Bloating is an uncomfortable digestive issue that many people experience from time to time—some more regularly than others. There are many things that can cause bloating, and if you notice that you have persistent bloating on a daily basis, you may need to do a parasite cleanse, or talk to your doctor to see if you have a serious gastrointestinal disease.
What Is Bloating?
Simply put, bloating is when your belly feels swollen after eating. It involves excessive amounts of solids, liquids, or gases in your digestive system and is most commonly caused by excess gas production, indigestion, or disturbances in the movement of the muscles of the digestive system.
Bloating can range in its intensity and can feel mildly uncomfortable, or it can even be painful. It is a feeling of being stuffed, full, or having tension in the stomach. Bloating can also make your stomach look bigger.
It is worth mentioning also that bloating is different from water retention, though the terms are often used interchangeably.
Bloating is fairly common, and studies show that about 16–30% of people report regularly experiencing bloating. Although bloating is sometimes caused by serious medical conditions, it is most often caused by diet—what you eat, how you eat, and how your body reacts to your dietary habits.
What Causes Bloating?
Abdominal bloating is caused by an excess of gas, the digestive system working incorrectly or slower than usual, or a combination of these. Bloating is usually a result of food intolerances and digestion disturbances. However, it could also be a symptom of a larger, more dangerous digestive disorder, like inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer.
If you are sensitive to a particular food, it may cause bloating. If you experience bloating regularly, it may benefit you to try an elimination diet (link article) to determine what may be causing your bloating and what food(s) you may be sensitive to.
Bloating can also be cause by your eating habits. Overeating is one common cause of bloating, as is drinking too much liquid with meals, eating a wide range of different foods at one meal, or not chewing your food thoroughly enough.
If you have tried an elimination diet, avoid overeating, limit your water intake with meals, chew your food well, and you still experience frequent bloating, then it may be a sign you need to do a parasite cleanse or consult with your doctor to check for any serious digestive issues.
While persistent, regular bloating is a cause for concern, experiencing the occasional bloating after a heavy meal is fairly common. Thankfully, there are some simple and effective ways to relieve bloating.
How to Get Rid of Bloating
Drink Warm Water
A simple remedy for bloating can be to drink warm water. While drinking water in general is hydrating and important for health, drinking warm or lukewarm water has been shown to aid in digestion.
Hot water dilates blood vessels in the gut, which helps with digestion. Drinking hot water after a meal also emulsifies fats, which can further aid in digestion.
Interestingly, in Ayurveda, India’s traditional system of medicine, drinking warm water is said to kindle the digestive fire (known as Agni in Ayurveda). Ayurvedic practitioners recommend sipping small amounts of warm water with meals to aid in digestion. However, be sure not to drink too much water before, during, or after a meal, as too much water with meals can hinder digestion and contribute to bloating.
Drink Hot Herbal Tea
Similar to drinking warm water, hot tea can relieve also gas and bloating. Furthermore, some herbs can actually help to relieve indigestion and bloating by improving digestion and alleviating gas. These herbs are known as carminatives. Carminative herbs are defined as: Agents that prevent or relieve flatulence (gas in the gastrointestinal tract).
Carminative herbs work by reducing and preventing gas formation in our gut. They can also alleviate bloating. Most carminative herbs are also antispasmodic, meaning they can prevent or reduce muscle spasms that can occur in the smooth muscle of our gut.
Some of the best carminative herbs for improving digestion and relieving bloating are:
The next time you experience bloating, try drinking one of these herbal teas as a remedy to relieve discomfort.
- Go for a Walk
Going for a walk is another simple remedy for bloating. Physical activity can get your bowels moving and can help to improve digestion. While intensive physical activity is not recommended directly after eating, a mild activity like walking can be helpful. In fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is often recommended to go for a peaceful walk after a meal to allow your body to digest and to help yourself remain relaxed, as relaxation and stress also play key roles in the digestive process. If you are experiencing some bloating or discomfort from gas, going for a peaceful walk outside may provide you with relief.
Perform Some Gentle Yoga Stretches
Similar to walking, yoga can also be a gentle way to exercise and stimulate bowel movement. Additionally, the stretches some yoga postures involve can kick-start the digestive process and in turn relieve the gas that causes bloating.
Yoga may also help reduce stress, which can in turn aid in digestion. The gut-brain axis is a communication system of nerves and biochemical signals that travel in the blood, connecting the digestive system to the brain. Through this system, your gut can directly react to psychological and physical stress with symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and changes in appetite and digestion.
