You’ll be surprised to discover what causes bloating – and you’ll be relieved to learn how to get rid of your bloated stomach! I found the 5 most common causes of stomach bloating and 7 best ways to get rid of belly bloat.
“As you age, food does not move through your system the way it used to,” writes Dr Maoshing Ni in Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age. “You have more frequent bloating, irregularity, or gas. This is usually because the microflora, or helpful bacteria that line your digestive tract, have become scant or out of balance.”
Did you know that stomach bloating isn’t always caused by overeating? Eating too much can puff you up, but the Big Belly Bloat can also be triggered by other lifestyle factors and health issues. In this article, I share the best research I found on bloated stomach, what causes bloating, and how to get rid of a bloated belly once and for all. My research on bloated belly was inspired by my tummy. Sadly, it’s not flat or happy these days…I’ve got a bad case of the Big Belly Bloat. The bottom line? It’s easier to prevent stomach bloating than to get rid of it.
Below are a few hints of my personal experience with an extremely bloated belly and the causes of my stomach bloating. Learn from my experience! If you do the opposite of what I did, you’ll avoid a bloated stomach today and forevermore.
This article answers 3 questions:
- What is a bloated belly?
- What causes bloating?
- How do you get rid of a bloated stomach?
My research includes books about culinary medicine and women’s health issues (because a bloated stomach is sometimes caused by premenstrual syndrome). All my online resources and sources of information about what causes bloating and how to get rid of a bloated stomach are listed at the end of this article. I also included a few over-the-counter and natural remedies for stomach bloating within the article itself.
What is a Bloated Belly?
The good news is that stomach bloating is a condition you can easily avoid! Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, says that unless your stomach bloating is caused by a medical condition such as liver or heart disease, the only real cause is intestinal gas. This is totally in agreement with Dr Mao’s assessment of what causes belly bloating, which is a relief. I love when a natural health expert and a traditional medical doctor agree on the causes, symptoms, or treatments of a health issue.
The symptoms of bloating (gut discomfort, distended belly, that awful puffed stomach feeling) are caused by excess gas accumulating in the abdomen. Your intestines, to be specific.
This is what causes bloating in your belly: the bacteria in your guts produces gas when the food you’ve eaten hasn’t yet travelled through the small intestine. When those gas particles aren’t released right away, they expand. And your stomach expands, too. Bloated belly!
It doesn’t matter how many sit-ups you do or when you last pooped. If your bloated stomach is caused by bacteria and gas, then you need to find ways to get rid of the gas bubbles. Here’s a quick tip (because we’re not quite in the “How to Get Rid of a Bloated Stomach” section yet): chew your food carefully and slowly. Breaking down your food so it is easier to digest is essential to stopping belly bloat. Chewing helps your food travel through your intestines quicker and easier.
5 Causes of Bloated Stomach and 7 Ways to Get Rid of It
The causes of stomach bloating range from drinking too much diet soda pop through a straw to intestinal bowel syndrome (IBS). The natural remedies for belly bloat range from eating more fiber and drinking more water to finding an effective non-antibiotic treatment for IBS.
First, here are five specific foods, lifestyle habits, and health conditions that cause stomach bloating:
- Milk, ice cream, or dairy products
- Gum chewing and soda drinking
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Here’s more information about each cause of bloating…
1. Milk, ice cream, or dairy products
If you experience uncomfortable belly bloat after drinking milk or eating cheese or ice cream, you may be lactose intolerant. This means your body doesn’t produce enough (or any) lactase, which is an enzyme that helps digest milk.
But it can get a wee bit more complicated: instead of being lactose intolerant, you may be allergic to the proteins found in milk. According to the Mayo Clinic, all true food allergies are caused by an immune system malfunction. Your immune system identifies certain milk proteins as harmful, which triggers the production of immunoglobulin E antibodies to neutralize the milk protein. When you next drink milk or eat ice cream, your immune system releases histamine and other chemicals.
