The distended, tight belly; the uncomfortable tension across the stomach — these are recognizable symptoms that your belly is too full. Bloating can cause you to feel full and your belly to swell because of too much gas in the digestive tract.
Feeling full at night or after eating is commonly caused by eating gas-producing foods such as beans and raw vegetables, as well as wearing constricting clothing. But there are other possible reasons for your belly feeling overly full and uncomfortable that you should discuss with your doctor.
Feeling full at night or after a meal may be caused by diet, lack of exercise or a more serious condition. If your stomach feels full, your doctor can help identify the cause and the best treatment for you.
Common Causes of Bloating
If you're feeling full at night, a number of different health conditions may be causing your bloating, from digestive disorders to certain diseases. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, belly bloat can result from constipation, which may be caused by certain medicines or vitamins, lack of fiber or liquids in the diet, lack of exercise or more serious conditions, such as thyroid disease.
Food intolerances, including lactose intolerance, can also cause that full feeling. Digestive disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux and irritable bowel syndrome are also common causes of bloating.
Feeling Full at Night
When your stomach feels full, it's quite possible that you simply ate too much — and your belly really is just too full. Overeating is a common cause of bloating and the uncomfortable full sensation of having overindulged on food.
To prevent overeating, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests adjusting some of your eating habits. Try slowing down your meals by putting down your fork in between bites, and eat only until you're full rather than trying to finish every bite.
Avoid eating mindlessly in front of the TV by sitting at the table and, when possible, sharing meals with friends or family. When at a restaurant, split an entree with a friend or order an appetizer instead of an entree. Eat slowly to give your belly time to recognize that it's time to stop eating.
Read more: 10 Ways to Beat Belly Bloat
Bloating Caused By Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis, which is commonly caused by diabetes, is a digestive condition that causes you to feel full and bloated because the stomach empties its food very slowly. Gastroparesis occurs as a result of a motility disorder whereby the muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract do not function properly to promote normal emptying of contents.
The bacterial overgrowth that may accompany gastroparesis can cause bloating. In such cases, your doctor may recommend the use of antibiotics or probiotics. Other gastroparesis treatments may include medications and surgery to help the stomach empty more quickly and alleviate that full feeling.
Read more: The 10 Worst Foods for Bloating
Additional Tips to Reduce Bloating
If you notice your stomach feels full frequently, ease gas in the digestive tract and constipation by slowly increasing your intake of dietary fiber, drinking plenty of fluids and getting regular exercise to stimulate the digestive tract, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Eat small meals regularly throughout the day and take care to stop eating when you begin to feel full.
You may also able to alleviate bloating by implementing certain dietary changes. It's possible your body has difficulty digesting sugars in a group of foods known as FODMAPs — fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
FODMAPs include wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes such as beans, honey, pistachios, cashews, asparagus, artichokes, and foods or drinks containing fructose or artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. Milk and other dairy foods can also be on the FODMAP list if your body lacks lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the lactose in milk for digestion.
If you think your stomach bloating may be due to a certain food or drink, your doctor may put you on a low-FODMAP diet. You'll then gradually reintroduce foods to see if they cause that full feeling. Although it may take some time to determine the underlying cause of belly bloating, your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist should be able to work with you to find the best solution.
- MedlinePlus: "Abdominal Bloating"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Understanding Bloating and Distension"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What’s Causing That Belly Bloat?"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Health Encyclopedia: Constipation"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Improving Your Eating Habits"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastroparesis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belching, Intestinal Gas and Bloating: Tips for Reducing Them"