Yoga may help to reduce stress and also reduce stress-related digestive issues—of which bloating may be one of them. People also believe that yoga aids in general digestive health by increasing circulation and promoting physical movement of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Massage Your Belly
Giving your abdomen a gentle and loving massage can encourage your gastrointestinal tract, specifically your colon, to move stool along, effectively relieving gas and bloating. To give yourself an abdominal massage, follow these simple steps:
- In a circular motion, press lightly on the right side of your stomach by the bone of your pelvis, moving your hand up until you reach your ribs.
- Move straight across to the left side.
- Work your fingers down to your left hip and back to your belly button.
- Move your hand straight across toward your right hip bone once again.
- Repeat this circular motion for 2–3 minutes.
The health of your gut depends largely on the right balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut microbiome. The best balance of bacteria is 90% good and 10% bad bacteria, but most people are out of balance, and have the inverse ratio of 10% good bacteria and 90% bad bacteria.
By introducing beneficial bacteria to the gut, using a high quality multi strain probiotic, one can restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome—something that researchers are continually discovering is essential for gut health. Gut bacteria play a vital role in the digestive process, and by restoring the health of the gut microbiome, you can significantly improve your digestive health, and may also relieve common digestive issues like bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may also help to relieve bloating as it can help increase stomach acid which helps your body break down food and aids your body’s ability to absorb key nutrients. Due to its high acidity, however, apple cider vinegar can cause indigestion and damage the teeth and throat if not diluted and taken in small amounts.
To use apple cider vinegar for bloating, mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in half a cup of water and drink either 30 minutes before a meal, or 30 minutes after a meal to aid digestion and prevent bloating.
Eat Less Salt and More Potassium-Rich Foods
Recent studies have shown that sodium consumption can cause gastrointestinal bloating. Studies also show that potassium-rich foods, like ripe bananas or grapefruit, help counteract effects of excessive sodium consumption because potassium regulates fluid balance in the body.
The standard American diet is often very high in sodium. Even foods that seem to be fairly healthy often have large amounts of salt. It is always recommended to read the ingredients and nutrition facts of packaged foods, and to also limit salt intake, especially if bloating is a common issue for you.
Supplement with Digestive Enzymes
If you are commonly experiencing bloating, or even simply ate too much at a meal, a digestive enzyme supplement can help you better break down and digest your food. Some notable digestive enzymes include:
- Lactase: An enzyme that breaks down lactose, which is useful for people with lactose intolerance.
- Beano: Contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which can help break down indigestible carbohydrates from various foods.
In many cases, digestive enzyme supplements can provide almost immediate relief from bloating.
How to Prevent Bloating
While there are many ways to alleviate bloating, it is best to prevent bloating in the first place. Some of the best ways to prevent bloating include:
- Removing Sensitive Foods
Find out which foods you may be sensitive to and aim to eliminate these foods from your diet. You may have an allergic reaction to a particular food that could be causing your bloating. The best way to determine what foods you may be sensitive to is to try an elimination diet.
- Chew Your Food Thoroughly
Many of us tend to eat food too fast without taking the time to properly chew and break down our food. This can put an extra strain on the stomach and may lead to indigestion, bloating and digestive discomfort. This can be avoided by simply chewing your food well.
Eating too much food is a common cause of bloating. It creates sluggishness in the stomach and easily leads to digestive discomfort. If you want to prevent bloating, be moderate in your diet and avoid overeating.
Limit Water Intake with Meals
Drinking too much water with meals can lead to indigestion and bloating. Limit your water intake before, during, and after your meal. Try drinking small amounts of hot herbal tea with meals to aid in digestion.
Eat While Relaxed
Stress can easily lead to indigestion and bloating. To efficiently digest your meals, your body needs to be in a relaxed state. Multi-tasking while eating—walking, working, driving, watching TV—can keep your body in a state of stress and can prevent you from properly digesting your food. When it is time to eat, focus completely on eating. Chew your food and enjoy each bite with gratitude. This can help you digest your food better and can prevent symptoms like bloating.
Abdominal bloating is uncomfortable, but ultimately treatable and preventable. While all of the above-mentioned tips for bloating may help you relieve discomfort, bloating will also pass in time. These tips just help to speed up the process.
The best thing you can do for bloating is to give your body some time to rest and digest. Avoid eating anything else while you are experiencing bloating and find ways to lower your stress levels. Consider relaxing, going for a walk, or enjoying some hot herbal tea to relieve discomfort, and follow the tips mentioned above to prevent bloating in the future.