Being bloated is not the best feeling — to say the least. When you’re not able to button your jeans or a stranger asks when you’re due (and you’re not expecting), it can instantly deflate your mood like a popped balloon.
According to WebMD, bloating is caused by intestinal gas — as long as you can rule out a medical condition such as liver or heart disease. But the causes of this intestinal gas can vary greatly.
The good news? Bloating is not permanent. Plus, it’s preventable — and there are some fast fixes to take care of the issue when it happens. Keep reading to learn eight surprising reasons you may be bloated, as well as what you can do to prevent each from happening in the future.
1. You’re eating too quickly.
When you scarf down a meal too fast, you’re also swallowing gas-producing air along with your food. Plus, chances are you’re not chewing thoroughly. This leads to pieces of food sitting in your gut, without being fully digested, which creates gas in your abdomen.
The fix: Try to eat more slowly and chew each bite of food thoroughly. Aim to take about 20 minutes to finish your meal — that’s how long it takes your brain to register satiety.
2. You may be allergic to wheat or dairy.
Yes, the gluten-free craze might have gotten a little out of hand. But people who are truly allergic or sensitive to gluten often have digestive issues like bloating and gas. An intolerance or allergy to dairy can also lead to digestive distress.
The fix: If you find yourself frequently feeling bloated, and you’ve ruled out these other factors, talk to your doctor about being tested for an allergy or intolerance. And you may not have to cut out your fave foods completely: You might find relief by simply limiting the amount of the bloat-inducing foods you consume.
3. You need more good bacteria in your gut.
Did you know you have trillions of bugs living inside you? Yep, the human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, known as the microbiome. The microorganisms that live in your gut are called gut flora. Beneficial flora, known as probiotics, do a variety of tasks in the body, such as aiding digestion, absorbing nutrients, producing vitamins, enzymes and neurotransmitters, managing appetite, and more.
Probiotics also help you digest food and absorb the nutrients. Proper digestion leads to perfect poops and decreased discomfort and inflammation in the digestive tract.
The fix: Include a probiotic supplement in your daily routine to help promote these beneficial bacteria and reduce digestive problems like gas and bloating. Learn more about how BINTO’s specially formulated probiotics work here.
4. You’re not eating enough fiber.
Fiber helps things keep moving along smoothly in your digestive tract. Plus, it’s a good source of prebiotics — the “food” for beneficial bacteria in your gut that can help reduce bloat.
The fix: Gradually increase the amount of fiber to reach 25 grams per day (the recommendation for women). Aim to get it from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, or add a fiber supplement such as Benefiber if necessary. Also, drink plenty of fluids to help wash it all down.
5. You’re consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners.
Diet soda, gum, and sugar-free packaged foods are full of fake sugars and sugar alcohols, which can wreak havoc on your gut flora. Plus, diet soda is a double whammy — all those little bubbles can also make your tummy bloated.
The fix: Try to consume no more than 2 or 3 servings of artificially sweetened foods and drinks per day. Better yet, cut them out completely.
6. You’re eating too much sodium.
People often think sodium mainly lurks in foods like chips, canned foods, and other salty snacks. But it’s hiding in more places you think, including soups, salad dressings, cereal, tomato sauce, crackers, and even bread.
The fix: The CDC recommends keeping sodium intake under 2,300 mg. Stay under the limit by avoiding highly processed foods — and always check labels to make sure an individual product is under 500mg. Ideally reach for products labeled “sodium free” or “low sodium.”
7. You overdid it on the broccoli.
Or the kale, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower. Yes, cruciferous veggies are super good for you — and they’re delicious! But the problem is that they contain tough-to-digest fiber and an indigestible sugar called raffinose, which can contribute to gas and bloating when consumed raw.
The fix: Reduce bloating and other unwanted side effects by always cooking these types of veggies — think steaming or roasting — before eating them. You can also take an over-the-counter anti-gas product such as Beano that contains enzymes to make them more digestible.
8. You’re not drinking enough water.
This might be the easiest one on the list to remedy. When you’re dehydrated, your GI tract doesn’t work as smoothies, causing uncomfortable side effects like bloat and a backed-up feeling.
The fix: Shoot for at least six to eight glasses of plain water per day. (But even more is even better!) It also helps excess air and water bloating move out of your system.
Locke Hughes is a freelance journalist and Emory-certified health coach based in Park City. Her approach to health and wellness is all about balance. In other words, she believes long hikes, hot yoga, and white wine all play an important role in a happy, healthy life.