If you suffer from abdominal bloating, you’re not alone. Everyone gets a bloated stomach from time to time.Yet, when you’re in constant pain or discomfort due to bloating, you might have an issue with your digestive system. If you have chronic gas, water weight gain, or other symptoms of belly bloat, you may want to get tested for common chronic conditions related to these issues. Find out how to prevent a bloated stomach and how to treat your condition if you’re already suffering.
Bloated Stomach Causes
The most common causes of bloating are related to excess water and air in the digestive tract. When air gets into the intestinal system, it can cause pressure, pain, and bloating. The most common bloated stomach causes include gas, hormonal imbalances, and medical conditions (such as food allergies and intolerances).
The most common reason for a bloated stomach is gas caused by swallowed air. When air enters the stomach, it can become trapped and cause bloating. Some of the most common ways you might get air trapped in your stomach may include eating too fast, drinking too fast, chewing gum, smoking, drinking carbonated beverages, and wearing loose dentures.
Fermenting food and bacterial overgrowth can also cause gas. If your gastrointestinal system cannot digest food, it may become trapped in your intestine and ferment.
Other causes of gas may include food allergies and food sensitivities. If your body has a hard time digesting any type of food, you may experience acid reflux, gas, and bloating (as well as some other gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting).
Mental Health Conditions
Another one of the most common medical reasons for a bloated stomach is hormonal imbalances and fluctuations. These are often brought on for normal reasons (PMS, perimenopause, and menopause), but they can also be the result of mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
When you get stressed, your body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline and activates your sympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as your fight-or-flight responses). When you deal with a stressor (dangerous or otherwise) your body releases these hormones to give you the energy to fight off danger — or flee from it. You become alert and ready for action.
Yet, your body isn’t designed to be in a constant state of stress and worry. And it’s definitely not programmed to live with these chemicals floating around in your system long-term.
This hormonal imbalance can lead to water retention and bloating — especially in the stomach.
The main medical causes of a bloated stomach include:
Constipation (restricted bowel movements)
Some eating disorders
Bloated Stomach Symptoms
If you’re feeling bloated, you probably know it. Most people don’t feel well or simply feel ‘off’ when they’re bloated.
Symptoms may range from mild to moderate to severe. Some people may experience slight discomfort or that their clothes simply don’t fit the same. Others may experience extreme pain or water weight gain.
Most water weight gain goes away after the bloating is treated, but it can still make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
Water weight gain
Bloated Stomach Risk Factors
A bloated stomach can cause damage to your body, your lifestyle, and be an indicator of other more serious medical and chronic conditions, such as:
Kidney failure/kidney disease
When you’re bloated, you’re more likely to decline social activities, like meeting up with friends. You may also avoid situations where food is involved or your body might draw attention (such as a pool party or gym locker room). Since a bloated stomach can also cause pain, you’re more likely to call out sick from work or miss school.
Both children and adults can experience bloating.
Preventing Stomach Bloating
If you suffer from a bloated stomach consistently, you may want to take a few steps to help prevent bloating in the future. Before dealing with your condition, you may need to discover the source of your bloating.
Ordering a home testing kit to check for allergies, food sensitivities, FODMAPs, and other issues is a good first step. You may also want to talk to your doctor to rule out any medication side effects or other issues.
Making a few simple lifestyle changes should also reduce bloating, pain, and discomfort caused by gas and water retention.
Avoid Fake Sugar
Fake sweeteners (such as sorbitol, saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, sucralose, erythritol, and xylitol) contain sugar alcohols. These alcohols can cause gas, pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea in some people.
If you use any of the above fake sweeteners, you might want to consider cutting out these sweeteners altogether (or at least cutting down on them significantly).
Cutting out fake sugar should tell you whether or not this ingredient is causing your bloating. If you still have symptoms a few weeks after removing fake sugar from your diet, the cause may not be the sweetener.
It’s faster to simply get tested for allergies and sensitivities (see below).
Reduce Salt Intake
Salt is one of the leading causes of water retention (and bloating). Eating too much salt can cause you to gain water weight and become dehydrated.
The FDA dietary guidelines for Americans states that you should limit salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (or, about one teaspoon of salt). This means limiting the salt you add to your food (as well as limiting foods that contain salt). One easy way to limit salt intake is to avoid processed foods that need high sodium contents to keep food preserved.
You should also hydrate more if you eat more than the recommended amount of salt. Staying hydrated can help you not only flush extra salt from your system, but it can also help you flush any additional toxins or hormone build-ups in your body.
This is why most doctors recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water per day (minimum) and more if you live in a dry or hot climate or workout extensively.
Water can also help flush excess water in your system, and it even helps break up fat cells in your body.
