What Causes Bloating and What Can I Do About It?
Stomach bloat and gas happen to all of us from time to time, however if it happens consistently, then you have a problem. As a functional medicine doctor, I know that to really resolve any issue, you need to find the root cause. Let me explain the physical process of bloating, the most common causes, and what you can do about bloating.
What’s the Physical Process of Bloating?
There are actually three types of bloating, all of which can cause discomfort, stomach distention, flatulence, burping, and stomach rumbles.
1. Fluid Retention
Bloating caused by fluid retention can come from what you eat, hormones, or illness. You may be familiar with the sensation this creates. It’s like there’s a bathtub in your stomach that takes a few hours to drain.
- Eating too many carbs at once
- Salty foods, especially when consumed with excess liquid
- Hormonal imbalance during early pregnancy or during your period
- Late-stage heart or liver disease
To ease fluid retention, limit your salt intake. Make sure you stay hydrated, too. It may seem contradictory however, dehydration can actually cause or worsen fluid retention.1
This type of abdominal bloating is caused by swallowing air. When air causes bloating, your belly can feel hard to the touch.
- Chewing gum
- Gulping air while eating
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Using a straw
- Poorly fitted dentures
The key to preventing this kind of bloating after eating is to eat more slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Take care not to talk before you have completely swallowed, so that you are not gulping air into your digestive system. Of course, avoid all the causes above.
This is actually the most common culprit of bloating. It’s completely normal to produce between one to four pints per day of gas, but producing more or not being able to dispel the gas you naturally produce can get pretty uncomfortable.
Most common gasses:
- Carbon dioxide
To prevent excess gas production, it’s essential to address its root cause.
What Are the Root Causes of Excessive Gas Production?
Most of your gut bacteria is meant to be located in your large intestine and colon. When the bacteria normally found in the large intestine and colon begin to colonize the small intestine, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO, occurs. SIBO can also be caused by an overgrowth of otherwise normal bacteria in the small intestine itself. Once in the small intestine, the bacteria feed on undigested food and produce either methane or hydrogen depending on which type of bacteria overgrows.
Take this quiz to find out if you might have SIBO. The most common symptoms are severe abdominal bloating, flatulence, and belching. Some people bloat so much, they look six months pregnant by the end of the day.
2. Candida Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth is very common and causes symptoms such as bloating, constipation, rashes, fungal infections, fatigue, and more. The bloating is caused by excess yeast that impacts your gut microbiome. The excess Candida can begin a fermentation process in your gut that produces its own swelling and belly bloat, just like when bread rises.
3. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that can cause more than 300 symptoms including diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, gas, and bloating. When you have this condition, gluten attacks your gut lining causing noticeable inflammation and acute symptoms that can lead to serious illness.2
Gluten can cause bloating because of the inflammation it can create in your digestive tract, which interferes with digestion.
Whether you have celiac disease or not, I recommend everyone avoid gluten because it triggers the release of a substance called zonulin that causes leaky gut. In turn, leaky gut leads to inflammation that can cause a whole host of issues throughout your body, including bloating.
Dairy causes bloating in people who don’t produce the lactase enzyme, which allows you to break down lactose into simple sugars. The lactose travels undigested into your colon, where bacteria may begin to ferment it, creating gas. In a similar way to gluten, this can lead to inflammation and the poor digestion of both the lactose and the foods that you eat while your gut is inflamed. If you aren’t lactose intolerant, you might react to the two proteins found in milk, casein and whey.
5. Other Foods
Certain foods are more likely than others to cause gas because they contain substances that can’t be digested. Beans and cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli are good examples. These foods all contain raffinose, a trisaccharide that leads to fermentation and the production of intestinal gas.
Certain sweeteners such as sorbitol and fructose produce bloating and digestive distress in some people, as does too much fat. A low-FODMAP diet can be helpful for people who struggle with SIBO, IBS, and other gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms such as bloating, while they get to the root cause of the problem.
6 Simple Steps You Can Take
1. Remove Gut Infections
I have worked with thousands of patients at my clinic who had infections such as SIBO and Candida and saw how quickly their gastrointestinal symptoms were resolved once they were free of them. Check out my SIBO quiz and my Candida quiz to discover if these may be behind your bloated belly.
2. Ditch These Foods
The top foods to eliminate immediately when you are regularly feeling bloated are:
- Gluten and dairy
- Gas-producing foods including legumes and cruciferous vegetables
You’ll also want to limit fats, which take longer to digest than protein or carbs, so they stay in your stomach longer. While they do keep you satiated because they hang around, that’s the very same reason that rich and fatty food can contribute to bloating.
3. Relieve Stress
Under stress, many people tend to take shorter breaths and swallow more air which can cause bloating. Deep breathing not only helps keep you from swallowing excess air, it also helps manage your stress levels, Under stress, your body is busy sending resources to fuel the fight-or-flight response. It essentially turns off digestion, which is a recipe for poorly digested food and the creation of excess gas.
A Swedish study found that moderate exercise (such as biking for 30 minutes) helped reduce bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome (which is actually SIBO in about half the cases.)3 Exercise also protects against worsening symptoms.
5. Look at Your Fiber Intake
Too much fiber can cause bloating because it remains in the body for a relatively long time. Bacteria can feed on it, producing gas. However, too little fiber can also cause bloating as well as constipation because this can slow down your digestion and give your food more time to ferment while in your digestive tract. Keeping a food diary can help you find just the right balance to keep everything moving along as it should.
6. Work Bloat-Reducing Foods Into Your Diet
There are many foods that can help you ease a bloated stomach. Begin by including water-rich celery and cucumbers in your diet. You can learn more here. Next, be sure to try my Gut Wellness Smoothie Kit, which I designed to support a healthy gut.
It helps you beat cravings and addresses the potential root causes of your bloat so you can combat it long-term. Plus, it’s full of nutrients that will help you enjoy younger looking hair, skin and nails, as well as support balanced thyroid function, a healthy inflammatory response, and much more.
When I worked with patients at my clinic, I found that at least half of those who experienced bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) actually had SIBO. Try the SIBO quiz here. My quiz, developed after helping thousands of people with SIBO, is a comprehensive tool that you can use in the comfort of your home. No need to visit a clinic or pharmacy! If you find this is the root cause of your bloating, you can address it with the simple steps I outline in my free training.
In the meantime, be sure to ditch bloat-causing foods, add in some exercise, relieve your stress, balance the fiber in your diet, and add some bloat-easing foods to your meal plan.