15 Reasons Why You’re Suddenly So Bloated | Why Am I So Bloated? 15 Causes Of Excess Gas And How To Get Rid Of Bloating Fast

Experiencing occasional bloating is entirely normal, whether it’s after a night out with friends, dealing with constipation, or during the menstrual cycle. According to Samantha Nazareth, MD, a gastroenterologist in New York City, feeling bloated is a common occurrence, and individuals should not feel alone in this experience. However, understanding what bloating actually is can help dispel misconceptions.

Kyle Staller, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and the director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Mass General, clarifies that bloating is the sensation of being bloated, while distension refers to the actual swelling of the abdomen. When patients report bloating, they often mean abdominal swelling.

Various factors can contribute to abdominal swelling, such as intolerances to specific foods, including high-FODMAP foods, dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome), or other gastrointestinal issues, as explained by Marvin Singh, MD, the author of Rescue Your Health and founder of Precisione Clinic. Chronic or frequent bloating that impacts daily life should prompt a visit to a healthcare provider to rule out underlying medical causes.

While some causes of bloating are medical, certain lifestyle habits can also contribute to bloating. The good news is that relief is often achievable by addressing these habits. Here are some common culprits of bloating and how to manage them.

15 Potential Reasons You Feel Bloated

1. You just drank seltzer.

According to Natalie Allen, RD, an instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University, the carbonation in beverages like seltzer water, soda, and champagne can introduce air bubbles into your stomach, leading to bloating. To mitigate this issue, opt for tap or bottled water instead. If you’re fond of seltzer, be mindful not to consume it too quickly and limit your daily intake.

2. You sipped through a straw.

According to Natalie Allen, RD, you end up swallowing more air when using a straw, and that excess air goes straight into your stomach. To minimize this, skip the straw, remove the top from your iced beverage, and drink directly from the cup. This choice is not only better for reducing bloating but is also environmentally friendly!

3. You had a kale salad for lunch.

According to Natalie Allen, RD, while kale is a highly nutritious food, it belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and may potentially cause bloating. This applies to other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and arugula as well.

Kale, in particular, is rich in fiber and contains a sugar called raffinose, which may pose a challenge for the stomach to break down. Natalie Allen recommends a helpful guideline for high-fiber foods: increase water intake to facilitate the digestion process and minimize the risk of bloating.

4. You went overboard on dairy.

Natalie Allen explains that foods such as cheese and milk are rich in lactose, which is milk sugar. Even individuals with mild lactose intolerance might experience discomfort, including gas and bloating, after indulging in soft cheeses like brie.

Contrastingly, hard cheeses like Parmigiano, cheddar, and gruyere may be more tolerable for some, potentially containing lower levels of lactose.

5. You ordered a feast of fried foods.

According to Natalie Allen, greasy and high-fat foods like fries can lead to bloating because they take longer to digest. The sodium in fries, contributing to water retention, can exacerbate the issue. Allen suggests avoiding fries when dining out and opting to bake them at home to control the fat and salt content.

6. You chewed gum.

Natalie Allen points out that, similar to drinking through a straw, chewing gum can lead to increased air swallowing, resulting in bloating. Additionally, gum frequently contains sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol, contributing to a sensation of puffiness. To minimize these effects, consider swapping gum for breath mints.

7. You snacked on an apple.

Natalie Allen explains that if you’re not accustomed to consuming a substantial amount of fiber, indulging in an otherwise healthy Granny Smith apple might cause discomfort. She emphasizes that this isn’t a discouragement from eating apples, as they remain a wise and delicious snack choice. Instead, she suggests gradually increasing fiber intake regularly to reduce bloating over time.

Additionally, baking apples can be a delightful sweet treat, and cooking fiber-rich foods tends to make them gentler on the stomach.

8. You chowed down on bean dip.

While the high fiber content in beans can contribute to bloating and gas, Natalie Allen offers a positive perspective, stating, “By consuming a daily serving of beans, the body will adapt and learn to digest them.” She emphasizes that beans are rich in nutrients, making them a beneficial and nutritious food choice, providing a reason to incorporate them into your daily diet.

9. You ate too fast.

Despite the time constraints, Natalie Allen emphasizes the importance of not rushing through lunch. Inhaling food quickly can lead to swallowing excess air and negatively impact digestion. Allen recommends taking the time to chew your food thoroughly and allocating at least 20 minutes for your meal, even when faced with a busy schedule.

10. You ordered barley soup.

If you had your heart set on creamy broccoli cheddar soup for lunch but opted for heart-healthy barley soup instead, finding yourself with a swollen belly, Natalie Allen explains that barley is a complex carbohydrate. The digestion process for complex carbs takes longer, especially if you’re not accustomed to consuming a significant amount. If you have a fondness for barley, Allen suggests incorporating it into your diet gradually or choosing something gentler to avoid digestive discomfort.

