What is bloating?
Chances are you've experienced bloating at some point. Bloating can make your stomach feel stretched out or too full. Learn more about what causes a bloated stomach and how to prevent or reduce it.
It's common to feel bloated over the holidays or long weekends of eating and drinking. Your stomach may feel full and puffy or uncomfortable. Some people describe bloating as feeling as if there were a balloon in their stomach.
You may experience bloating when the organs in your digestive tract are stretched too far. Bloating happens when your stomach contents, solid, liquid, or gas, are trapped in your gut. Sometimes these contents move too slowly along your digestive system. Besides bloating, you may also experience:
- Stomach gurgling
If you have serious bloating along with symptoms like bleeding, vomiting, or heartburn, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
What causes bloating in the stomach?
On average, gas leaves your body through belching or flatulence about 25 times a day. This helps you avoid bloating. Stomach bloating happens when gases get stuck inside your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bloating can have several different causes, including:
- Dietary habits and the foods you eat
- Swallowing air as you eat
- Eating too much
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Weight gain
- Lactose intolerance
Some medical conditions can also cause gas and bloating. Bloating has been linked to:
- Crohn's disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Inflammation (diverticulitis)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Liver disease
Food intolerances and allergies can play a part in bloating. If you have a food intolerance, your body can't digest that food correctly. This can cause problems like bloating, gas, or irregular bowel movements.
Tips to prevent bloating
There are several ways you can prevent or reduce stomach bloat.
Avoid certain foods. If you're prone to bloating, avoid high-fiber foods. While these foods are usually part of a healthy diet, they cause gas and bloating. Foods with a high fiber content include beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables. In particular, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are known to cause gas.
Artificial sweeteners and the sugar found in some kinds of alcohol are also known to cause gas. Some people may also notice bloating or gas after eating dairy products. You can counteract this with the lactase enzyme, which you can buy at your local drugstore.
Avoid swallowing air. To avoid swallowing air, don't:
- Drink with a straw
- Talk while eating at the same time
- Chew gum
- Sigh deeply
- Smoke or use chewing tobacco
- Drink carbonated beverages
- Eat too many fried or fatty foods
- Eat while upset
- Chew with your mouth open
All these things can reduce the amount of air that you swallow. Remember that these habits can prevent bloating:
- Eat slowly and chew your food well
- Sit up straight while eating
- Get in some exercise during the day or go for a walk after eating
- Introduce high-fiber foods back into your diet in small amounts
You can also wear comfortable clothes that don't fit tightly. While this doesn't prevent bloating, it can help you be more comfortable when bloating strikes.
Natural remedies for gas and bloating
There are some natural remedies that you can try to relieve bloating. If you want to get rid of bloating fast, get up and go for a walk. Some light exercise can encourage movement in your gut and help your body start to digest. Sip some water slowly to aid in digestion. You can also drink peppermint tea since peppermint oil is proven to decrease gas and soothe your stomach.
Some herbal remedies that can reduce bloat and improve digestion are:
While research is still continuing, it's thought that probiotics might help people who are prone to bloating and gas. Probiotics are fibers and foods that support healthy gut bacteria growth and aid in digestion. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or be found in some kinds of yogurt.
If you've tried these things and your bloating persists, you should talk to your doctor. While bloating is usually caused by something common, it's best to determine if it's a side effect of an underlying condition.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Brigham and Women's Hospital: "Gas: Beat the Bloat."
New York Presbyterian: "How to Prevent Bloating."
NHS: "Beat the Bloat."
Reid Health: "Chronic bloating: How to manage it and when to speak with your doctor."
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