Beat the bloat: Eight tips for avoiding problems

Patti Reece

Ever find yourself bloated after eating? Does your stomach stick out and you can’t breathe? Do you look like you’re eight months pregnant even after a small meal? What’s up with that?

Between 10 percent and 25 percent of healthy people experience bloating, research shows. It’s particularly common in people with  irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, bloating is a common symptom sometimes associated with a visible increase in the width of the abdomen.  Bloating is often accompanied by abdominal rumbling or gurgles, excessive gas (flatulence), frequent belching and pain.

While a bloated stomach is uncomfortable — and embarrassing when it comes along with gas or the need to run to the bathroom — it might present an even bigger problem than you’d think. Bloating sometimes signifies serious health problems. Bloating also could lead to allergies, autoimmune reactions, digestive orders and even stomach cancer in come cases. Other possible reasons for bloating and distension include bowel obstructions, constipation, dehydration, hormonal changes, infections and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth.

Fortunately, stomach bloating isn’t anything to be alarmed about in most cases. It usually can be cleared up by making some simple changes to your diet and routine. Here are eight proven ways to reduce or eliminate bloating:

Don’t eat too much at a time. Being stuffed can feel like being bloated, but you simply ate too much. If you eat big meals and feel uncomfortable afterwards, try smaller portions. Add another daily meal if necessary. A subset of people who experience bloating don’t really have an enlarged stomach or increased pressure in the abdomen. The issue is mostly sensory. Eating smaller meals can be incredibly useful.

Avoid swallowing gases. Air or gas is swallowed when you eat or drink. The biggest culprit is carbonated beverages. They contain bubbles with carbon dioxide, a gas that can be released from liquid after it reaches your stomach.

Avoid constipation. Constipation is a common digestive problem with different causes. Studies show constipation can exacerbate symptoms of bloating. Soluble fiber is often recommended for constipation. Increasing fiber should be done with caution as fiber can often make things worse for people who have gas or bloating. Try increasing physical activity or taking magnesium supplements, both of which can be effective against constipation.

Take probiotics. Clinical trials show certain probiotic supplements reduce gas production and bloating in people with digestive problems. This depends on the individual and type of probiotic strain used.

Try digestive enzyme supplements. Supplemental enzymes break down certain food components and can provide almost immediate relief.

Eliminate food allergens and intolerances to common foods. Food allergies and intolerances often cause bloating. Common offenders include lactose, fructose, wheat, gluten and eggs.

Try a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di- and mono-saccharides and polyols. These are the scientific names for carbohydrates that cause digestive issues. Studies show indigestible carbohydrates called FODMAPS aggravate symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome patients. A low-FODMAP diet has been shown reduce bloating, at least in IBS patients. If you have problems with bloating, with or without other digestive symptoms, a low-FODMAP diet could offer relief. Common high-FODMAP foods include apples, artichokes, beans, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions, watermelon and wheat.

Eat beneficial foods. Here are some of the best foods to help you battle bloating:

Water-rich fruits and vegetables. Water is the key electrolyte, and beneficial enzymes found in fruits and veggies relieve stomach bloating naturally. Good fruits and veggies include berries, celery, cucumbers, fennel and melons.

Such digestion-soothing herbs as aloe vera, dandelion, fennel and ginger have been used for thousands of years to soothe an uncomfortable belly. Many herbs act like diuretics and help the body release extra fluid. Some herbs, like ginger, help the stomach release its contents and relax muscles in the digestive tract that in turn relieves constipation.

Green tea and bone broth are also anti-inflammatory and great choices for promoting gut health.

Raw dairy. Conventional dairy products sold in supermarkets can kill enzymes needed for proper digestion. Eat aged and raw cheeses instead of soft cheeses and kefir and yogurt instead of milk, which are lower in lactose.

Bloating can be horribly frustrating. By following a few tips, though, you could avoid bloating and discomfort. If you’re eating more while staying home, these tips could be especially useful. Stay safe. Stay healthy.