We’ve all experienced bloating before. It’s uncomfortable, often embarrassing and sometimes painful. While the occasional bout of bloating after a large meal will usually pass quickly and resolve itself, constantly feeling like you’re bloated may not be normal.
If you’re dealing with frequent bloating, you’re in the right place. Let’s discuss some of the most common causes of bloating and explore quick tips to reduce gas and find relief for belly bloat.
What causes bloating in the first place?
Abdominal bloating is usually the result of excess intestinal gas that causes your abdomen to feel full and tight. Excess gas is usually due to the foods we eat but can be due to certain medical conditions.
The list of potential causes of bloating is long, but here are a few of the most common less serious causes:
- Bacterial overgrowth or imbalance of bacterial flora
- Delayed stomach emptying (gastroparesis)
- Hormonal changes due to PMS or menopause
- Food sensitivities or malabsorption of certain nutrients (like lactose intolerance)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Excess air getting swallowed due to eating too quickly, chewing gum, etc.
How to prevent or reduce bloating
Pinpointing the exact cause is the most effective way to find relief for bloating and depending on your situation, you may need to see a gastroenterologist for a more detailed evaluation. But if you’re looking to improve your digestion and prevent bloating, here are a few initial steps that can help.
You may be lactose intolerant (intolerant to dairy)
Dairy sugar called lactose is one of the most common causes of bloating. This is called lactose intolerance. Do a trial of avoiding all dairy for two weeks including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Lactose-free milk is a good alternative during this trial. If your bloating significantly improves, you are likely lactose intolerant.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Although artificial sweeteners like diet soda and low calorie products may help you lose weight, they are also a common cause of abdominal bloating from too much intestinal gas that they produce.
Avoid carbonated beverages
When you’re drinking water, don’t reach for carbonated, fizzy drinks or sparkling water. These can cause bloating or make it worse.
Eat mindfully and slowly
Instead of eating two or three large meals in a day, consider eating four or five smaller meals throughout the day.
Avoid chewing gum
Chewing gum is another habit that may lead to abdominal bloating, as it can cause you to swallow extra air. Extra air means extra gas. So, if you’re a frequent gum chewer (especially the sugar-free kind that often includes sugar alcohols), it could be the reason for that bloated feeling.
Eat probiotic foods or try a probiotic supplement
Probiotics can help make sure you have the good gut bacteria you need to digest food properly. Your doctor will be able to help you choose a quality probiotic.
Pay attention to food patterns
Start paying attention to when you experience bloating, so you can start to notice patterns. You may find there’s a particular food or beverage behind it. Keeping a food journal can help you connect the dots between what you’re eating and how you feel.
When to worry about bloating
While uncomfortable, bloating is common and usually nothing to worry about. If your bloating does not improve with the above recommendations or if your bloating is getting progressively worse, it may be a sign of a serious medical problem. Always consult your doctor to rule out any more serious conditions.
You shouldn’t have to live with the unpleasantness of bloating. If bloating is getting the best of you lately, talk to your doctor or find a digestive specialist near you.
About the author
Rassa Shahidzadeh, MD, is a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano. Dr. Shahidzadeh received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He fulfilled both his internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He then completed a fellowship in gastroenterology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. In 2006, Dr. Shahidzadeh was the recipient of the American College of Gastroenterology Fellow Recognition Award. He is clinically interested in colorectal cancer prevention, gastroesophageal reflux disease, disorders of the pancreas and biliary system, disorders of the intestinal tract, disorders of the liver, gastroparesis, and nutrition. Dr. Shahidzadeh is married with one son and one daughter. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing tennis and traveling.