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Why Do I Feel Bloated?

Updated: May 16, 2022

We've all enjoyed a night out with lots of delicious food (and maybe a cocktail or two) that resulted in an undesired amount of bloating the next day. There's nothing like unusually tight waistbands and major stomach discomfort to make you feel like crawling right back into bed. In many cases, it's not even about any potential weight gain—bloat just makes you feel, well, gross.

And, unfortunately, the cause of a bloated stomach can be hard to pinpoint. So many things can throw our bodies out of equilibrium and lead to belly bloat. For whatever reason we feel we could float away like a hot air balloon, there's no denying it's downright uncomfortable — and you're going to want to reduce bloating as quickly as possible.

Simply put, bloating refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. This can be caused by gas or food accumulation in the stomach. Bloating can also result from an accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine, which ferments food and creates gas that causes bloating. While there's nothing wrong with enjoying a tasty meal, there are some foods that may cause us to experience gastrointestinal disturbances, such as bloating.

Why Do I Feel Bloated?

  • Salt - Your body needs this, but most of us get more than we need. It makes you hold on to -- or retain -- water and can cause more serious health problems like high blood pressure. And, most of our salt comes from prepackaged and fast foods.

Too many carbs - Carbohydrates give your body fuel it can use quickly. But too many at once can make you retain water. And the faster the carbs get into your blood, the more likely that is. Simple carbs -- white bread, candy, pastries, and soft drinks -- enter your blood almost instantly. Complex carbs -- whole grains, fruits, and vegetables -- don’t because they take longer to digest.

  • Overeating - Your stomach is only about the size of your fist. It can stretch, but that can make you feel bloated, especially if you eat lots of salty food and carbs. One tip is to stop eating before you feel full.

  • Soda - Those bubbles in soda and other drinks like beer, champagne, or seltzer are filled with gas. When you drink them, they can fill up your digestive system. You may burp some of it away, but once the gas reaches your intestines, it stays until you pass it. And most sodas are full of sugar, which can make you hold on to water and feel bloated.

  • Eating too fast - The faster you eat, the more air you swallow. And like with bubbly drinks, once that air passes to your intestine, it can make you feel bloated. It can take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full, so you can eat enough to make yourself bloated and uncomfortable before your brain gets the message.

  • Constipation - Most people are a little irregular from time to time, and that can make you feel bloated. Some foods can cause it, along with not drinking enough water, sudden changes in your diet, or stress. It usually passes on its own, but exercise and over-the-counter drugs can help.

  • Dairy - Foods like milk and ice cream can cause gas, belly pain, and bloating if your body can’t easily digest a dairy sugar called lactose.

  • Gassy Foods - Beans are a great source of fiber and protein. They also have a substance called raffinose that bacteria need to break down. That can produce gas and lead to bloat. It’s not bad for you, and how gassy you get varies from person to person and by types of beans. Broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts also have raffinose.

What Do I Need to Do?

Drink plenty of water - Staying well hydrated is crucial. What’s more, it can prevent constipation, which is a common cause of bloatingIdeally, stick to drinks like water or tea whenever possible and steer clear of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juice, and sports drinks.

  • Check your fiber intake - Adding more fiber to your diet offers many health benefits. These include increased regularity, which can help prevent constipation and bloating. However, it’s important to add fiber to your diet gradually. Increasing your intake too quickly can worsen digestive issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

  • Eat less sodium - In particular, processed foods like fast food, convenience meals, fried foods, and salty snacks tend to be higher in sodium. Instead, choose nutrient-dense, minimally processed ingredients whenever possible and experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor to your favorite foods.

  • Practice mindful eating - Mindful eating is a practice that involves minimizing external distractions, eating slowly, and paying close attention to how your food looks, tastes, and smells. It can help prevent binge and emotional eating, which may decrease bloating and weight gain. Furthermore, chewing more slowly can help keep you from swallowing extra air, which is another common cause of gas and bloating.

  • Probiotics - Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract. They’ve been linked to a long list of health benefits, ranging from increased weight loss to enhanced immune function. Plus, some research suggests that increasing your intake of probiotics through food or supplements could reduce bloating and improve digestive health.

What to Eat or Drink for reduce Bloating?

Bitter foods can be hard to swallow (literally!) for some, but those who do enjoy a rich payoff when it comes to gut health. They contain plant-based chemicals that can streamline how your body reacts to nutritious meals, an added bonus to the fact that most bitter foods are entirely nutritious on their own. Bitters — and bitter-tasting herbs and foods — have been used for millennia as a digestive aid.

In a nutshell, bitter foods increase saliva production and start the digestion process because of their bitter flavor.

They may already be grocery staples you know and love — think things like a daily cup of coffee, fresh cranberries, crunchy kale in your favorite salad. Other foods and herbs include arugula, celery, pineapple, spinach and grapefruit.

Lemons are a natural diuretic and can even serve as a gentle laxative. Also, fennel (& fennel seeds) has been long used in many cultures around the world for alleviating GI issues. Drinks include apple cider vinegar, herbal peppermint and green tea.

Bottom Line

Bloating is common and often uncomfortable, and a variety of factors can cause it.

Fortunately, using some of the tips outlined above can help alleviate bloating in just a few days. If you’re instead concerned with losing body fat, keep in mind that this takes longer than losing water weight. It also requires you to make other dietary and lifestyle changes if you want to see long-term, sustainable results.

About the authors

Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.

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