Most of us have experienced the discomfort of a bloated belly. The uncomfortable tight pressure that builds in the gut and, in some cases, a button-popping, ballooning belly.
Bloating is common, and while foods like beans or onions may get the blame for excessive gas build up, the fact is there is rarely one trigger or a single food that causes bloating.
What causes bloating?
Bloating is when the organs in your digestive system are stretched, which could be the result of a build-up of gas or solids in your gut. Other causes include a slow digestive system, weak abdominal wall muscles, or when the diaphragm contracts instead of relaxes.
As well as the uncomfortable feeling of a tight, stretched tummy, other symptoms include cramping, diarrhoea, constipation and a lot of gas.
Bloating that comes and goes over the course of a day is most common and can often be managed by lifestyle and diet. Sanitarium dietitians share their dos and don’ts to help ease bloating and better yet, avoid it all together.
Four things to do to ease bloating
- Get moving - Gentle exercise like walking and stretching, as well as breathing exercises, can help get your bowels moving and get rid of gas. Exercise is good for many reasons, for destressing your mind and relaxing your gut. Stretching is also good to add to the mix. Certain stretches can move the abdomen and gastrointestinal tract in ways that help release gas.
- Enjoy a soak - As well as providing relief to stomach pains, a relaxing, warm bath may help to get your digestive tract working and ease stress that can make bloating worse. Alternatively, try a heat pack on your belly to relax those muscles.
- Check it out - Reoccurring bloating can be a sign of food intolerances or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so, if you have a persistent problem, it’s always best to see your doctor or a dietitian. Diagnosis with an intolerance means you’ll be able to avoid the foods that are the underlying cause of your bloating. If it is IBS, a low FODMAP diet may be used by your dietitian as a way to determine what foods trigger your symptoms and then reintroduce those foods to your tolerance level.
- Love your gut - Eating extra fibre can help get your bowel moving and can ease bloating if constipation is the cause. Just be careful to increase your fibre intake gradually. When you start to eat more high-fibre meals it may cause some bloating at first, but this is natural and a good sign your gut bacteria are well fed and working. It may also help to take a specific probiotic, but check with your doctor or dietitian first.
Four things to try to avoid to ease bloating
- Small and more often - If eating a larger than usual meal causes you problems, try to eat smaller meals more often to help keep your digestive system moving and comfortable.
- Swallowing air bubbles - Swallowing too much air can cause bloating so take time to chew your food well, avoid carbonated drinks and skip the chewing gum.
- Drinking smoothies - Try keeping your fruit intake to the recommended 2-3 serves a day of whole fruits. Avoid fruit juices or smoothies as these are concentrated sources of fruit sugar (fructose) and some fruits may trigger bloating if you have a particularly sensitive gut.
- Eating too much salt - A diet that’s high in salt can cause your body to retain water, making you feel boated.
If these strategies don’t work for you, or if your bloating doesn’t ease within a day or two, always see your doctor.