Cut Down on Carbonation
Carbonated beverages are another common reason for gas and bloating, so it makes sense to cut down on these beverages if you consistently suffer from belly bloat.
In addition to simply carbonated beverages (such as club soda, soda water, or sparkling water), you’ll also want to cut out sugary carbonated beverages (like soda and tonic water). Even diet soda can cause irritation as it contains alcohol sugars, such as aspartame.
Both sugar (such as granular sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, and other sweeteners) and alcohol sugar can cause bloating and gas. Add carbonation to the mix, and you have a recipe for a seriously bloated stomach.
Get Tested for FODMAPs and Food Allergies
If you think you may have an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods (like dairy products, gluten, or FODMAPs), you’ll want to get tested. Luckily, you can now order at-home test kits from companies like EverlyWell, Vitagene, and CRI Genetics to determine if your bloated stomach is caused by these issues.
If you get bloated, gassy, constipated, or experience diarrhea after eating ice cream or other dairy products, you might be lactose intolerant. If you experience constipation, indigestion, or other gastrointestinal issues after eating gluten, you may be suffering from celiac disease.
Following a gluten-free, lactose-free, or low-FODMAP diet should help solve these digestive issues. Yet, you probably don’t want to change your entire diet if it turns out you don’t have food sensitivities. That’s why it’s important to get tested first.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol and other stimulants (such as sugar, nicotine, caffeine, and drugs) can all lead to hormone imbalances, which leads to bloating.
You might notice that your face looks a little puffy the day after you’ve indulged in too many alcoholic beverages.
That’s because your hormones are trying to recalibrate. When you drink too much alcohol, your body’s serotonin and Gaba levels increase (which feels good), and the hormones that cause stress and anxiety decrease. After a night of sky-high serotonin, your body tries to overcompensate to balance your hormones, and you’ll end up with sky-high glutamate levels, which will cause anxiety.
All these hormones flooding your system can also cause bloating (and slow weight loss), and not just in your belly, either.
Don’t Eat Indigestible Carbohydrates
Indigestible carbohydrates are one of the main causes of gas. If you suffer from gas and bloating after eating certain vegetables, legumes, lentils, and carbs, you may have a sensitivity.
Some people also get gas and bloated stomachs from eating overly-ripe bananas. While regular bananas can actually decrease bloating and discomfort as they contain potassium and magnesium, overly-ripe, brown bananas may cause issues.
If you think you may have a food sensitivity, you may want to get tested (see above). Some of the biggest indigestible carb offenders include:
Stop Eating When You’re 80% Full
If you consistently eat an uncomfortable amount of food at each meal, you probably feel bloated afterward.
Our stomachs send signals to our brains when they feel full — but it often takes up to 20 minutes for those signals to arrive! This is why it’s important to stop eating when we feel 80% full — and not completely full. Our brains need time to process satiety.
Overeating can not only lead to a bloated stomach, but it can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other preventable chronic conditions.
If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, such as binge eating, you may want to talk to a therapist. Online therapy platforms such as Talkspace can match you with a therapist that specializes in such disorders.
Make appointments to talk to your therapist in real-time, and send text, video, or audio messages whenever you need support.
Talk to Your Doctor
Since a bloated stomach may be the cause of a more serious condition, you’ll want to talk to your doctor if you’re suffering from this issue for more than a day or two. Some medications may cause stomach bloating (including steroids, opioids, diarrhea medications, multivitamins, and supplements).
You always want to talk to your doctor before switching or stopping a medication — especially prescription medication.
Since bloating can be a symptom of other, more serious conditions, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Your doctor will also mention any risk factors that pertain to your bloating.
Bloated Stomach Treatments
If your bloated stomach is not the result of any serious conditions, and if it’s simply a symptom of gas, swallowed air, or other digestive issues, there are plenty of treatments available. The most common treatments include supplements and vitamins, laxatives (for constipation), gas medication, and antacids.
Some supplements and vitamins may help reduce your belly bloat. It’s important to always get tested for allergies and vitamin deficiencies before taking supplements, as many people end up taking too many supplements and vitamins.
The most common supplements for a bloated stomach include probiotic enzymes and prebiotics. These supplements can ensure your digestive system can easily digest foods and that food doesn’t end up fermenting in your small intestine.
If you’re suffering from constipation, laxatives may provide a short-term result for your condition. These medications are available over the counter, so you don’t need a prescription from your doctor to take them.
OTC Gas Medication
If you’re suffering from excess gas, you may want to take over-the-counter gas medication, like Beano.
It’s important to only take these OTC medications short term, as taking them long term may lead to other gastrointestinal issues. Unfortunately, the side effects of many OTC medications include bloating, so your bloated stomach may get worse before it gets better.