Bloating: What It Is, Causes and Remedies

Bloating: What It Is, Causes and Remedies

What Is Bloating?

Bloating occurs when your abdomen enlarges and feels full and tight. Your stomach may even look like it’s sticking out. 

Bloating Causes

Bloating is a common occurrence for many people. Somewhere between 10% and 30% of people experience bloating. Many conditions can cause bloating, often making it difficult to determine its cause. Common reasons for bloating include:

  • Constipation (less than three bowel movements per week)
  • Gut sensitivity or IBS, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Eating disorders
  • Diet choice or food sensitivities
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Gynecological issues and menstruation
  • Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Gas
  • Medications
  • Serious illness like cancer
  • Gastroparesis (slow emptying of the stomach into the small intestine)

Let’s look at some of these in more detail. 

Gas and bloating

The most common way you get gas into your gut is to swallow it. Some people swallow more than others. Everyone has gas in their intestines when they eat, but some people’s bodies react more severely to the gas, which can cause bloating. 

Gastrointestinal disorders

Many gastrointestinal (GI) disorders can be responsible for bloating, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, cirrhosis, constipation, and air swallowing. One study showed that 96% of people with IBS experience bloating.


Some in the medical profession think that bad bacteria in your intestines might cause bloating. The theory is that bad bacteria build up in your intestines, producing more gas in your GI tract, which causes bloating.


Bloating is a common symptom of menstrual periods. The drop in progesterone and estrogen levels during a person’s period is sometimes responsible for causing bloating.


Some medications can cause bloating as a side effect, including aspirin, fiber supplements, and certain pain medicines.


In more serious cases, cancer might be the cause of bloating. Cancers of the stomach, ovary, colon, and pancreas can all have bloating as a symptom.

How to Get Rid of Bloating

Once a cause of bloating is established, the symptom can be treated. Depending on your doctor’s findings, they may suggest one of the following remedies for bloating:

Bloating after eating

Eating too quickly causes you to swallow more air, which can lead to gas and bloating. Eating slowly can help reduce bloating. Additionally, slowing your eating can make you feel full faster, helping you avoid overeating, which can lead to bloating.

Foods to reduce bloating

If you notice a trend in certain foods causing you to bloat, try reducing or eliminating those foods from your diet. Foods that commonly cause bloating are wheat, beans, lentils, garlic, onions, and asparagus. Milk and dairy foods can also cause bloating, as some people have a hard time digesting a sugar they contain called lactose.

Stomach bloating often occurs when poorly digested carbohydrates begin to ferment in the colon. Many people who commonly suffer from bloating have benefited from a low-FODMAP diet, or a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. 

You could try cutting out some or all of the following foods:

  • Oligosaccharides: found in legumes, onions, garlic, wheat
  • Disaccharides: such as lactose and found in dairy 
  • Monosaccharides: such as fructose and found in apples, pears, and honey
  • Polyols: found in most stone fruits, cauliflower, chewing gum, and candies

One option is to remove FODMAP foods that you suspect of creating bloat one at a time. If your stomach bloating causes significant distress, you could also try a strict elimination diet, removing all FODMAP foods and then slowly reintroducing them to your diet to discover which can be consumed comfortably. 

Constipation can also cause stomach bloating, so a diet rich in fiber can help with both conditions. If you also have one of the following symptoms, you may be constipated:

  • Incomplete or infrequent bowel movements
  • Small, pebble-like stools
  • Straining to start or complete bowel movements

You might also add kiwifruit to your diet, which has proven helpful in cases of bloating and constipation.


Antacids can reduce bloating by allowing gas to pass more easily through your digestive tract. Antacids are only effective for bloating caused by food.


Researchers have found that certain antidepressants can affect the way your body reacts to gas, keeping it from overreacting to its presence.

Less fiber

Eating too much fiber is one of the most common reasons for bloating. Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, but it can cause a lot of gas in your digestive system because your body cannot digest it. The key with fiber is to eat it in moderation. Foods high in fiber include beans, lentils, broccoli, whole wheat, apples, berries, and quinoa.

Over-the-counter gas and bloating medicine

There are a handful of products that may help reduce gas levels and ease bloating:

  • Simethicone helps you pass gas bubbles trapped in your intestines.
  • Alpha-galactosidase helps break down the carbohydrates in vegetables and beans.
  • Activated charcoal may reduce gas symptoms, but research has not shown a clear benefit. Activated charcoal could interfere with the absorption of certain medications, so discuss with your doctor before taking this product.
  • Lactase supplements help you digest the sugar lactose in dairy products.


The use of probiotics to help with digestive issues is common but little studied. Still, there is some evidence that using probiotics can help reduce stomach bloating. The formula in VSL#3 proved to reduce bloating in both adults and children in clinical studies.

Exercise and posture

Physical exercise can help reduce bloating and clear gas from the body. Posture adjustment can also help. The body retains more gas when you are lying on your back, so try to stay active throughout the day.

Digestive enzymes

One common cause of stomach bloating is the inability to digest certain foods. Most digestive enzyme supplements are effective only for people who cannot produce enzymes for medical reasons. However, over-the-counter enzymes have proven to help with the digestion of two commonly problematic foods: dairy and legumes (such as beans). 

If you have a hard time digesting the sugars in these foods, you might benefit from lactase supplements for dairy or alpha-galactosidase supplements for beans and other legumes. 

Natural remedies

Peppermint has a long history as a digestive aid in folk medicine, and peppermint oil could give some relief to people with IBS. In early research, peppermint leaf proved to have a releasing effect on gastrointestinal (GI) tissue in animals and may help with bloating, but there has not yet been sufficient clinical research done on humans.

Ginger is another herb that may help with upper GI symptoms, such as stomach bloating, and constipation.

If dealing with stomach bloating, you can try eating some ginger or drinking a cup of peppermint tea for an easy potential home remedy.

When to See A Doctor

Most stomach bloating will resolve on its own. But you should see a doctor if it does not go away or if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Intense or persistent abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Change in stool color, consistency, and frequency
  • Unexplained overfullness or loss of appetite

If you are an older person who doesn’t usually experience bloating and you suddenly experience bloating for more than a few days, see your doctor. The bloating could be caused by a serious condition and should be investigated.


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