Bloating is a feeling of fullness or tightness with or without an increase in the passing of stomach gas which usually makes the tummy appear distended or flat. Apart from stomach gas, bloating can occur due to varied reasons ranging from constipation, water retention, or indigestion. Bloating is different from fat accumulation in that you can grasp fat from your stomach and it occurs gradually over a long period of time. Bloating, on the other hand, can occur through a single day. A combination of physical exercise, a healthy diet, and treatment of the underlying medical condition (if any) may help reduce bloating.

  1. What causes bloating in the stomach
  2. Home remedies for bloating
  3. Foods that reduce bloating
  4. Herbs that reduce bloating
  5. How to prevent bloating

Bloating can occur due to any of the following causes:

Processed foods

Junk or fast food contains many unhealthy ingredients such as trans-fat, preservatives, artificial additives, sugar, etc which are high in calories and also take a long time to get completely digested and even longer to completely flush out of the system. Hence, it is better to stay away from junk food as much as possible to prevent bloating.

Excess fibre intake

An article in a journal on gastroenterology and hepatology explains how some simple sugars, dietary fibers (whole grain, beans, oats, etc), and some complex carbohydrates which are not absorbed in the small intestine act as substrates or food for bacteria in the colon. These bacteria ferment them and produce gas which causes bloating. Hence, eating a diet low in these products will help relieve bloating.

Bacterial overgrowth

Sometimes, the gut bacteria start overgrowing in your intestine and produce large amounts of gas which can cause bloating.

Period bloating

Period bloating occurs when the levels of sex hormones in your body change and make your tummy appear distended. Progesterone helps in flushing excess fluid from the body. Its levels decrease before your period starts and hence the fluid retains in your body and causes bloating.

Inflammation in the gut

An inflammation (swelling) of the gut causes abnormal bowel movements and may not let the food to easily pass through the gut. This causes a feeling of fullness and tightness.

Constipation

A decrease in the frequency of bowel movements is known as constipation. In this condition, the consistency of your feces becomes hard and it gets difficult and painful for you to completely remove the waste from your body. This may also lead to bloating.

Delayed stomach emptying

Heavy meals cause you to feel full and take more time to get digested. This leads to delayed emptying of food and may also cause indigestion, ultimately leading to bloating. Hence, it is better to have small meals more frequently than having large meals all at once.

Smoking

The smoke from your cigarette not only harms your lungs but is also harmful to your digestive system. While smoking, the smoke is also inhaled and swallowed in the digestive system which causes bloating.

Indigestion

Some people are intolerant of certain food products such as lactose (found in milk and other products), gluten, beans, etc and have a hard time digesting them. It can also occur due to a disorder of the digestive system such as Crohn's disease and leads to bloating. 

Water retention

Eating a lot of sugar or salt causes retention of water in your body especially in the belly area and causes bloating.

Read more: How to lose water weight

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol intake interferes with the normal functioning of the digestive organs such as the liver and pancreas. As a result, the digestion of food is also affected which causes bloating.

Following are a few things that may help you get rid of bloating along with removing its underlying cause:

Drink water

Keeping yourself hydrated will help in proper digestion of food as well as flush out excess sugar and salt from your body thus reducing your bloating.

Read more: How much water to drink in a day

Meditation

A study conducted on people with abdominal bloating suggested its association with stress, anxiety and emotional problems. They are not the primary cause of bloating but are very common in such people. Hence, releasing your stress might help improve your bloating. There are several ways by which you can release your stress such as meditation, music, yoga, relaxation therapy, counselling, etc.

Massage

Massaging helps in making the food move into the colon. You may start massaging the right side of your tummy in circular motion down your pelvis and back up to your ribs again.

Yoga

Yoga poses help in improving your blood circulation and hence increases the body’s ability to fight infections and inflammation. Bending forward, lying on your back and bringing your knees close to your chest, or keeping them folded on one side and turning your head to the opposite side are a few exercises that you can do to improve your blood flow to the tummy and relieve bloating. It will also strengthen your abs (abdominal muscles).  

