Swelling. An uncomfortable, full, sometimes even painful sensation in the stomach causes a desire to take a nap until this feeling passes. Even bloating can leave your stomach bloated or untouched. Although women usually experience bloating a few days or weeks before their period, bloating can happen to anyone from time to time.

What makes your stomach feel like it’s bloated in a balloon? Bloating usually occurs when gas builds up temporarily in the stomach or intestines. When you have bloating, you may find that you often pass gases, and the release of this air brings you some relief. Bloating also occurs when your digestive system slows down and you don’t have regular bowel movements.

Bad eating habits = bloating
Not surprisingly, poor nutrition contributes to bloating. Overeating or eating too quickly can cause this feeling of congestion because your digestive system slows down and tries to process a large or fast meal. When you talk, drink through a straw, or chew gum while eating, you swallow air, which can enter your digestive tract and cause bloating.

Processed foods like hot dogs and chips can also cause bloating. Many processed foods are high in sodium, which causes your body to retain water and cause bloating. Sugary foods and snacks are broken down in your body and can cause gas.

Even what you drink can cause indigestion. Carbonated drinks, such as beer and sodas, contain bubbles of carbon dioxide that is released into the stomach.

Good eating habits = lots of bloating
Bloating can be caused by more than just junk food. Some healthy foods, such as broccoli or beans, can cause bloating. If you have a food allergy or intolerance, you may experience these symptoms after eating foods that contain wheat, lactose, fructose, or eggs.

Register a way to find the perpetrator
If you have frequent bloating more than once a month, it’s worth finding out what’s causing your symptoms. Try keeping a food diary for a few days and write down everything you eat and drink. Be sure to include ingredients in your meals in case one of them becomes a real problem. (Maybe chicken parmin is not the culprit, but wheat breadcrumbs could be the culprit!) Two people prepare a healthy salad of lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

As you make this diary entry, note how you feel 30 minutes after eating. Wonderful? Overloaded? Tired? Gaseous? You can see some patterns that will help you figure out if you have a food allergy or intolerance.

Get rid of bloating
The most obvious way to reduce bloating is to avoid foods that cause gas. Some foods that are high in certain carbohydrates (FODMAPs), such as garlic, onions, and other vegetables, are poorly absorbed by the body and can cause bloating. A low FODMAP diet is usually recommended for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) because these foods don’t cause as much gas. Foods on the low FODMAP diet include:

Zucchini and sweet potatoes
Fruits such as bananas, melons, oranges and grapes
Cereals such as quinoa and rice
lactose free dairy products
When you eat, eat small meals and give your body time to digest. Drink plenty of water to keep your digestive system working properly. If high-fiber foods are causing you to feel bloated or constipated, hydration can help soften intestinal motility and make it easier to pass.

Being active can also soothe that bloated feeling. While exercise may not seem like much when you’re feeling bloated, light physical activity can stimulate your digestive system. Gentle yoga movements that relax the abdomen can also help reduce bloating.

Try over-the-counter antacids to combat occasional gas.

If these homemade remedies don’t help, talk to your doctor. Although rare, chronic pain and numbness can be signs of inflammation or other conditions.

A bloated belly is never fun, but the good news is that in most cases, the discomfort doesn’t last long. Even better news: when you do a little detective work to find your triggers, you can prevent that nagging, overwhelmed feeling from returning.

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