Abdominal bloating is a situation when the tummy feels uncomfortably full and distended. It's a common problem that many people experience occasionally. You can do several things at home to ease bloating unless the underlying cause is a condition that needs medical attention. Read more to learn the causes of bloating and how to debloat naturally.
Abdominal bloating is a common condition that can often be relieved naturally unless caused by an underlying medical condition.
Bloating is caused by various factors, including swallowing air, overeating, eating certain foods that produce excess gas, food intolerances, and hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.
Bloating can be naturally relieved by making dietary adjustments and staying hydrated and physically active.
Persistent or severe bloating may indicate more serious conditions, such as celiac disease or pancreatic problems, and warrants a visit to a healthcare provider.
Common causes of bloating
Abdominal bloating can be caused by many, often harmless, easily reversible factors. However, sometimes, that swollen feeling can be a sign of something more serious. The following are several common reasons for abdominal bloating.
- Swallowing air. Bloating is generally caused by excess gas trapped in the gut. Swallowing air while eating can cause bloating.
- Overeating. Eating large portions can cause digestion problems and causing bloating.
- Diet. Eating foods that produce too much gas can cause bloating.
- Period. Many women experience bloating when their period is close.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Excess bacterial growth in the small intestine can cause bloating. As a result, SIBO can disrupt the absorption of nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies.
- Food intolerances. People with carbohydrate intolerances (e.g., lactose and fructose) can experience chronic bloating. Foods containing these can cause increased fluid retention and fermentation in the gut, causing bloating.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More than 60% of irritable bowel syndrome patients experience bloating.
Persistent bloating can be a symptom of serious diseases such as celiac disease and problems with the pancreas. If bloating does not resolve itself, consult a doctor for a medical check.
How to debloat naturally
Bloating can often be relieved easily by modifying nutrition and lifestyle.
Taking a break from gas-producing foods may help with bloating. Eliminating foods such as beans, brussels sprouts, dried fruits, and fibrous vegetables should help reduce bloating. Other foods include the following:
- Prune juice
- Wheat germ
In addition, some people have intolerances to certain food ingredients. Identifying a person's intolerant foods is the first step in the dietary treatment of bloating. People should be more aware of the foods they are consuming as this will help with identifying foods causing bloating.
Specific diets, such as a low FODMAP diet, can be introduced to some patients. However, this approach should only be taken under the guidance of a dietitian to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Being physically active helps with bowel motility. Regularly exercising is excellent for your general health and digestive health. However, if you can't find time for regular exercise, taking a break from sitting and just walking around can help ease bloating.
Drink plenty of water
Proper hydration is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Drinking a sufficient amount of water helps with gut motility, which helps with the passage of stool and reduces the frequency of constipation. If you live in a hot, humid climate, adhere to a vigorous exercise routine, or naturally live an active lifestyle, pay attention to water intake to stay hydrated.
Eat high-fiber foods
Consuming enough fiber is crucial for digestive health. Therefore, eating a high-fiber diet is a good preventative measure to help avoid constipation. According to the National Health Institute, adults should consume 30g of fiber daily.
Because bloating can be caused by constipation, consuming a high-fiber diet helps prevent constipation and improves overall digestive health. Additionally, eating high-fiber foods helps intestinal motility and eases bloating. However, it's advised to increase fiber intake gradually because fiber can cause more gas production at first.
Change what and how you eat
Our diet can sometimes be our own worst enemy. By modifying our eating routine, we can reduce the frequency and severity of that uncomfortable, bloated feeling.
- Eat in smaller portions. Sometimes, just overeating can cause bloating. Eating smaller portions than normal can help with bloating.
- Eat slowly. Try eating slower and chewing food longer. Eating too quickly can cause us to swallow air.
- Probiotics. Probiotics help with bloating by improving gut microbiota. Probiotics are found naturally in foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and other fermented foods.
- A massage can help. Massaging your stomach right to the left can help release trapped gas. Massaging your belly before bed often helps relieve bloating while you sleep.
Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements, and they can be helpful for some people. The efficiency of probiotics can change based on many factors, including individualistic factors, product quality, and probiotic strains. Consult your doctor to choose the best probiotics for your needs.
What to avoid when bloated
If you suffer from occasional bloating and aren't sure why, try eliminating or reducing the frequency of some of the things on the following list — they are known to worsen bloating:
- Fizzy drinks, alcohol, and caffeine
- Common gas-producing foods
- Products advertised as detox
- Chewing gum
- Large meals before going to bed
- Consuming foods you know are difficult for you to tolerate
- Ultra-processed, spicy, high-fat, or sugar foods
Should I see the doctor?
Consult your healthcare provider if you have abdominal pain, bloody stool, dark stool, diarrhea, or vomiting. Also, there could be an underlying cause of bloating. You should see a doctor if:
- You’re bloated constantly for three weeks or more
- You experience bloating more than 12 times in a month
- You're still feeling bloated after changing your diet
- You have swelling or a lump in your abdomen
- If bloating is coupled with sickness, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the gaita, or weight loss
- You're finding daily activities challenging due to discomfort or pain from bloating
Bloating is a common problem, and basic changes in your diet and lifestyle can relieve the discomfort. However, if bloating is chronic, you should see a doctor for proper medical treatment.
- National Health Service. Bloating.
- Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Management of Chronic Abdominal Distension and Bloating.
- Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Gas and Bloating.
- Cleveland Clinic. Bloated Stomach.
- American Family Physician. Gas, Bloating, and Belching.