Is there anything more frustrating than belly bloat? Especially when you’ve been eating healthy, but your belly still sticks out, almost mocking you when you put on that sleek dress or pair of skinny jeans.
What causes this frustrating condition, and what can you do to eliminate it?
What Causes Belly Bloat?
There are a number of things that can cause your belly to expand. Below are several of the most common:
- Diet: Acid-causing foods like cauliflower, milk, carbonated drinks, beans, and the like can result in excess gas and bloating. Raw veggies can also cause gas and puffiness.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of IBS.
- Hormonal fluctuations: Women are particularly vulnerable to bloating during their period or in the early stages of pregnancy. Bloating is also common in women going through peri-menopause and menopause, because of the hormonal fluctuations.
- Dehydration: When you don’t drink enough water throughout the day, digestion slows, which can cause bloating.
- Constipation: This is often caused by not drinking enough water or getting enough fiber in your diet, and can cause bloating.
- Food allergies or sensitivities: If you consume foods you’re sensitive to, bloating may be the result. Dairy foods and gluten-containing foods are common culprits for those who are sensitive to them, or for those with celiac disease (who can’t digest gluten).
- Eating too quickly: If you “inhale” your food, so to speak, you swallow air along with the food, which can expand your belly. You may also fail to chew your food well, which can increase the amount of acid your belly has to release to digest the larger chunks.
- Eating too much sodium: Soups and sandwiches are often heavy in sodium, and that can induce bloating. Processed and packaged foods are also high in sodium.
- Drinking through a straw: Again, you’re sucking in air along with your beverage.
- Going for the diet cola: Artificial sweeteners, whether in beverages or foods, hang around in the stomach a long time and are frequent bloat-inducers.
- Going for soda at all: Even regular soda, because of the carbonated bubbles, take air into your stomach.
- Eating late at night: If your stomach doesn’t have time to fully digest your meal before bed, you may wake up with belly bloat.
There are other, more serious causes of belly bloat, too, but they are more rare. If you experience bloating that doesn’t go away for weeks and that is accompanied by other troublesome symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor.
What Can You Do About Belly Bloat?
Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for wearing sweats all the time. In addition to avoiding the situations above that can cause bloat, you can also try these tips to help keep your belly down to its normal size.
- Keep track of what you eat before bloating. The more you can learn about yourself and your digestion the better chance you’ll have of avoiding those foods that lead to discomfort. If you have trouble finding the culprits, try going on a “bloating detox” where you revert to a very bland, easy-to-digest diet and then gradually add in your other favorite foods one by one to see how they effect you.
- Test yourself for allergies and sensitivities. Talk to your allergy doctor about having a food allergy test, as well as a celiac disease test. It can help to know if you are naturally sensitive to certain items.
- Drink more water. As mentioned above, water is key to smooth digestion.
- When it’s time to eat, relax! Stress can cause you to bloat no matter what you eat. Try to sit down and relax during a meal to allow your digestive system to work like it should. Slow down, too, so you’re not eating too fast.
- Eat more fiber. The daily requirement for fiber is 25 grams, and most of us don’t get that much unless we’re really thinking about it. Sometimes fiber can cause bloating too, though, so start slow and gradually build your way up.
- Go easy on the sugar. Fructose, especially, can cause bloating, so limit how much you’re consuming through the day.
- Avoid unhealthy fats. Trans fats and some saturated fats take awhile to digest, which can cause bloating. Avoid packaged foods and fast foods that are high in these fats, and avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oil.
- Cut back on serving sizes: If you overeat, you stress your digestive system, which can lead to bloating. Eat smaller servings, then have a little more later if you’re still hungry.
- Eat more yogurt: Yogurt has probiotics that can help ease digestion. Other good sources include kombucha, miso, tempeh, kefir, and pickles.
- Walk after a meal: The easy movement of a gentle walk after a meal can help ease digestion.
There are also certain foods that can help with bloating. These include cucumbers, berries, almonds, apples, and avocadoes.
How do you beat belly bloat?