and hypervigilance may contribute to this visceral sensory disorder.
Bloating Cause #4: Abnormal Viscerosomatic Reflex
It’s a tongue-twister, but the viscerosomatic reflex contracts and relaxes the muscles within your abdominal wall as well as your diaphragm. This movement allows gas to move in and out of your body. When you have an abnormal viscerosomatic reflex, these muscles don’t contract and relax correctly, creating a build-up of gas that can cause bloating and distension.
Bloating Cause #5: Gastroparesis
As many as 40 percent of people with diabetes have gastroparesis, a condition that delays your stomach from emptying. Women are also four times more likely than men to suffer from gastroparesis. Bloating, nausea, and bowel blockages are all unfortunate consequences of this condition.
The mechanisms of gastroparesis are not fully understood; however, the predominant hypothesis is that an inflammatory or autoimmune response causes it.
Bloating Cause #6: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is commonly referred to as SIBO. While most people don’t have a lot of bacteria within their small intestine, certain people have a bacterial overgrowth that can cause bloating. People who might develop SIBO include:
- Those who have had intestinal surgery
- Those who have IBS with diarrhea
Other Bloating Causes: What Else Could Cause Bloating?
There are many more potential causes of bloating from gynecological issues to celiac disease to hypothyroidism. That’s why it’s essential that you seek the advice of a medical doctor and ensure that you’re using the right tactics to say goodbye to your bloat for good.
How to Get Rid of Bloating
It’s easy to plan for the future to prevent bloating down the line, but you’re probably wondering what helps with bloating now. We put together are a few tips and tricks to get rid of bloating as soon as possible. Here are some natural bloating remedies:
- Eat Slower – Both overeating and swallowing air will make you feel bloated. The solution is simple: eat slower. Have a sip of water every so often as you eat so that your stomach has time to send a fullness signal to your brain and so that you’re not swallowing air from eating too fast.
- Give Yourself a Massage – Massaging your belly bloat helps to move trapped air and gas through your digestive tract. Use gentle, circular and downward motions for two to three minutes.
- Relax and Rewind – Too much stress can have unintended consequences with your digestion. Take some time to relax. You can meditate, journal, watch some TV, take a bath, take a walk, or anything else that will help you lower your stress levels.
- Make a Cup of Tea – Peppermint may help with digestion, IBS symptoms, gas, and bloating because it can cause your muscles to relax. This allows gas or anything else in your digestive tract to move through more smoothly. One of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to consume peppermint is through a steaming hot cup of peppermint tea.
How to Stop Bloating
So now you have figured out how to relieve bloating. Once you’ve achieved bloating relief, you’ll want to turn your attention to how to reduce bloating long-term. There is a wide range of treatment options to manage and prevent bloating, dietary changes being one of the most important and testable.
As always, remember to consult with your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.
Bloating and Diet
There are certain foods that contain types of carbs known as FODMAP, or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These FODMAP carbs include:
- Oligosaccharides – You’ll find these in wheat, onions, garlic, legumes, and beans.
- Disaccharides – Lactose is a disaccharide, which makes lactose-containing foods (dairy foods) like milk, yogurt, and ice cream fair game.
- Monosaccharides – Fructose can be found in honey, apples, pears, and more.
- Polyols – Sorbitol and mannitol can be found naturally in foods like apricots, nectarines, plums, and cauliflower or as an artificial sweetener in gum and candy.
So what’s the problem?
These carbohydrates aren’t always fully absorbed in the small intestine. When they’re not, they move on to the colon where they are fermented by bacteria, creating gas.
A low FODMAP diet is one helpful treatment strategy. Before removing FODMAPs from your diet, talk with your dietitian. Together, you can test whether you’re sensitive to any of these foods by removing them from your diet and gradually reintroducing them. If your bloating returns, you’ll know the FODMAP foods were the culprit.
Other foods to avoid are carbonated beverages, processed foods, and chewing gum.
Find Bloating Relief with Probiotics
A bloated belly will never be a cause for celebration, but there are many treatment and prevention options, starting with a healthy lifestyle. A mindful diet and stress reduction are both ways that you can feel better inside and out.
From there, Bio-K+® products can be used to bolster your healthy lifestyle.
Our formulated drinkables and probiotic products can help restore digestive balance and get you back to feeling like yourself. Say goodbye to bloating once and for all, and say hello to Bio-K+.
Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/bloating-causes-and-prevention-tips. Published date unknown. Accessed June 14, 2021.
Understanding and managing chronic abdominal bloating and distension. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/digestive-diseases/news/understanding-and-managing-chronic-abdominal-bloating-and-distension/mac-20511032. Published April 17, 2021. Accessed June 14, 2021.
Toria Sheffield. 7 Overnight Hacks To Cure Bloating, According To A Dietician. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/7-bloating-cures-that-work-overnight-according-to-a-dietician-3654610. Published September 3, 2019. Accessed June 14, 2021.
Lisa Ryan. Will Peppermint Make Me Feel Less Bloated? The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2017/05/peppermint-tea-bloating-remedies.html. Published May 9, 2017. Accessed June 14, 2021.
Dukowicz AC, Lacy BE, Levine GM. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2007 Feb;3(2):112-22. PMID: 21960820; PMCID: PMC3099351.