Most people experience bloating after a meal now and then. It’s that uncomfortable sensation of pressure in your gut. It may be accompanied by what’s called abdominal distention, where your belly seems to expand.
Bloating typically resolves on its own and isn’t cause for concern. However, it can negatively affect your quality of life if you experience it frequently. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce bloating.
What Causes Bloating?
From medical conditions to lifestyle choices, many things can produce bloating. The more common causes include:
- Health problems. Some conditions make you produce more gas or increase your sensitivity to the presence of gas in your digestive tract. This includes celiac disease, acid reflux (which irritates your esophagus), irritable bowel syndrome (which affects nerves in your bowel), and hemorrhoids.
- Consuming too many carbs. Carbs are an important energy source, but eating too many can cause your body to retain water, potentially making you feel overly full.
- Overeating. Consuming more food than your stomach can comfortably accommodate makes you feel bloated. Keep in mind that while your stomach can stretch, it’s about the size of your fist when empty.
- Constipation. When your digestive tract is stalled, eating or drinking can create or intensify bloating.
- Swallowing too much air or gas. Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow air. So can drinking carbonated beverages.
- Consuming certain foods. Everyone’s digestive system is different, but some people experience bloating if they consume salt, dairy, fructose, fat, or carbs called FODMAPS, found in some fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains.
- Having your period. You may retain water in the week or so before you start your period, which can cause bloating.
- Gaining weight. Added pounds often end up around the belly, so there’s less room for the stomach to stretch.
How to Stop Bloating After Eating
If you feel gassy after every meal or nearly every meal, try these 10 tips for reducing or preventing bloating:
- Understand your food issues. Food allergies and intolerances can cause your body to produce excess gas, which makes you feel bloated. Testing for food issues can be inaccurate or inconclusive, so the best approach is trial and error. Keep track of what you eat and how you feel afterward for several weeks. You’ll likely detect foods that cause bloating for you, and you can eliminate them from your diet or consume smaller quantities of them.
- Eat and drink slowly. Consuming foods and beverages quickly can cause you to swallow air, which increases bloating. As an added benefit, enjoying meals at a more leisurely pace may help you more readily detect that you’re full and help with weight management.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. These drinks contain carbon dioxide gas, which can accumulate in your digestive tract and cause you to feel bloated.
- Eat moderate amounts of fiber and high-fat foods. Both are essential to a healthy diet but consuming either in excess can cause bloating. So, you don’t want to eliminate them. But it can be helpful to reduce your intake and monitor the results to determine how much you can eat without bloating.
- Avoid talking while eating. Speaking as you chew and swallow can cause you to swallow air, which, as noted above, can lead to bloating.
- Eat smaller portions. It’s vital to consume enough of the right foods to be healthy. However, eating more than that amount can increase bloating. Try reducing your portion size, particularly when you want to avoid feeling bloated.
- Get light exercise after a meal. Some people find that activities like going for a stroll after a meal reduce bloating.
- Try ginger. Studies have shown that ginger can help reduce excessive gas in the digestive tract and reduce or prevent bloating.
- Try probiotics. These live microorganisms may reduce gut inflammation and the sensation of tension after eating.
- Treat heartburn if you have it. In addition to causing a burning sensation, heartburn causes bloating. If you experience it, treating it with an over-the-counter medication may make you feel less bloated.
Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician About Bloating
Bloating is an unpleasant sensation you don’t have to “just live with.” If you experience frequent bloating, talk with your Baptist Health physician. (You can find a doctor using our online provider directory if you don’t have one.)
They can diagnose the cause of your bloating and recommend lifestyle changes, treatment, or both. If appropriate, your doctor can also refer you to a gastroenterologist, which is a doctor that specializes in the digestive tract.