Baking soda

Baking soda is an effective antacid which fights the acid in our stomach and provides relief from acidity which is one of the causes of bloating. Add one teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of warm water and drink it immediately. Do it once daily.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is also one of the natural anti-inflammatory agents which helps in reducing bloating by soothing your gut. You can either drink one teaspoon of edible coconut oil or add it to your salad or mix it in a fruit juice.  

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has properties that help in improving digestion. To reduce bloating, you may drink a mixture of one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and a glass of warm water once every day.

Castor oil

A study in the Journal of gastroenterology on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome suggests that castor oil acts as a laxative for your gut and helps in passing out the contents of the gut easily. Thus preventing bloating. You may either add a teaspoon of castor oil to a cup of fruit juice or drink one teaspoon of castor oil alone if it does not bother your taste buds.

Detox juice

Detox juice is an effective drink that has many benefits. It not only reduces bloating by soothing your gut but also helps in removing toxins from the body, providing relief from constipation, and improving digestion. To make a detox drink at home, you may blend a cucumber, one lemon, and two apples together. Lemon helps in removing excess salt from the body and also acts as a laxative.

Read more: Detox diet

The following are some foods that may help reduce bloating:

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is rich in fiber and also has a good amount of potassium. The fiber of pumpkin will aid in digestion and the potassium will help in balancing the salt by removing excess sodium from your body.  

Banana

Banana is a rich source of potassium and is very effective in relieving salt related water retention which causes bloating. Eating banana will flush out excess sodium from the body and help in reducing your bloating. However, do not eat more than 1-2 bananas every day as taking too much banana may lead to constipation.

Probiotics

Probiotics have recently emerged as super bacteria which kill the bad bugs in your stomach and keep your gut healthy. A study done on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome suggests that probiotics are effective in the management of stomach problems. They prevent the development of tummy gas and infections. Probiotic supplements are available as drinks, capsules, etc. Read the instructions on their packaging or consult your doctor if you have any doubts regarding their dosage.

Fruit juice

Fruit juices such as pineapple juice and orange juice are very helpful in reducing inflammation of your tummy. Take a cup of juice, dilute it with a cup of water and drink it every day. Do not drink it on an empty stomach as it may cause acidity.

Green tea

Green tea has antioxidant properties. It also improves urine output and hence flushes out any extra salt from the body. The extra salt is responsible for water retention and causes bloating. Drinking green tea three times a day will relieve your bloating.

Kiwi fruit

Experts say that there has been evidence of the positive effects of kiwi fruit extract in providing relief from bloating.

Here are some herbs that you can take to reduce bloating:

Ginger

Research studies suggest that ginger helps in reducing the inflammation of the gut and provides relief from bloating. So, if its taste is not bothersome to you, eating a few slices of ginger may help you reduce the bloating. Alternatively, you can take ginger in the form of tea. For that, add one inch of ginger to one cup of water. Boil it for 3-5 minutes. You may also add honey and lemon to your tea to improve its taste. Drink hot three times a day.

Fennel seeds

A recently published study on prevention of flatulence says that fennel seeds aid in digestion. You can either chew the seeds or drink fennel seed tea. For making the tea, add a half teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds to one cup of water and boil it for a few minutes. Drink the tea before it gets cold. You take fennel tea twice every day.

Peppermint

A research done on peppermint tea and its effectiveness in treating bowel diseases suggests that this tea acts as a relaxant and helps in releasing gas and reducing muscle spasms. This helps in easy passage of the contents of the gut and reduces bloating. To make the tea, you can take a few peppermint leaves and boil them in water. Brew the tea for 3-5 minutes and drink it three times a day.

Caraway seeds

Caraway seeds are helpful in relieving several stomach problems including constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn, etc. They can be taken by mouth as chewable seeds or as caraway oil.

Star anise

Star anise helps in relaxing the gut muscles and  easy passage of food through the digestive system. You may add a teaspoon of star anise to a cup of hot water and boil it for 5-10 minutes. Drink this tea 2-3 times a day. Doing this will relieve your bloating.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera has known anti-inflammatory and mild laxative action. It helps soothe your gut and also relieves constipation. Drinking a quarter or half a cup of aloe vera will help you with bloating.​

A few other herbs which are found to be effective in the treatment of bloating include chamomile, basil, cumin, parsley, spearmint, etc. These herbs can be used to make tea or added to other food ingredients such as curd, buttermilk, salad, etc.

