After a wonderful meal, you’re ready to relax and move on to the rest of your day. But then it happens: Your pants feel tight, and your stomach feels twice its normal size. On top of that, you may even experience cramps, gas, and belching. These are all possible signs of bloating.
While some underlying health conditions sometimes cause bloating, it’s a common occurrence that may be fixed with changes to your eating habits. Here are some tips to help you avoid those uncomfortable bloating episodes.
1. Know the most common food triggers
Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins can all be triggers of bloating. However, certain foods may be worse than others, and digestive issues will vary from person to person. Common bloating triggers include:
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
- dairy products
- peaches and pears
You don’t have to avoid these foods altogether. Instead, try eating one potential culprit at a time and reduce the quantity you eat if it causes any bloating. Get to know which foods in particular are causing issues. Here’s a list of 13 low-carb fruits and vegetables to eat.
2. Watch your fiber intake
Fibrous foods such as whole grains, beans, and legumes can be a common cause of bloating. While these foods are promoted as healthier than their refined counterparts, their high-fiber content leads to bloat in some people.
Fiber is an important part of a heart-healthy diet, but you should gradually increase the amount you eat. For example, instead of switching from refined white grains to whole grains all at once, try replacing one product at a time to see how your body reacts.
3. Put away the salt shaker
By now, you know that eating too much salt can cause a slew of long-term health problems, including high blood pressure. In the short term, an extra salty meal may lead to water retention, which causes bloating.
4. Avoid fatty foods
Here’s another pitfall of high-fat meals: They take longer for your body to process. The fat moves slowly through the digestive tract, and this may cause bloat. It also explains why your stomach feels like it wants to burst out of your clothing after a large, fattening meal, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Not all fats are created equal though, and digestion can be different between trans, saturated, and unsaturated fats. Pay attention to which types of fat may cause issues. If fried foods, which have saturated and trans fats, tend to cause issues, try a healthier, unsaturated fat such as avocado or nuts and seeds.
Limiting your intake of fried, processed, and refined foods can help with digestion and overall health.
5. Limit carbonated drinks
Carbonated water and soda are leading culprits for bloating in the beverage world. As you consume these drinks, carbon dioxide gas builds up in your body. This can quickly lead to bloating, especially if you drink them quickly.
Plain water is best. Try adding a slice of lemon for some flavor without the bloat.
6. Eat slowly
You may have a habit of scarfing down your food if you’re in a time crunch. You also swallow air when you do this, which can lead to gas retention.
You can beat the bloat by taking your time eating. Eating more slowly can also reduce your overall food intake, so you may find yourself tightening your belt rather than loosening it!
7. Go for a walk
There is no denying the benefits of exercise for your overall health and well-being. As an added bonus, working out can also reduce the gas buildup that contributes to bloating. A short walk can alleviate bloating after a meal, if you’re up for it.
8. Try a gas-busting supplement
Digestive enzymes help break down food and absorb nutrients. One example is the anti-gas supplement a-galactosidase, which helps prevent gas buildup from certain foods. While they’re usually advertised to prevent belching and flatulence, these pills also can relieve bloating. Depending on the brand, you may take these supplements on a daily basis, or as needed before meals per doctor’s orders.
There are many other digestive enzymes, including amylase, lipase, and protease, that you can take as well. These help break down carbs, fats, and proteins and can be found separately or in combination products over the counter.
In addition, probiotic supplements can help regulate the good bacteria in your gut, which can decrease bloat.
When lifestyle changes don’t help
Bloating is usually just your body’s natural response to certain foods or habits. But when bloating doesn’t ease up with dietary changes, it may be time to address the problem with your doctor. This is especially the case if the bloating is accompanied with severe cramps and abnormal bowel movements. Possible underlying health problems include:
- Crohn’s disease
- food allergies
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- lactose intolerance
- celiac disease
- gluten sensitivity
You don’t have to put up with bloating forever. Remember that determining the cause will eventually help prevent uncomfortable bloating episodes. Work with a registered dietitian if you need extra help finding the right foods or supplement to help ease bloat.