When belly bloat and gas strike, you probably take care to choose foods that won't make your stomach symptoms worse. However, other things you do might be unintentionally increasing your tummy troubles.
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1. Increasing Fiber Too Quickly
Fiber is essential to a healthy digestive system, important for weight loss and has been linked to a reduced risk of certain diseases. But many of us aren't getting enough of it — "most of us only get 50 percent of our total fiber requirements in a day," Hardy says.
"To bridge that fiber gap, I often see patients ramp up their fiber intake really aggressively," she says. But here's the thing: "If your gut isn't used to it, or you don't increase your water alongside that increased fiber intake [more on this later], bloating and gas can occur," Hardy explains.
Instead of piling on the fiber all at once, Hardy recommends increasing your intake in increments — 5 grams or so a week, which is about the amount in a medium-size pear — until you hit the target of 25 to 38 grams a day.
2. Not Drinking Enough Water
Lack of water is another common reason for gas and bloating. Why? "Because dehydration can cause harder stools and constipation, which can cause that 'backed up' bloating so many people experience," Hardy says.
To add insult to injury, many people try to layer on extra fiber to get their guts moving (without upping their H2O), which can worsen symptoms, she adds.
Moral of the story? Sip on water throughout the day to keep gas and bloating at bay. You'll know you're drinking enough if your pee is colorless or light yellow, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. Eating Too Fast
When life is busy, you might find yourself wolfing down a quick meal. But eating too fast isn't doing you any favors in the gas and bloating department.
Here's why: "Digestion starts in the mouth, where enzymes in our saliva begin to break down food, and the mechanical force of chewing starts the digestive process. When we don't chew our food well, our stomach has to work even harder to mechanically and chemically break down the food, which can lead to feeling bloated and uncomfortable after a meal," Hardy explains.
What's worse, "when we eat quickly, we often can't respond to our fullness signals, which can lead to overeating and feeling stuffed and uncomfortable," she adds.
Simply put: Slow down and savor your food for a tame tummy.
Make sure to sit down while you eat and limit distractions like the TV or your smartphone.
3. Drinking Through a Straw
Believe it or not, sucking on a straw can worsen stomach woes.
"Drinking through a straw, especially if the beverage is carbonated, can cause us to swallow a lot of extra air, which can cause pressure in the stomach and may come out as a burp, but can also travel through our intestines fairly quickly, causing colonic gas as well," Hardy says.
To avoid this, skip the straw and go with a glass.
Some people who struggle with bloating may have a medical condition called ‘aerophagia,’ where they swallow large amounts of air when they eat, drink or talk too fast, Hardy says. If you experience chronic bloating, speak with a medical professional who can diagnose (or rule out) aerophagia and help you manage symptoms.
4. Sucking on Candy or Chewing Gum
Like drinking with a straw, when you suck on candy or chew gum, you end up swallowing extra air, which can result in a bloated, gassy tummy, Hardy says.
Making matters worse, "gum and certain candies can also be a source of sugar alcohols, and when consumed in large amounts, these sugar alcohols can pull water into our bowels and ferment in the colon, leading to bloating and gas," she explains.
All this is to say, keep the candies and gum to a minimum to minimize belly bloat.
Anyone who's ever overindulged at mealtime has probably seen their stomach swell up. "When we cram a lot of nutrition into a small period of time, it takes longer to break down, leading to feelings of pressure and fullness," Hardy says.
In addition, when we overeat, we get more fat, protein and fiber in a sitting. High-fat meals slow digestion and reduce gas clearance in the colon while a heap of fiber gives your gut bacteria a whole lot to digest at once, Hardy says. The result: more gas and bloating.
Worth noting: Overeating often happens when people skip meals, and, after waiting too long to eat, become ravenously hungry. If you're prone to gas and bloating, learn to be attuned to your hunger and fullness signals, Hardy says. This way, you can eat as soon as hunger strikes and avoid overdoing it. Believe us, your belly will thank you.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.