There are many dietary and lifestyle changes that you can adapt to prevent bloating and have a healthy flat belly. Let's have a look at them:

Stop smoking

A recent study based on smoking and its effects on gastrointestinal disorders suggests that smoking is associated with bloating along with other problems such as stomach pain and constipation. Hence, you should hold that cigarette down and have a healthy life and a happy belly.

Limit alcohol intake

An article by the "National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse" indicates that alcohol interferes with the digestive and other metabolic functions of the body including those of the liver and pancreas. As a result, the food is not digested properly and there is also a risk of fat accumulating inside and outside the liver, ultimately leading to bloating along with other serious medical conditions. Hence, it is better to be safe than sorry and drink in moderation to protect yourself from any bodily disorder. 

Read more: How much alcohol is too much

Limit junk food and fatty food

Junk food contains many unhealthy ingredients such as trans-fat, preservatives, artificial additives, sugar, etc which are high in calorie. They take a long time to get completely digested and even longer to completely flush out of the system. Hence, it is better to stay away from junk food as much as possible to prevent bloating.

Avoid drinking water with meals

Sipping a small amount of water with meals isn't of major concern but having a glass or two of water may actually hinder the digestion process and dilute digestive juices and cause bloating. Hence, it is good to avoid drinking water with meals. 

Avoid dairy products

Many people do not know this but they might be intolerant to lactose, i.e. they may face difficulty in digesting milk and milk products which may be the underlying cause of bloating. Notice how your tummy feels after taking dairy products. You may also cut them off from your diet for a few weeks and see if you feel any difference.

Read more: Lactose intolerance

Release stress

As we have mentioned above, stress has been found to be associated with many gut problems including bloating. Therefore, take some time out of your schedule for yourself and relax your mind. A healthy mind plays a great role in having a healthy body and a strong immune system. Stay happy and beat the bloat.

Exercise regularly

It goes without saying that regular exercise is always helpful in maintaining a healthy body and improving your blood circulation. So, in order to avoid from bloating, you should become physically active and stretch those muscles and abs regularly.

Drink plenty of water

Like mentioned before, water flushes out toxins, excess sugar and excess salt from our body and also prevents the accumulation of belly fat. Hence, be friends with water and drink plenty of it without fail to have a healthy belly and a glowing skin.

Limit sugar and salt intake

Limiting salt and sugar will not only prevent water retention and help you prevent the bloat, but in the long run, it will prove to be a good decision for the overall health of your body.

Avoid carbonated drinks

Carbonated drinks such as flavoured soda and beer have carbon dioxide which accumulates in your intestines and colon and causes distention of your belly. They also contain sugar and alcohol (in beer) which are again recommended to be taken in moderation to prevent bloating.  

Eat healthy food

Healthy food makes a healthy and happy gut. Eat vegetables and fruits rich in fiber, avoid junk food, drink fruit and vegetable juices, eat green leafy vegetables, take milk products because they contain healthy bacteria, especially yogurt, etc to maintain your overall health.

Avoid overeating

Many times we eat till our heart is content which is mostly beyond what we might eat till our stomach is content. This is what we call overeating. Overeating will definitely make you uncomfortable and when it continues for some time, it will lead to a distended belly. Instead of eating a lot all at once, keep your meals small and frequent.

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References

  1. Benjamin Misselwitz. Lactose malabsorption and intolerance: pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment. United European Gastroenterol J. 2013 Jun; 1(3): 151–159. PMID: 24917953
  2. William L. Hasler. Gas and Bloating. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2006 Sep; 2(9): 654–662. PMID: 28316536
  3. X Jiang et al. Prevalence and risk factors for abdominal bloating and visible distention: A population-based study. Gut. 2008 Jun; 57(6): 756–763. PMID: 18477677
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