If you find yourself thinking, "I'm thin but my stomach sticks out," or if you notice an unpleasant sensation of expansion in your abdomen with no obvious cause, you may be struggling with stomach bloating. Stomach bloating can be an uncomfortable reaction to food you have eaten or excessive gas being produced from the movement of muscles in the digestive system. Due to how it appears, it can be very confidence inhibiting, but there's no need to succumb to it.
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Altering your diet, changing the way you consume food and exercising more can all help with bloating.
Ordinary Bloating Symptoms
An August 2017 article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology says that some of the symptoms of abdominal bloating are:
- Excessive belching or flatulence
- Feelings of nausea
- Sharp pain
- Swollen belly
Read more: Vitamins and Bloating
What Causes Bloating?
Bloating can be caused by excessive amounts of solids, liquids or gas in the digestive system, but there are also instances where it is a case of oversensitivity. There isn't actually any swelling of the abdomen apparent, but it feels like there is.
This feeling, though seemingly innocuous, can be very debilitating. There are occasions where it can be a signifier of a more serious medical condition but more often than not it is due to dietary intake and particular intolerances.
Read more: Bloating and Fibroids
Further Causes of Bloating
Too much wind can often feel like an embarrassing topic to cover, but it is also a huge contributor to stomach pain and bloating. Ignoring it can exacerbate symptoms and place higher levels of stress on the body.
To reduce the amount of gas the body is producing, the National Health Service of the U.K. recommends that you reduce the intake of foods such as beans, broccoli, onions, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts.
It's still important to get your five portions of vegetables a day, but finding them elsewhere may prevent uncomfortable bloating from occurring.
Constipation and Fiber
If you struggle with constipation it can be a humiliating symptom to experience, especially when it affects your appearance through bloating (or the uncomfortable sensation of being bloated).
A diet packed with high-fiber foods can work to alleviate constipation, and therefore also work as effective bloating remedies.
The British Nutrition Foundation recommends the intake of high-fiber foods, including:
- Fruits such as berries, pears, melon and oranges
- Vegetables such as carrots and sweet corn
- Peas and pulses
- Nuts and seeds
Read more: Peanut Butter and Bloating
Excessive Swallowing of Air
It may seem like an overly simplistic point to make, but swallowing too much air can truly affect the way the digestive system works and how much strain is put upon the muscles. A lot of these tips may seem like advice a mother would give a child, but there's some truth to the saying that Mother knows best! The National Health Service suggests that you:
- Avoid talking and eating at the same time: This is the easiest way for too much air to enter your body and increase the chances of bloating.
- Sit down while eating: Being too active when consuming food can cause there to be too much airflow through the body.
- Cut down on fizzy drinks: The air from the bubbles of fizzy drinks increase the chances of stomach bloating dramatically, so cutting down on them is not only good for overall health but will also reduce potential discomfort.
- Stop chewing gum: A large amount of air travels to your stomach while chewing gum, so cutting down on this habit will potentially reduce stomach bloating
Potential Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that predominantly affects the small intestine where your body can't absorb the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. It affects 1 percent of all average Americans, meaning that at least 3 million people suffer from the condition, 97 percent of which are not diagnosed.
Celiac disease can cause bloating in addition to abdominal pain, among other digestive issues. If bloating is particularly bad following a meal high in gluten it may be time to visit a health care professional for potential diagnosis.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome often struggle with excessive bloating, particularly the later it gets into the day. Though this is sometimes linked to excessive wind, it is thought to be due to erratic propulsion of contents through the bowel that results in uncomfortable bloating.
Approved Bloating Remedies
There are many ways to reduce stomach bloating. Whether it's a physical, observable change or the distressing sensation of abdominal pressure, there are numerous methods to counteract it meaning there's no reason to simply accept it.
There are a number of proven methods to reduce stomach bloating, including doing abdominal yoga exercises, reducing your intake of carbs, using peppermint capsules, reducing your intake of dairy, using essentials and replacing soda with water.
Abdominal Yoga Exercises
Particular yoga poses can be an effective way to strengthen the abdominal muscles**.** A December 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology showed that these exercises can encourage the release of excess gas from the GI tract. This allows for a reduction in bloating.
Reduced Intake of Carbs
Too many carbohydrates absorbed by the body too quickly can cause bloating. A March 2019 study published in Advances in Therapy advises that the carbs from foods like white bread, candy and pastries all enter your bloodstream almost instantly, so to avoid the likelihood of bloating, you should avoid them.
Other foods to be aware of are complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. They take longer to enter your bloodstream but still have the potential of causing bloating if ingested too quickly.
Digestible Peppermint Capsules
In the past, peppermint capsules have been used to relieve discomfort caused by irritable bowel syndrome, which can contribute to stomach bloating. A February 2016 study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences suggests that peppermint works by relaxing the intestinal muscles, encouraging bowel movements so that excessive gas doesn't build.
You can purchase peppermint capsules over the counter or at drug stores.
Reduced Intake of Dairy
Milk, ice cream and cheese can all cause bloating if the body cannot process lactose adequately. If bloating is apparent following a meal high in dairy, it may be wise to consider removing it from the diet.
Lactose intolerance is very common, with approximately 65 percent of the world's population demonstrating symptoms after infancy according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Applying Essential Oils
A June 2016 study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Liver Diseases demonstrated that the use of curcumin and fennel essential oil on patients who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome provided comfort over a period of 30 days, reducing some of their symptoms. This would suggest it can aid with stomach bloating too as this is a symptom of IBS.
Before using any essential oil consult a health care professional first, as they may interfere with medication or cause an allergic reaction.
Replace Soda With Water
It's important for the body to stay hydrated regardless of whether or not stomach bloating is being experienced, but especially where abdominal discomfort is concerned swapping fizzy drinks for water should be considered.
The reduced intake of sugars and air bubbles will reduce the chances of stomach bloating, and the additional water in your diet will benefit your body thoroughly.
Is It Serious?
Stomach bloating isn't something to worry about too much. It can be debilitating and uncomfortable, which is why it should be treated, but it isn't usually something sinister.
However, if you feel weak and have symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, fever, belly pain or blood in your stool, it's time to talk to your doctor about medicine for bloating. It's important to take care of your body by paying attention to any symptoms that are out of the ordinary.
- National Health Service: "Beat the Bloat"
- University of Chicago Medicine: "Celiac Disease Facts and Figures"
- National Library of Medicine: "Lactose Intolerance"
- JGLD: "Curcumin and Fennel Essential Oil Improve Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome"
- The American Journal of Gastroenterology: "Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Old Misconceptions and Current Knowledge"
- ScienceDirect: "Effect of Yoga in the Therapy of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review"
- Advances in Therapy: "Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Clinical Approach and Management"
- Digestive Diseases and Sciences: "A Novel Delivery System of Peppermint Oil Is an Effective Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms"
- Chemical Science Reviews: "The Importance of Hydration and DNA Conformation in Interpreting Infrared Spectra of Cells and Tissues"
- British Nutrition Foundation: "Dietary Fibre"