Having gas is a normal part of digestion. We all have gas and we all experience flatulence or bloating and having either of these two doesn’t mean there is something off about our digestion.
But gas issues can be embarrassing and excessive bloating causes an unsightly belly bulge we’d all like to get rid of. Besides being unsightly, it’s also uncomfortable feeling tight around the waistline.
Why do we experience bloating? And what causes it?
What Causes Bloating?
Excessive gas and bloating can be caused by medical conditions, food choices, as well as our behavior.
Gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, and nitrogen make their way into your gut via swallowing air and due to the fermentation of foods as they are being digested in the large intestines.
Excessive gas in the gut is usually caused by one or more of the following.
Not being able to poop, or not having regular bowel movements means that your poop stays in your colon longer. And the longer your poop stays in the colon, the more the bacteria continue fermenting it, which in turn causes gas to build up.
Your food choices are a major cause of bloating. Eating too much fiber, legumes, and dairy products, among other foods can causes too much gas. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, for example, contain high amounts of sugar called raffinose, which releases gas.
If you’re not used to such a high-fiber diet, you’ll be prone to get bloated until your body gets used to digesting them.
Whole grains, carbonated beverages, sweetened foods containing sugar alcohols, and foods high in fat content also cause a lot of gas formation.
Easting too quickly seems like an unlikely factor in the gas buildup but it can make you feel bloated at least temporarily. You need to chew your food properly before swallowing it, which also allows it more time to begin getting digested in the mouth. Talking while eating causes extra gas for the same reason.
Also, when you’re eating fast, your body doesn't get enough time to process when your stomach is full and you can end up overeating. The latter leads to bloating in any case since there isn’t enough room left in your digestive system to accommodate the gases being released during fermentation. This causes your abdomen to tighten and become hard.
Increased gas in the intestines
Gas accumulation in the intestines is one of the biggest causes of bloating, but it is also a symptom of other digestive issues. Certain gastrointestinal disorders cause excess gas formation as a symptom.
Unusual bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines also leads to excessive gas among other digestive symptoms.
Certain medical conditions, such as gluten intolerance, lead to bloating. These conditions slow down the digestive process and the movement of food from one stage to the next and create an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in the gut. This change in the gut microbiome leads to bloating. It can also cause constipation.
Other conditions that cause similar gut sensitivity include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), food allergies, bowel obstruction, parasitic infection, and ascites.
Inflammatory bowel disease
In diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, which slows gas from escaping.
7 Ways To Get Rid Of Bloating
You can deal with bloating with two effective strategies: you can prevent it by avoiding the foods and behavior choices that cause gas formation and accumulation. Or you can treat the excess gas when you first notice it.
Here are 7 scientifically proven ways of remedying your stomach bloat.
#1. Find out what’s causing your bloating
It’s important to identify what causes your body to bloat. Do you eat foods that are known to cause gas or are you noticing abdominal distention due to some condition like lactose intolerance, for instance? You need to find out what foods you may be intolerant or allergic to so you can make sure to avoid them in the future.
Another reason why you need to identify the cause is that there are conditions during which bloating is natural and inevitable – for example, most women suffer from excess gas during the menstrual cycle.
Bloating can also be a result of anxiety, stress, sudden weight gain, certain medications, and high-fat meals.
Once you know what’s causing excess gas formation in your gut, you’ll figure out if it’s avoidable and how.
#2. Avoid gas-forming foods
People experience bloating from different foods. Those whose guts are not used to high-fiber diets are likely to experience excessive gas formation at some point after eating. Cruciferous vegetables are a great example of such foods.
Now, these veggies carry a high dose of anti-oxidants and are considered super-healthy. So it’s best not to give up on them entirely just because they led to bad bloat. Instead, the way to incorporate them into your diet is to eat them in small quantities which allows your body to adjust to their high fiber. Begin with small portion sizes and increase them gradually.
Carbonated beverages like soda and beer can give you gas because you’re literally swallowing air bubbles along with the drink. Though you will experience an initial relief with burping and belching you’ll continue to feel bloated until a little while after. That is why doctors recommend not drinking sodas with certain gastrointestinal issues, since they only give you the illusion of getting rid of gas when in fact they cause it.
Eating or drinking too quickly, sucking on hard candies, and chewing gum can all lead to swallowing air.
#3. Cut back on processed and greasy foods
Preservatives and sugars in processed foods often form excess gas while being digested. Similarly, foods that are high in fats like French fries and pizza lead to more gas. Fats take longer to digest, which means that the food stays and ferments in your gut longer, thus producing greater quantities of gas.
Foods rich in non-digestible or difficult-to-digest carbs produce more gas for the same reasons.
#4. Regulate your bowels
Many people suffer from some form of constipation and experience symptoms like bloating, hard and difficult-to-pass stool, straining, and just irregular or slow bowel movement.
These symptoms can all lead to the excess formation and collection of gas in your gut. That is because bacteria continue to ferment the stool.
You can alleviate these symptoms in three ways. First, improve your hydration – drink a sufficient amount of liquid, preferably water. Incorporate more fiber in your diet including both, soluble and insoluble fiber. And exercise more often.
Walking, swimming, cycling, or any other form of movement are essential to gut health and regular bowel movement.
#5. Eat smaller portions and limit your salt intake
Eating a large amount of food can lead to bloating due to two reasons. First, the food takes up a lot of space in your stomach, stretches your belly, and gathers gases and solids to make you feel too full and tight in the abdomen. Second, the most indigestible foods you’ve eaten the more gases they produce, which makes you feel bloated even more.
And if these foods are high in salt, they will tend to retain water in your gut making you suffer from bloating longer.
Reducing portion sizes and limiting your intake of salt, will together minimize any symptoms of bloating while preventing abdominal discomfort.
#6. Massage your stomach
Abdominal massages can relieve you from tightness, a feeling of fullness, cramping, and excess gas. It can also help reduce the buildup of abdominal fluids.
#7. Try some herbal tea
People have used herbal teas to treat bloating for thousands of years. Many studies not only prove how effective this method is but also show how it can calm this condition in the long run. Here are some of the most commonly used herbal teas and they are wonderfully aromatic. See which one you like.
Peppermint tea is a potent source of flavonoids and peppermint oil, which is known for its multiple digestive benefits. It has a cool, refreshing flavor and some blends have been formulated, particularly for stomach comfort.
Ginger tea has been used traditionally to treat digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and bloating. This tea is warm and spicy but can be softened with honey and lemon.
Chamomile tea is a floral tea, the benefits of which are similar to ginger tea. It is, however, more soothing and makes a great alternative if you want to avoid spice altogether.
Lemon balm tea has a pleasant, lemony scent with a minty note. This tea reduces gas, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and other digestive issues.
- Egan, Natalie. “Gas: beat the Bloat”. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. https://www.brighamandwomens.org/patients-and-families/meals-and-nutrition/bwh-nutrition-and-wellness-hub/special-topics/gas-beat-the-bloat
- Mandl, Elise. (2021). “12 Great Ways to get rid of Bloating”. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating
- Lehman, Shereen. (2021). “Foods That Commonly Cause Bloating.” Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/foods-that-cause-bloating-2505930
- Lindberg, Sara. (2021). “Is an enlarged belly caused by weight gain or bloating?”. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/bloating-vs-fat#bloat-causes
- “Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/bloating-causes-and-prevention-tips
- McCulloch, Marsha. (2019). “8 Herbal teas to Help Reduce Bloating.” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tea-for-bloating