Have you ever sat back after eating a big meal and thought to yourself, "Wow, I'm bloated"? While overeating can lead to a swollen, stiff abdomen, bloating is a little bit more complicated than that. John Hopkins Medicine defines bloating as "a condition where your belly feels full and tight, often due to gas" (1).
Underlying medical conditions can contribute to bloating — especially irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects up to 24% of women (1). If you feel bloated regularly, consult your healthcare provider to rule out an underlying condition.
Wondering how to get rid of bloating? Here are 11 science-backed methods.
Physical activity is a great way to find relief from bloating. A scientific study found exercising on a stationary bike reduced belly bloat and excess gas (2). The study even went so far as to suggest people should minimize exercise that puts them lying on their backs, as gas retention and bloating can be worse in this position compared to standing or sitting upright (2).
Dr. Mehmet Oz says cardio can reduce bloating by boosting your digestive system (3). He also says, "rigorous cardiovascular exercise, such as running or aerobics, activates the sweat glands that release fluids that the body could be retaining" (3).
Many yoga poses are also believed to help with digestion, bloating, and passing gas. These include cat-cow, torso twist, extended triangle, sphinx pose, and extended puppy pose, to name a few (4). These poses promote blood flow and provide gentle compression and twisting of the abdomen, helping alleviate bloating and abdominal pain (5).
Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common cause of bloating, as well as other digestive issues such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, changes in bowel movements, and excess gas (6). Studies show peppermint oil is a safe, effective, and fast treatment method for IBS (7). It has been proven to relieve many symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including bloating.
The small amounts of peppermint oil in dietary supplements appear to be safe for most adults. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should stay away from peppermint oil. It is not yet known how this essential oil may impact pregnancy and lactation (8).
Abdominal massage is an effective, natural method to help get rid of bloating, especially if your bloating is a result of constipation. Massage can help relieve constipation by stimulating peristalsis — the wave-like muscle contractions that stimulate a bowel movement. This can help you pass excess gas or go to the bathroom, ultimately reducing belly bloat.
An abdominal massage is easy to do yourself. When you do, it's best to follow the direction of your large intestine. Place one hand on top of the other. Then place the palm of your hand above your right hip bone.
With light pressure, move your hand upwards along the right side of your abdomen, then straight across your upper belly, then down towards your left hip bone. Repeat as often as you would like (9). To get the most out of the experience, give yourself an abdominal massage while enjoying a warm, relaxing bath.
An abdominal massage can also help relieve abdominal pain. This massage is not meant to be painful. If you feel pain, stop the massage immediately and consult your healthcare provider.
Other herbal supplements beyond peppermint oil have been shown to help alleviate belly bloat. These include lemon balm, wormwood, ginger, fennel, gentian root, chamomile, and angelica root (10). Sipping on one of these herbal teas is a simple way to help get rid of bloating.
Before considering what foods you're eating, first consider how the way you're eating could contribute to your bloated stomach. Eating too fast or too much are two common causes of bloating (and even abdominal pain) (11).
Once your stomach is full, it takes upwards of 20 minutes for your brain to receive the message. Eating more slowly is one way to avoid overeating and the subsequent belly bloat that comes along with it. You can feel fuller longer and help deter sugar cravings with our Prebiotic Collagen Protein.
Your diet can also contribute to belly bloat and abdominal pain. According to researchers Brian E. Lacy, Scott L. Gabbard, and Michael D. Crowell, bloating improved in people with IBS when they avoided foods that "readily ferment within the colon, such as dairy, fructose, fructans, fiber, and sorbitol" (2). Some people also experienced relief after reducing carbs and gluten.
Drinking carbonated drinks and chomping on chewing gum both make you swallow excess air. When you take in excess air, it can lead to the most common cause of bloating — gas accumulating in the digestive tract (12).
Avoid swallowing too much air by staying away from fizzy drinks and ditching the chewing gum. Drinking through a straw and eating too fast can also make you take in too much air. If you're a regular soda drinker, try switching it out for water or a soothing cup of herbal tea.
Research shows some patients with irritable bowel syndrome may have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (13). This means they are unable to digest food because they lack digestive enzymes made by the pancreas.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes like lipase and other pancreatic enzymes can help get rid of IBS symptoms, including bloating, excess gas, and that "I've eaten too much" feeling following a meal. A 2010 scientific study also indicates that pancreatic enzyme therapy can help reduce unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain for IBS sufferers (13).
Scientific studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics reduces the severity of bloating (2). Prebiotics also support the role of probiotics by serving as food for probiotics.
Prebiotics are also beneficial for bloating in and of themselves. Prebiotics encourage beneficial species of gut flora to grow. They help maintain a healthy intestinal environment and may assist with preventing bloating and other digestive discomforts while supporting proper digestion.
If you’re experiencing digestive disturbances, discomfort, and chronic gut issues, your body is likely craving prebiotics. Digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and flatulence are more than likely a result of a digestive tract condition.
Often, the simple addition of prebiotics and probiotics will help ease digestive symptoms. Research indicates that prebiotics are helpful for diarrhea, gas, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and H. pylori infection.
Happy Mammoth Premium Collagen Protein with Organic Prebiotic blend actively promotes gut health and may reduce bloating. As an added benefit, it improves fat burning and skin health too.
Whether your bloating is caused by irritable bowel syndrome or something else, following a low-FODMAP diet may bring you some relief. FODMAPs are types of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed. They are found in certain foods and correlated with excess gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea (14).
The acronym FODMAP stands for the different types of small carbs many people have a difficult time digesting: "fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols" (15).
High-FODMAP foods include:
Studies show following "a low-FODMAP diet is an effective therapy for the management of IBS symptoms, decreasing symptoms in at least 75% of patients. Furthermore, a low-FODMAP diet is the most effective treatment option for managing bloating to date" (14).
Eating foods you're allergic, sensitive, or intolerant to can result in water retention, bloating, excess gas, abdominal pain, and other digestive issues.
When a study examined food allergies in those with irritable bowel syndrome, common allergies included milk, eggs, wheat, beef, pork, and lamb. When these foods were eliminated for six months, people experienced "significant improvement in pain severity, pain frequency, bloating severity, satisfaction with bowel habits, and effect of IBS on life in general," according to the study authors (17).
Lactose intolerance is actually the "best-documented type of food intolerance" related to digestive issues, including bloating (14). As you read above, lactose is one of the high-FODMAP foods known to commonly cause digestive upset.
Bloating is also a common symptom of gluten intolerance (18). If you suspect gluten intolerance, avoid foods containing gluten such as wheat, barley, and rye. It's not advisable to try to diagnose food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances on your own. Always consult your healthcare provider.
One condition that can leave you feeling constantly bloated is constipation. If you're having fewer than three bowel movements in a week, you may be constipated (19).
Underlying medical conditions that can contribute to constipation include misuse of laxatives, intestinal obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, diverticulosis, diabetes, stroke, and Parkinson's disease (19). People with certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries, and muscular dystrophy are also more likely to experience constipation (20).
Bloating is an uncomfortable condition that can significantly impact your quality of life if experienced frequently. There are small dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to help get rid of bloating.
If you want to go a step further and get a snapshot of your internal health, take our free gut health assessment. Unlock the current health status of your gut based on the four pillars of gut health: nutrition, lifestyle, signs and symptoms, and mind and body.
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As a friendly reminder, we're not doctors and this information does not constitute medical advice. Consult your healthcare provider if you're concerned about belly bloat. Remember that to prevent bloating, you must understand its causes.