(Woodpath is an education site focused exclusively on gut health. Our articles are researched by clinical nutritionists and contain citations at the end of the page.)
Abdominal bloating is often a chronic and distressing symptom. It’s usually due to a range of factors:
- Diet/Eating behaviors
- Impaired digestion
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Antibiotic use
It can also be a red flag that there is a serious health issue lurking beneath the surface. Fortunately, there are several ways to tackle abdominal bloating effectively, including with supplements, which we recommend further down on this page.
Bloating is a build-up of excess gas in the digestive system, which can make the stomach distend. It can often cause the stomach to feel tight, appear undeniably larger, and can also cause pain and discomfort.
Bloating in the stomach is typically the result of food allergies, constipation, menstruation, and various digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Bloating is usually a harmless inconvenience — but in some people, it can become chronic.
Bloating can occur along with some other symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling full quickly with meals
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent belching
Several factors can cause bloating. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Belly bloat is an indicator of digestive issues. (Lacy, Gabbard, & Crowell, 2011)
It can also be the result of food intolerances, hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, and gut dysbiosis. This is why it is important to keep a journal of when symptoms occur and what was consumed or experienced around that time.
Bloating is much different than carrying extra fat or water weight. Water retention and weight gain can happen while being bloated; however, they are separate issues. (Iovino et al., 2014)
Most of the time, an excessive amount of gas within the intestines is due to an inability to properly digest protein and carbohydrates, or an issue with gut bacteria such as SIBO.
Determining what underlying conditions might be at play can make a world of difference in finding out what the root cause of the bloating is.
For example, if you take antibiotics and shortly after have diarrhea and excessive gas, it is likely that there is an imbalance of bacteria in your gut.
Medical conditions that can cause abdominal bloating and should be evaluated are:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Heartburn or GERD
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Hormonal issues
- Giardiasis or other parasitic infections
- Bowel obstruction
- Ovarian cancer
How to Reduce Bloating
When bloating has become a nuisance there are several ways to tackle it. Provided no underlying medical conditions are causing the bloating, simple changes to your lifestyle can help. Eleven easy ways to reduce bloating are:
- Reduce soda intake — Fizzy drinks are filled with carbon dioxide, which can accumulate in the stomach. Diet soda containing artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols can also cause gas and bloating.
- Take an evidence-based high-quality probiotic — Good bacteria are essential to your digestive tract. This is because they keep bad bacteria in check. Taking a daily probiotic supplement can work wonders for bloating and creating balance in the gut. We recommend Jarrow Ideal Bowel Support or Xymogen ProbioMax.
- Exercise — Being active helps move gas through the colon, creating regular bowel movements. It also helps the body to rid itself of excess sodium, which reduces water retention.
- Go on a low-FODMAP diet — Foods considered FODMAPs are harder to digest and can cause excessive gas, which is also due to the higher amount of sulfur these problematic foods often contain. (Gibson & Shepherd, 2010) Going on a diet low in FODMAPs can help reduce bloating. Examples of foods to stay away from or limit are:
- Legumes such as lentils and beans
- Avoid chewing gum — Sugar alcohols such as xylitol are found in most gums on the market. Because these are not digested, they may cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. Additionally, too much air is swallowed while chewing gum, which can also cause bloating. (Hyams, 1982)
- Reduce fatty food consumption — Staying away from foods high in fat can reduce gas. This is because these foods can make digestion sluggish. Reducing fatty foods from your diet can aid in weight loss, as well.
- Take digestive enzymes — Many people with excessive gas have issues with digesting sugar, carbohydrates, and protein. Digestive enzymes help to break down these foods and curb gas and other digestive issues. A few digestive enzymes we recommend include Enzymedica Digest Basic, FoodScience of Vermont Superior Enzymes, and Udo’s Choice Plant Based Enzymes.
- Chew food slowly — Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow too much air, which can cause gas and bloating. (Li et al., 2011) Taking smaller bites and chewing slowly and more efficiently helps to reduce gas and abdominal bloating.
- Reduce drinking through straws — Drinking through straws is another way too much air can be swallowed and lead to bloating.
- Increase fiber intake — Most people do not consume the recommended amount of daily fiber. As a result, they become constipated. Constipation is a huge contributor to abdominal bloating. (Agrawal et al., 2009) It is important to start increasing fiber intake slowly to allow the microbiome to adjust. Fiber helps prevent bloating — but too much fiber, or taking it too quickly, can exacerbate gas and bloating.
- Reduce muscle spasms — Bloating can be caused by the spasming of muscles located throughout the digestive tract. Antispasmodics can help reduce these spasms, but a more natural treatment exists. Peppermint oil functions much like antispasmodics by reducing muscles spasms. Peppermint oil can reduce other symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome, as well. (Pittler & Ernst, 1998)
Remember - always consult a medical professional if trying the above suggestions does not alleviate your bloating.
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