There are two main proteins in cow’s milk that can cause belly bloat:
- Casein, found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles
- Whey, found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles
If you’re allergic to milk proteins, you’ll experience a range of allergic signs and symptoms – including intestinal gas and stomach bloating. So, belly bloat may be caused by either a lactose intolerance or a protein allergy. Your best bet? Eliminate dairy and see if your stomach bloating and gas goes away. Below, I describe different ways to get rid of intestinal gas that is caused by dairy and milk products.
2. Gum chewing and soda drinking
Disappointing: my two favorite diet tricks cause belly bloat. Chewing gum (especially sugarfree) increases the amount of air you swallow, which causes stomach bloating.
Watch those artificial sweeteners! Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol, as well as the artificial sweeteners sucralose and aspartame, are sugar substitutes that contain ingredients that are difficult to break down during digestion. They increase intestinal gas, which causes belly bloat.
Carbonated drinks, such as root beer, cola, or ginger ale, cause air bubbles to form and expand in your abdomen. When they burst, carbon dioxide particles are dispersed in your stomach. They fill up your belly and cause stomach bloating.
3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Ah, yes. Stomach bloating is one of the most common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. This cause of Big Belly Bloat isn’t gas, though…it’s fluid retention. Women retain about three or four pounds of “water weight” can also lead to swollen boobs, hands, and feet.
If your PMS symptoms don’t pass in a few days, you may have other health issues going on. Check with your doctor, but don’t freak out. Some women are just more sensitive to normal hormonal changes.
If stomach bloating is a symptom of PMS for you, read 8 Natural Ways to Regulate Periods by Balancing Hormones. What causes bloating for you isn’t intestinal gas, so you can focus on other remedies.
4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes stomach bloating
Research shows that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most widespread diseases in Western countries. Gastrointestinal doctors spend more time on IBS than any other type of intestinal disease or condition (by the way – I have my own “gut doctor” because I have both ulcerative colitis and IBS. If you have any questions about my personal experience with colitis or IBS, please ask in the comments section below).
One of the most frequent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is stomach bloating. Both IBS and bloated belly are caused by “clearly detectable gut microbiota alterations.” It’s that gut bacteria raising its ugly little head again.
Professor Giovanni Barbara of the University of Bologna in Italy adds that stomach bloating can be related to specific kinds of diet. This is good, because we can control what, when, and how we eat. Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bowel movements that cause discomfort, and – in nearly all patients – bloating.
What do patients say the most bothersome symptom of IBS is? Stomach bloating!
According to Barbara, who is the President of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM), there is a lot of evidence showing that irritable bowel syndrome is associated with imbalanced gut bacteria. This means that the normal, healthy balance between beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria is disturbed in IBS patients.
Unfortunately, the antibiotics that are often prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome can have a negative effect on gut bacteria or microbiota. This is what causes bloating in patients with IBS, but not in people who don’t know they have it.
5. Salt – a less common cause of belly bloat
Salt isn’t a cause of excess gas in your intestines, but it leads to stomach bloating by increasing water retention. Potato chips, canned foods, and even some frozen foods might have a high sodium content – and so do foods that are naturally high in salt (eg, pickles, olives, and capers).
To lower your salt intake and get rid of belly bloat, read the labels of highly processed foods to check their sodium content. Your sodium intake should be limited to around 2,300 mg/day. One teaspoon of salt has around 2,300 mg. of sodium.
7 Tips for Getting Rid of Stomach Bloating
The best remedy for belly bloat depends on what causes bloating for you. If you’re bloated because of fluid retention, then you might try drinking more water, reducing your sodium intake, and eating more fiber. If you’re bloated because of intestinal gas (like me!), you might eat LESS fiber. I know I have to chew less gum, eat more slowly, and eat fewer of my favorite huge salads for dinner at night.