11. You ate before working out.

Digestive issues after a workout can often be attributed to your pre-exercise meal. Natalie Allen explains, “Blood flow moves from the digestive tract to the muscles during exercise, which could impair digestion.”

To minimize the likelihood of stomach discomfort, she recommends keeping your pre-workout snacks light and simple. Opt for choices like half a banana or a mini protein bar, allowing your stomach to avoid working overtime during your exercise session.

12. You overindulged in sugar-free candies.

After resisting the temptation of leftover Halloween candy in the break room, you rewarded yourself with a few sugar-free candies at your desk, only to feel uncomfortably bloated. What’s the reason? Similar to many chewing gums, sugar-free candy contains sugar alcohols that Natalie Allen explains are not well digested by our bodies. For future indulgences, she suggests opting for the mini Snickers bar instead.

13. You’re stressed (and anxious) AF.

Dr. Singh notes that stress and anxiety can often contribute to changes in gastrointestinal motility, affecting bowel patterns and the movement of the bowels. This can lead to abdominal discomfort and occasional bloating.

If you’re experiencing overwhelming stress, Dr. Singh advises taking a moment to pause, deep breathe, and engage in activities that help navigate through the stressful period. Whether it’s a brief walk, a call to a friend, or a five-minute meditation, finding strategies that work for you is crucial. Seeking additional resources or professional assistance to manage stress or anxiety is encouraged, and individuals are urged not to hesitate to reach out to their healthcare provider for support.

14. You aren’t drinking enough water.

It’s a familiar refrain: stay hydrated! If you’re experiencing extra bloating, consider your water intake—insufficient hydration might be the culprit. Dr. Nazareth explains that water plays a crucial role in moving stool through and facilitating forward movement in your bowels.

Ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day to maintain a smooth flow. Invest in a stylish reusable water bottle to make hydration a constant part of your routine.

15. You had your daily nut milk latte.

“A significant trend that individuals need to be mindful of, as it could contribute to bloating, is the consumption of certain nut milks,” cautions Dr. Nazareth. She notes that these milks may contain emulsifiers, which are used to maintain a consistent texture and prevent separation, potentially leading to bloating in some people.

Consider taking a hiatus from nut milks, unless you make them from scratch or choose a brand without added ingredients, and observe if the bloating subsides.

How To Treat Bloating

“When a patient complains of bloating, the first aspect I examine is whether the underlying issue is constipation,” says Sheila Rustgi, MD, a gastroenterologist at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “If there’s an accumulation of stool in your system, it can lead to a sensation of heaviness and bloating, along with increased gas production by intestinal bacteria.” To address this, Dr. Rustgi recommends using laxatives to alleviate constipation.

Additionally, she suggests trying over-the-counter medications like Beano and Simethicone when experiencing bloating. Dr. Rustgi advises that going for a walk can be beneficial in the moment, enhancing the movement of food contents through the gastrointestinal tract.

Finally, she mentions that diaphragmatic breathing, involving 10 belly breaths before meals, can also aid in relieving bloating. Dr. Rustgi appreciates the benefits of walking and breathing exercises, emphasizing that they come with no side effects and can be performed without the need for any equipment.

How To Prevent Bloating

Dr. Rustgi’s top advice for preventing bloating is to address constipation by ensuring regular exercise, incorporating fiber into your diet, and staying well-hydrated to soften stool and facilitate easier passage. If bloating persists without constipation, Dr. Rustgi suggests examining potential sources of swallowed air, such as carbonated drinks or excessive gum chewing.

Gas production in the gastrointestinal tract may also result from difficulties digesting or absorbing food. Conditions like lactose intolerance can lead to increased gas production, and Dr. Rustgi recommends consulting with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and guidance. Common gas-producing foods include beans, legumes, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbage, onions, and certain fruits. Dr. Rustgi mentions that some patients may benefit from trying a low FODMAP diet, but recommends doing so under the guidance of a nutritionist due to its restrictive nature.

When To See A Doctor About Bloating

Consulting your doctor about any symptoms is never a wrong move, according to Dr. Singh. If you experience abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, fevers, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, or other concerning symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention is advisable.

Dr. Rustgi emphasizes the importance of seeing a doctor if bloating is accompanied by worrisome symptoms like blood in the stool. Routine cancer screening, including colon cancer screening, should be kept up to date.

While some cancers, such as ovarian or stomach cancer, may present with vague symptoms like bloating and are not routinely screened for, Dr. Rustgi recommends seeking medical attention. Additionally, individuals with autoimmune diseases like celiac disease may experience bloating with few other symptoms, making it crucial to consult a doctor, especially if there’s a family history of autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Staller suggests that if chronic bloating is impacting your clothing choices, body image, or eating habits, it’s worth seeing a doctor to rule out underlying issues.

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