Odds are, you have been bloated at some point in time and it has more than likely occurred after you ate a meal. It is an unsettling feeling that can turn embarrassing as bloating often results in farting and burping. To avoid feeling so self conscious, there are ways to help prevent and cure your bloating to dodge those gassy moments.
What is bloating?
Bloating is that gassy, inflated feeling you get in your stomach area. You feel heavy, uncomfortable, and sometimes, in pain. When you look in the mirror, bloating makes your stomach look bigger, as if you have a “food belly” because bloating is a condition when there is a buildup of gas in the stomach and intestines. You will find that farting and or/burping will alleviate the bloat.
How does bloating happen?
There are so many things that cause bloating, some of which include certain foods, eating quickly, drinking carbonated drinks, exercise, menstrual cycle, and constipation. The most common cause of bloating is food, because when we eat food every day, our body naturally produces gas to help our bodies digest the food we eat.
Bloating after eating
There is an extensive list of foods that cause bloating and gas and should be avoided. Foods such as wheat, broccoli, beans, all lactose products (milk, yogurt, ice cream), apples, gum, candy, and fructose all cause bloating. Unfortunately, almost all of the foods on this list to avoid are foods that are consumed daily and are realistically difficult to avoid. Wheat and fructose are the most difficult things to avoid because they are both comfort foods. Wheat is essentially all carbohydrates, which are Americans favorite foods. Also, consuming foods that you are intolerant to or allergic to, can cause bloating. The difference between being intolerant and being allergic, is that if you are intolerant to something, you can consume it, but you will not feel very well. If you are allergic to something, it will be very obvious because you will have symptoms such as swelling, itching, and trouble breathing. Having an allergic reaction requires immediate attention, and you should go to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Another important thing to note is that fructose, which can cause bloating, is an ingredient that is in a surprising amount of foods and drinks like Gatorade. The next time you drink something, look on the back of the bottle at the nutrition facts, look for the ingredients, and you will most likely see fructose on the label.
Bloating from eating quickly
Why do you experience bloating after eating? Not only can it be the foods you are eating, but the rate at which you are eating. We all have busy schedules and are constantly on the go, so we rush to eat our food either due to time restraints or because we are starving. For whichever reason, eating quickly results in too much air being swallowed and getting trapped in the digestive tract. This air being trapped causes bloating. However, eating quickly not only causes bloating, but is a choking hazard, takes longer to feel full which causes more eating. A study from Hiroshima University found that eating quickly was associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, which includes risks like high cholesterol. Thus, eating slowly is essential to prevent bloating and other very serious health conditions. We may not be able to change our workload to a less hectic schedule, but eating healthier foods will help, because often times, busy schedules cause people to make a stop at a fast food place. Here is a tip: meal preparation for your entire work week. It will help your health and your wallet.
Bloating from carbonated drinks
We all love soda and our carbonated drinks. In fact, carbonated drinks rank as the 2nd most loved drink by Americans. Have you ever burped after drinking soda? This is because carbonated drinks release carbon dioxide gas. So, drinking soda, beer, or anything that is “carbonated” will result in burping because the body does not want that carbon dioxide gas and is trying to get rid of it. Realize how you always feel “relieved” and less inflated whenever you burp or fart? That is because the gas and air is built up in the gastrointestinal tract. However, soda can also relieve bloating because soda causes burping. So, it is a quick fix if you are so bloated that you are in pain. Grab that can of Sprite. It will easy your pain and reduce the amount extra gas in your gut. It has worked every time for me.
Bloating after exercise
After working out, I would always stand in front of the mirror, lift up my shirt, and expect to see a flatter stomach as justification that my tiring, sweaty, workout provided some form of results. Yet, every time I did this after my workout, I was discouraged, because I always looked bigger than I was at the beginning of my workout. However, according to Doctor Vigil at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical School, the reason for bloating after exercise is due gasping for air. When someone is fatigued, they gasp for air, and that gasping for air ends up going down the esophagus which leads straight to the stomach and causes bloating, as opposed to going down the trachea and going straight to the lungs. So, since fatigue pushes our air to this different track down the esophagus and to the stomach, and air does not belong in the stomach, your belly will “puff out” and bloat. Cardiovascular exercises like running and swimming result in visible bloating.
Bloating when on period
Ladies, periods are the worst time of the month. You have mood swings, food cravings, and bloating. Bloating is due to the body’s changes in progesterone and estrogen levels. According to a study from the Obstetrics and Gynecology International Volume 2011 by Colin White, Christine Hitchcock, Yvette Vigna, and Jerilynn Prior, the changes in progesterone and estrogen levels that naturally occur as a part of the menstrual cycle, cause the body to retain more water and salt. This retention causes swelling and in turn, the bloating phenomenon. Typically, the first day of your period is the worst bloating. Ways to get rid of this bloating is by avoiding salty foods and by drinking lots of water. Now, although the body retains water during your period, water will help flush out your system and actually improve water retention as hydration improves the functions of the kidney.
Bloating and bowel movement
Keeping track of your bowel movements might sound crazy, but it is actually really important that your body is self-regulating itself properly. If you have less than three bowel movements a week, you are constipated. Constipation is when you have difficulty passing stool. A common side effect of constipation is bloating. The body will bloat because the gastrointestinal tract is so backed up. Constipation can also be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Gastroparesis, both of which are medical conditions that prevent the gastrointestinal tract from emptying properly. These conditions are unfortunately incurable but can be managed to live a healthy, bloat-free, life. You will need to consult with your doctor for lab tests, imaging, and medications.
How bloating can be cured
Now that you know what the common causes for bloating are, you can take the appropriate measures to prevent bloating. You can prevent bloating by avoiding certain foods, meal prepping, eating slower, limiting carbonated drinks, staying hydrated with water, and by keeping a diary to track what you are eating and when you have a bowel movement. If bloating persists after making these lifestyle changes, consult with your doctor. The first step your doctor will recommend is keeping a food diary and a bowel movement chart which is why it is recommended to start tracking that immediately. Your doctor will also order a blood test, food allergy test, and other labs to make sure you do not have a serious underlying issue.