How can you stop your belly bloat? First, determine the cause. Then, try these options…
- Eat less fruit
- Eliminate all dairy products for two weeks
- Increase your intake of probiotics
- Eat slowly and chew your food mindfully
- Increase the digestive juices in your intestines
- Eat less fiber if you have IBS
Remember that the secret to reducing stomach bloating depends on your body and lifestyle. You need to try different things – and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work – until you find the best thing for you.
1. Eat LESS fruit to reduce belly bloat
It seems counterintuitive (shouldn’t fruit clean our guts out?), but fruit can actually cause stomach bloating. Why? Because it has a ton of sugar. Fruit contains fructose and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol), both of which cause gas and bloating. Fruit is also full of fiber, which is hard to digest and thus creates intestinal gas.
Fruits to avoid: pears, dried prunes, raisons, dried apricots, pineapple, cherries, grapes, apples, and mango. Wow. I just realized that I eat:
- Mangos, pears, raisons, and grapes for breakfast every morning
- Mixed vegetables, salsa, garlic, onions, and corn for lunch every day
- A huge salad of kale, spinach, pear, apple, celery, onion, red cabbage, and carrot every night
No wonder my bloated belly is so big! That, and the gum, and the diet Pepsi…it’s a wonder I don’t get job offers to be Santa Claus.
2. Eliminate all dairy products for two weeks
Do find your stomach gets bloated after you eat ice cream or drink milk? Here’s a simple way to find out if you’re lactose intolerant: eliminate all dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if your belly bloat goes away. Milk, ice cream and cream tend to be the most difficult to tolerate for people who are lactose intolerant; Greek yogurt and hard cheese like parmesan, Romano or feta and goat cheese are lower-fat dairy products that contain less lactose.
Lactaid Fast Act Lactase Enzyme Supplements are a great solution for when you don’t want to give up dairy. Lactase enzymes make it easier to digest dairy products – and they’re safe, sold over-the-counter in pharmacies or health food stores.
And, consider switching from dairy cow-milk to almond, coconut, soy or another plant-based “milk.” You might even think about trying goat or sheep milk and dairy products, which don’t contain casein (protein in dairy that can lead to stomach bloating).
3. Increase your intake of probiotics to get rid of stomach bloating
Probiotics are made up of “good” living bacteria, which are similar to those that naturally live in your digestive tract. They regulate the amount of healthy bacteria in your system, help eliminate intestinal gas (which will help relieve your bloated stomach!), and normalize bowel movements.
Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotic Supplement contains living organisms (yes, that’s a good thing!) that replenish beneficial bacteria. Probiotics offer daily relief from gas, stomach bloating, and irregularity. According to Dr Oz, probiotics are resistant to stomach acid and bile – but some probiotics die when they come into contact with digestive juices in your stomach.
Here’s an easy, healthy tip on how to reduce belly bloat: eat more yogurt that contains probiotics (not the sweetened dessert-type yogurts). Look for “live and active cultures” listed on the label. Yogurt – and kefir – contains probiotics that help digest lactose. Getting help digesting lactose will reduce stomach bloating. Get plain, unsweetened low-fat or fat-free Greek or German yogurt.
4. Try Prebiotics – a less-known way to reduce belly bloat
Sundown Naturals Inulin Fiber Prebiotic Mineral Supplements is more powerful than probiotics, which surprised me. I have read that you need to eat a LOT of yogurt with probiotics to get even 20% of the healthy bacteria in a probiotic supplement. And, I knew that many probiotics die before they hit your stomach, much less your intestinal tract, where they are needed to get rid of belly bloat.
Dr Oz recommends eating yogurt with a side of prebiotics (which is the fermented dietary fiber that probiotics eat). Prebiotics increase the growth of probiotics.
“The natural substance inulin (not to be confused with insulin) serves as a prebiotic, an agent that is not digested but energizes beneficial bacteria in the system and inhibits detrimental bacteria,” writes Dr Maoshing Ni in Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age. “Like other prebiotic fibres, inulin eases constipation. But while most stimulate growth and activity of good bacteria in the stomach and upper intestines and then run out of steam, inulin continues to be active all the way to the colon, which tends to have the worst imbalances.”
