Your Guide to Bloating: Causes and Remedies

Bloating “She’s writing about bloating, of all things,” said my nine-year-old when she saw this article. Yes… yes I am.

Bloating isn’t a popular topic of conversation, but it has more than likely been on your mind at some point or another. If you experience chronic bloating, you’re probably looking for answers, because you spend a lot of time feeling lethargic, heavy, and crampy.

And if you’re not bloated at least occasionally, I hate you.

Frankly, the emotional cost of belly distention can be even worse than the physical symptoms: worrying that you’ve suddenly gained three pounds is a total bummer. Having to wear looser clothing and being ashamed of your body can play havoc with your self-esteem and general well-being.

Bloating is caused by the buildup of air in your digestive track. Most commonly bloating results from swallowing air/gas and eating foods that are hard to digest. Or if we have a shortage or absence of particular enzymes that aid digestion, eating certain fiber, sugars, and starches can cause belly bloat.

It’s a damn pain. Especially when you’re working hard toward a lean, muscular physique.

Obviously I’m not a doctor and if you have chronic bloating it’s a good idea to see one. But if you’re looking for solutions for temporary bloating, read on.

Bloating and Clean Eating

In my twenties and early thirties I had to lie down in agony after every meal. My digestive track would balloon up to the size of a six-month pregnancy – the pain was wicked. I was also in the habit of eating whatever I wanted – fast food, beer, frozen dinners, tortilla chips. It never occurred to me that food was causing my problem. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but only because the doctor couldn’t explain my symptoms.

It wasn’t until I adopted clean eating that the pain and bloating stopped. Bam. My system simply cannot hande foods with long ingredient lists. Nowadays, I eat foods in their most natural state. When I’m bloated I take action to find out why. I may not have severe, chronic distention anymore, but managing my digestive health is an ongoing process.

If you suffer from chronic bloating and haven’t cut back on processed, refined foods, start reading up on how to eat clean (see all my articles here). If you already eat clean and suffer from bloating, you’re probably frustrated. I’m going to help you banish the bloat and help you get back to that happy tummy place.

Causes and Fixes for Bloating

If you’re chronically bloated, systematic sleuthing is better than flailing about willy-nilly with your diet. Experiencing bloat after every meal can mean your digestive track is really out of whack; it also feels confusing and frustrating.

Since diet is usually the cause of bloating, there’s only one way to find the cause: remove the food you’re suspicious of.

I did say remove, not reduce the food. If you think gluten is causing your bloating (for example), then do not eat gluten for several days and see what happens. If you notice less bloating within a day or two, that’s great. But stick with it for a week to be sure. This is not to say the removed food is definitely the cause of your digestive woes; time will tell. If you feel bloated again after removing the food then it’s time to eliminate another possible culprit (like dairy). This process is usually straight-forward, so give it a try.

Obviously, if you’re bloated immediately following a meal, you can assume it was caused by what you just ate.

Foods that Cause Bloating

In general, the following foods can be hard to digest. Eat them in moderation (or not at all) if you suffer from bloating.

  • Processed, prepackaged foods: Anything with a long ingredient list and that you don’t have to cook from scratch can be a culprit.
  • Beans and lentils: (duh!) Eat them with digestible grains such as rice or quinoa or try Beano.
  • Wheat: You don’t have to go completely gluten-free if wheat irritates your digestive track; experiment with reducing gluten.
  • Vegetables: Potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus… these have complex sugars and starches that are harder to digest.
  • Fruits: Bananas, apples, and pears are the biggest culprits (peel fruits to make them more digestiable).
  • Dairy products: Cheese, milk, yogurt, whey protein powder, and ice cream are common bloat-inducers. Try using Lactaid with dairy or cutting back.
  • Salty foods: We all know eating cans and cans of high-sodium soup (or whatever) can cause bloating, right?
  • Fatty foods: Rich, fatty foods take longer to digest. Avoid foods like gravy, heavy restaurant meals, and desserts.
  • Carbonated beverages: Air bubbles can lead to bloating (and artificial sweeteners too).
  • Artificial sweeteners: Avoid these. Gum and hard candy not only cause you to swallow air but they may contain artificial sweeteners, to say the least.

