Studies show that 15-30% of Americans experience bloating.
It can be caused by a variety of factors, including food intolerances and menstrual cycles.
To reduce bloating, eat more slowly and leave spaces between meals, says gastroenterologist Dr. Ali Rezaie.
Some degree of bloating, perhaps after eating a larger-than-normal meal, is a common occurrence for many people—studies show that 15-30% of Americans experience bloating.
However, if you have a bloated stomach every time you eat, you should seek medical help, Ali Rezaie, a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, told Insider.
For those who don’t always have gas, but feel uncomfortable when they do, there are things you can do to minimize the likelihood of gas, such as eating more slowly and leaving gaps between meals.
There are several reasons for bloating
Some people are more prone to bloating than others, and bloating occurs for a variety of reasons, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food intolerances, menstrual cycles, eating too fast, and too much fiber.
One cause of bloating is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or excess bacteria residing in the small intestine, according to Rezaie, a digestive tract researcher and co-author of The Microbiome Connection.
“After eating, these bacteria ferment food, especially carbohydrates, and produce various by-products and gases such as methane, hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide,” he said. “The buildup of these gases in the gut can manifest as bloating or abdominal pain.”
If you have SIBO, you may notice significant bloating after eating a food that you used to tolerate well, Rezaie said.
In addition to recurring bloating, other symptoms to look out for are changes in bowel habits, excessive belching or gas, abdominal discomfort, changes in weight, nausea, vomiting, brain fog, or blood in the stool.
These could be a sign that something isn’t right and you should see your doctor, Rezaie said.
4 Tips to Avoid Bloating
- Leave space between meals
The small intestine keeps itself clean with “housekeeping waves,” which move undigested food from the small intestine to the large intestine. These waves occur every two hours when we’re not eating, Rezaie said.
“These waves are integral to the balance of our gut microbiome,” he said.
To make sure these fluctuations can occur, if you can, wait a few hours after each meal or snack before eating.
- Eat slowly
Gastroenterologist Hardeep Singh previously told Insider that by chewing food longer and eating slowly, you’ll absorb less air. Less air means less bloating.
- Drink plenty of water
Too much sodium can cause bloating, and drinking water can help flush it out, Singh says.
- Try a low-fermentation diet
A “low-fermented diet” may help reduce symptoms of SIBO, Rezaie said, but more research is needed, according to Kirsten Jackson, a consultant nutritionist in gastroenterology.
Highly fermented foods, like artificial sweeteners, beans, cauliflower, and broccoli, can produce gas, so cutting them out may help.
However, it’s worth remembering that beans, cauliflower, and broccoli have many other health benefits, including providing fiber that’s important for gut health, so you shouldn’t cut them out if you don’t have to.
“As a rule of thumb, a diet that’s low in carbohydrates and high in protein will result in less bloating,” Rezaie said.
However, protein powder can cause bloating and digestive issues in some people, personal trainer Stephanie Sanzo previously explained to Insider.
If you’re unsure or often have bloating to the point of pain, see your doctor, who may prescribe medication, an elimination diet, or other treatments.