Good natural sources of inulin include chicory root, dandelion root, Jerusalem artichoke, apples, and bananas. If you take a prebiotic supplement, the typical dose is 2 grams with meals.”
5. Eat slowly and chew your food mindfully
No more inhaling a huge happy meal in front of Netflix every night. And by “inhaling” I mean I eat really really really fast. My husband eats really really slow. Who has a bloated stomach? Not my husband.
Chewing your food slowly and mindfully signals your stomach and digestive tract that it’s time to get to work. This gives your intestines time to prepare to digest your food.
Instead of eating three big meals per day, try eating smaller meals more often. This can keep you free of the stomach bloating that often follows large meals. Eating more frequently can also help control your blood sugar and manage hunger. Try to eat five or even six small meals each day, but make sure you don’t eat more food than you need.
6. Increase the digestive juices in your intestines
This is one of my favorite tips on how to reduce belly bloat: increase your intake of enzymes and acids that are essential for the proper breakdown of food. For instance, before you eat you might drink a small amount of water that has a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in it. Or, use apple cider vinegar as a salad dressing.
Gas-X Antigas Soft Gels is what I use when my stomach bloating gets really bad. They help relieve the pain and discomfort. But honestly I’d rather know what causes bloating and how to stop it, rather than try to remedy gas after it’s already in my intestines. That’s why probiotics and lactase enzymes are a better place to start.
If you want to reduce stomach blot, you might also eat bitter foods such as grapefruit, endive or radicchio. Also – and this is a pleasant way to reduce belly bloating – start your day with lemon in warm water. Lemon is purported to encourage healthy digestion by loosening toxins in the digestive tract.
7. Eat less fiber to reduce belly bloat – if you have IBS
Dr Giovanni Barbara says fibrous food produces large amounts of gas, which leads to repeated stomach bloating and flatulence. This tip on how to flatten a bloated belly is for people with intestinal bowel syndrome.
High fiber fruits and veggies include corn, peas, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, celery, onions, leek, garlic, artichokes, figs, peaches, grapes and prunes. Other types of high fiber foods include wheat and multigrain breads, bran cereals, pastries made of whole wheat, beans and legumes, and soy beans.
These foods prolong the symptoms of people with IBS. However, if you do NOT have irritable bowel syndrome, you can eat those high fiber foods without disrupting the bacteria in your gut and suffering from stomach bloating.
Summary and Research on Stomach Bloating
See your doctor if you find that a bloated stomach is interfering with your life. There are many health conditions that are associated with a chronic bloated belly, such as endometriosis, peptic ulcer, liver, kidney, gallbladder, celiac, thyroid, and pelvic inflammatory diseases as well as stomach, colon, and ovarian cancers. Not to mention intestinal bowel syndrome, as I discussed above. If your abdominal area is constantly and unusually inflated -and/or you’re experiencing intense pain – schedule an appointment with your health care provider.
I hope my research on what causes bloating and how to get rid of a bloated stomach was helpful for you! It sure was helpful for me – I’m now taking prebiotics. And as promised, just below is my list of resources on the causes and remedies of stomach bloating.
What causes bloating for you, and how do you stop it? I welcome your thoughts on the Big Belly Bloat below. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of stomach bloating. It’s not the most attractive topic to talk about, but it is important.
“Bloated Stomach” Research and Resources
- “IBS and bloating: When gut microbiota gets out of balance.” – American Gastroenterological Association. Source of the Professor Giovanni Barbara’s research on stomach bloating and IBS.
- 9 Fruits That Cause Belly Bloat – Women’s Health Magazine.
- Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age by Dr Mashing Ni.
- Bloating 101: How to Beat a Bulging Belly – The Dr Oz Show.