Other Causes of Bloating

Whew, that’s a dang long list of foods, isn’t it? It’s not even the whole story, either… you can get bloated from these things too:

Low-fiber diet: If things aren’t moving along well for you, slowly increase your fiber. But remember: fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. If you don’t start increasing fiber slowly (and drink a lot of water), you’ll find yourself in a lot of digestive pain.

Drinking from a straw: Swallowing air comes with drinking from a straw, so cut back on this if you’re bloated a lot.

Stress and anxiety: We each handle stress differently, and for some of us it manifests in physical symptoms. Decrease your stress. ‘Nuff said.

Eating too fast: I’m not one to scarf down food but if you are, slow down.

Eating too much: Surely we’ve all eaten a huge meal and felt totally bloated afterwards. You know the answer – don’t eat so much in one sitting. It’ll help if you slow down, too.

Have you ever had problems with bloating? Please tell all below… we’re all friends here.

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This article originally appeared on workoutnirvana.com.

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Comments

  1. Yes, when I don’t drink enough water and things…stop moving! It’s awful. Many of clients find their bloat goes away when they drink more water and reduce artificial sweeteners.

    • I tried drinking two gallons of water to alleviate the problem and it only worked once. I drink a LOT of water and it doesn’t seem to help. So individual.

  2. I have problems with bloating and was diagnosed with IBS in college. But now, I seem to get it a lot lately. I’m going to look at these things on the list. I always drink from a straw and never knew that about the air pockets. Also, didn’t know that about artificial sweetners, but I was on the outs with that anyways. I just don’t like the way it tastes and I would rather have real sugar. So, both of those things were interesting.

    Thanks for this btw!

  3. I’m eating lentil soup as I read this. :o)

    I experienced bloating immediately after eating in a restaurant on Sunday for Mike’s birthday. #1 reason I despise eating out is the after meal bloat.

  4. Such great tips! I have had a lot of issues in the past with bloat. It is the worst.
    I still do struggle with eating fast though. I know I need to be more mindful of it!

  5. I gotta tell you, running helps with any movement issues a lot…that being said I have been doing the add and subtract thing and have discovered In love bananas, but they don’t love me. This makes me super sad, but I feel a lot better, it’s bitter sweet, but I can live without the bananas. :'( I guess…
    Jenn Speer recently posted..BlessingsMy Profile

  6. AMEN TO THE STRESS AND BLOATING CONNECTION!!!!
    MIZ recently posted..Hard boiled eggs in a coffee maker.My Profile

  7. Great post! I have bloating all the time, mostly because of beans, but I absolutely love them. Eating way too fast is also a big problem of mine, plus about every other thing you named on your list. Looks like I have some changes to make.
    toni @ Runninglovingliving recently posted..Starting Monday….My Profile

  8. I don’t know if it’s bloating necessarily (my stomach still hasn’t recovered from pregnancy so it’s hard to say), but I’ve been feeling pain lately after eating, and I know I’ve been eating a lot more junk since we’ve entered the holiday season. And needless to say, with kids, work, and the holidays… I’ve got stress! I’ve suffered from ulcers and gall bladder problems before, so I’m pretty paranoid about it. I wonder what I should cut out first?
    Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout recently posted..Humpday ConfessionsMy Profile

    • You might have a sensitivity, and with your ulcers and gallbladder issues, you should be eating carefully. Pay attention to when the pain occurs… Is it after a heavy meal or lighter, healthier food too? You can try cutting the obviousl culprits first – dairy and gluten – but if you don’t notice an improvement, I’d see your doctor. Good luck!

  9. Well, I know you aren’t going to hate me because yes, I get bloating and it is always worse when sugar, dairy or lots of gluten is involved. I really appreciate this run-down of the causes and positive steps to take. For example, I didn’t know that drinking with a straw could make it worse. As always, thanks for your insight!
    Shira recently posted..Three Ways to Identify Your Life’s PurposeMy Profile

  10. I bloat to many of the healthy foods – those cruciferous vegetables – but I eat them anyway! Good thing I am not around people too much & I do drink my water! 😉 I have been better & I get all my fiber & stuff but been this way all my life & not going to stop eating my healthy stuff . 🙂 I do stay away from dairy though…

    Yes, stress – not good in so many ways!

    Always great posts!
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..Giveaway Winner, Upcoming Fun & Random Other StuffMy Profile

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