Dietitian Tips on How to Reduce Bloating
Is your bloating normal? Find out causes, tips, and more from a digestive health dietitian
Lately in my practice, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about bloating! Clients often come to me asking “why am I so bloated?!” and are searching for tips on how to reduce bloating and improve their overall digestive health. Bloating can be a complex topic with a variety of causes and building your bloating toolkit can also be highly individualized, so working with a digestive health dietitian is always a good idea! To get you started, in this article we’ll explore what causes bloating, and some common tips and tricks for bloating management.
What is bloating and how do I tell what’s normal?
Bloating is the feeling of discomfort or fullness in the abdomen and is often accompanied by visible swelling of the belly (what we call distention). One thing I want to stress is that it is totally normal for all of us to experience some bloating and expansion of the belly throughout the day – this is a sign that our body is doing what it needs to do! Our stomach is being filled with healthful and soulful foods, and the bacteria in our gut is getting the fuel they need from that food to provide us with a wide variety of health benefits.
Bloating can also be a symptom of certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In general, it is a good idea to see a doctor if you experience bloating that is persistent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, or blood in your stool. It’s also important to see a doctor if you have a sudden or unexpected change in your bowel habits or if you experience unexplained weight loss, as these can be signs of a more serious condition. Additionally, if you have a history of gastrointestinal problems or a family history of such conditions, it’s important to consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying issues.
What causes bloating?
If you aren’t experiencing any of the “red flag” symptoms I described above, but are still struggling with more gas, swelling, or discomfort than usual, exploring some possible food or lifestyle adjustments might be supportive for you! Below are some examples of what causes bloating:
Certain foods are more likely to cause bloating, such as beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, and onions. These foods contain prebiotic fibres which are fermented by the bacteria in our gut, producing gas! If you’ve been working to include more plant-based proteins in your eating patterns, you might notice an initial increase in gas and bloating – your gut bacteria are CELEBRATING all that delicious fibre you’re adding. After a few weeks, with consistent intake, this should normalize.
Bubbly drinks introduce more gas in the gut, which can contribute to bloating. The same goes for drinking through straws all the time!
Foods or candies that are sweetened with large amounts of sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and sorbitol, can also cause bloating.
Some people may be intolerant to certain foods, such as lactose, which can cause bloating.
Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease, can cause bloating.
When stools are hard to pass, the intestinal muscles must work harder to push the stool through, which can cause bloating and discomfort.
This is a condition where the stomach takes too long to empty its contents into our intestines, which can increase bloating and discomfort.
Hormonal changes can cause bloating! One prime example is some of the digestive side effects we see when women are menstruating. It’s very normal to experience more boating while you have your period.
Some medications, such as antibiotics, may cause bloating as a side effect.
Stress and anxiety can affect the digestive system, increasing our experience of bloating, among other symptoms.
7 Key Tips on How to Reduce Bloating
Below are a few ideas and tips to add to your toolkit if you’re wondering how to reduce bloating and discomfort:
1. Eat regular meals
A simple, but so effective strategy! Regular meal intervals keep the gut moving in a good rhythm and prevent food from sitting in the digestive tract, where more fermentation can occur and thus more gas and bloating!
2. Slow down when eating
Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow air, which can contribute to bloating. Challenge yourself to chew each bite 20-30 times before swallowing to support mechanical digestion!
3. Try peppermint
Either as a strongly brewed peppermint tea or enteric coated capsules, peppermint has been shown to calm and relax the muscles of the digestive tract, improving digestion and allowing gas to pass through.
4. Incorporate ginger
This root has natural “prokinetic” properties which encourages food to move at a healthy rate through the digestive tract. Adding ginger tea, cooking with ginger root, or eating a few ginger chews before or after a meal can help keep gas moving through the digestive tract and reduce bloating.
5. Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water can help prevent constipation (which is often coupled with bloating!) and keep our gut hydrated.
6. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help improve digestion and reduce bloating. Remember: when you move, your gut moves! If you’re feeling bloated, try some gentle yoga poses to keep gas moving through the gut.
7. Practice good posture
Sitting or standing with good posture can help reduce bloating by allowing the stomach to properly empty. I would also be mindful of clothes that fit too tightly or dig in at the waist as this can aggravate digestive symptoms!
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with bloating is different and some of the above tips may be more effective for some than others. It may be helpful to keep a food & mood journal to help identify any patterns or triggers in your own eating patterns or lifestyle! If your bloating persists or you’re looking for more individualized support to build your digestive health toolkit, reach out to our digestive health dietitians here at Health Stand! We would love to support you in making your gut feel good.
Interested in more specialized help for bloating or digestive issues? Our Digestive Health Dietitians can help!
If you are confused about which foods can trigger a cranky gut reaction or what nutrition recommendations can ease your symptoms and improve your gut health, reach out to us for help.
Our incredible and compassionate team of Registered Dietitians provide personalized solutions to your nutrition concerns through our one-on-one nutrition counseling.
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If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our other articles on eating disorders:
Disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, chronic disease
One of the first things you’ll notice about Britney is her energy, zest for life and love of food! Britney is passionate about supporting her clients in developing a healthy and satisfying relationship with food and their bodies, allowing them to live life to the fullest. Britney specializes in disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, and chronic disease.