By Jill Levy
Bloating is common and affects just about everybody at some point. About 25 percent of mostly healthy adults report that they have occasional bloating.
Whether it’s caused by certain foods you've eaten or a big meal, bloating often results in feelings of discomfort, occasional gas, concern over your appearance and sometimes occasional constipation.
What helps to relieve bloating? Below we’ll look at how to reduce bloating using strategies including diet changes, supplements and habits that keep stress in check.
What Causes Bloating in the Gut?
There are many potential reasons why you might develop a bloated gut, for example if you’ve been drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages, eating a lot of sugar or processed foods, or even if you’ve consumed a lot of fiber in one day.
Some of the most common causes of bloating include:
- Occasional constipation, which can bloat the abdomen.
- Eating large meals, especially those that are hard to break down that include fried, heavy, sugary or processed foods.
- Consuming lots of fiber, particularly if your body isn’t used to this.
- Food sensitivities, such as lactose intolerance (trouble digesting dairy) or a gluten sensitivity.
- Eating FODMAP foods which contain hard-to-digest carbohydrates, such as broccoli, beans, dairy, garlic and onions. Although these are generally healthy foods, not everyone digests them easily.
What exactly happens in the body when you become bloated? Bloating is primarily caused by trapped internal gas inside your gastrointestinal tract. Gas accumulates in your intestines when your body isn’t able to properly break down foods, or due to normal fluid retention.
There are trillions of microbes living in your gut that have the important job of facilitating digestion, so when the ratio of “good guy” microbes to “bad guy” microbes in your gut imbalanced, occasional bloating can result.
Built up gas in your intestines is mostly produced by bacteria and microbes that digest carbohydrates, via the process of fermentation. Sometimes certain carbs are not absorbed well and can cause too much fermentation, which then releases gas. That’s why changing your diet, particularly by removing some types of carbs, can often help to decrease bloating.
6 Ways to Reduce Occasional Bloating
It’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly why you might be bloated, so some trial and error is expected when you’re working on reducing bloat.
These steps can often make a big impact on keeping your digestion on track.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including supplementation.
1. Reduce Your Intake of Sugar/Refined Carbs
How do I help get rid of occasional bloating quickly? Start by avoiding or limiting processed foods, especially those high in added sugar, white flour, sodium, artificial sweeteners and other additives.
As mentioned above, carbs — especially refined/processed carbs and sugar — can be difficult to break down by bacteria in the gut, which can lead to increased release of gas. Some carbs also tend to ”feed” bloat-fostering bacteria in the gut microbiome, helping to set the stage for an imbalance of microbes.
Salt found in processed foods can also cause water retention, and fat slows down the digestive process overall, contributing to digestive sluggishness and sometimes occasional constipation.
While it really depends on the individual, since each person's microbiome is unique, carbs and sugars that tend to cause occasional bloating include lactose, fructose and carbs found in dairy, wheat and beans.
2. Eat probiotic foods
What else helps to reduce bloating? Many people find relief from consuming more probiotic foods, which contain “good guy” bacteria that facilitate digestion.
Most Americans today don’t consume enough probiotics in their diet due to low-nutrient, modern processed foods and soil depletion. By eating probiotic foods (also called fermented or cultured foods), you’ll introduce more healthy microbes into your GI tract that can crowd out other types.
Probiotics help to digest foods and also support absorption of nutrients. You can acquire them by eating fermented foods regularly, ideally every day, including: unsweetened yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kvass and kimchi.
3. Take supplements that help to reduce occasional bloating
Ancient Nutrition has created an easy-to-use kit specially formulated to relieve occasional bloating, gas and constipation. We call this the Bloated Gut Bundle, which can promote normal digestion, help support nutrient absorption and aid in general digestive health, including by supporting a healthy balance of gut microbiota.
Within our Bloated Gut Bundle, you’ll find:
Collagen impacts the overall health of your gut, including gut integrity, because it helps to form and promote healthy tissues found in the gut lining.
Our Multi Collagen Protein Gut Restore provides 10 different types of collagen, plus shelf-stable SBO probiotics, and herbal ingredients including peppermint, ginger and apple cider vinegar, and the amino acid glutamine.
What do all of these ingredients do for your gut? Hydrolyzed collagen peptides make collagen easier for the body to use and absorb, so it can contribute to a healthy gut lining. Herbs and botanicals found in this formula generally support a healthy gut environment, healthy bowel function and healthy elimination, while glutamine (an amino acid) supports healthy gut microflora and gut integrity.
SBO Gut Restore capsules
SBO Probiotics support healthy gut microflora, a healthy immune system and gastrointestinal health.
This formula features a combination of 25 billion CFU* (*at time of manufacture) of soil-based probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics, which together create a “trifecta approach” for supporting digestive wellness. Prebiotics act as fertilizer for probiotics, while postbiotics are the metabolites (enzymes and organic acids) created by probiotics.
We’ve also added organic mushrooms and Ayurvedic ingredients like organic licorice, marshmallow, zinc and magnesium to deliver overall support for healthy elimination and reduction of occasional bloating.
If you prefer taking a daily probiotic in gummy form, try our new SBO Probiotic Gummies, which feature 10 billion shelf-stable CFUs* (*at best by date) per serving (no refrigeration needed) of resilient soil-based organism probiotics. These probiotics taste great and are super simple to take daily. They support healthy gut function, healthy immune responses and normal bowel transit time.
4. Manage stress (take care of your “gut-brain connection”)
Because your brain and gut are in constant communication with one another, hormones and stress can both play a role in digestion.
This means that if your outlook needs a boost, or even if your sleep regimen needs tweaking, are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you might feel more bloated than usual. Another issue is that stress often leads to poorer food choices, which can lead to occasional bloating.
Prioritize taking care of yourself holistically in order to support your digestive system. Get enough sleep, take breaks to unwind and relax throughout your day, and do things that bring you joy such as exercise, spending time in nature, socializing, etc.
Here’s another tip: Be sure to slow down when eating and to practice eating more “mindfully.” Take your time, avoid distractions, chew food thoroughly and stop before you are overly full.
5. Stay hydrated and avoid too much alcohol
Does drinking water reduce bloating? Yes, it can help. It might seem counterintuitive, but being dehydrated and lacking water/electrolytes in your body —including if you recently drank a lot of alcohol — can sometimes cause bloating.
Your body basically swells up when you haven’t drunk enough fluids, plus you might become slightly constipated. When you stay hydrated, your body does a better job of balancing fluids and releasing any extra water it doesn’t need.
On top of drinking lots of water, exercising and having herbal teas (such as peppermint, ginger or chamomile) can also help encourage healthy bowel movements and decrease bloating.
6. Try a low FODMAP diet
FODMAP foods are those that contain specific types of short-chain carbohydrates that can aggravate some people’s digestion. FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.”
A low FODMAP diet, which is a type of elimination diet, is now commonly recommended for overall gut and digestive health. Because FODMAPs can increase fermentation in the gut, they can trigger occasional bloating in people who are unable to metabolize these carbs fully.
Unfortunately, some foods high in FODMAPs are otherwise healthy, such as cruciferous veggies and beans, but you might still want to avoid them for a while to get that bloating under control.
High FODMAP foods to consider limiting in your diet include:
- Wheat, rye and barley
- Dairy such as milk and most yogurts
- Veggies including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
- Onions and garlic
- Apples and pears
- Beans and legumes
- Added sugar and sweeteners, including sugary drinks
While you may want to experiment with cutting out FODMAPs, eating plenty of fiber is still important for helping to keep bowel movements regular. Here are healthy food choices which contain fewer FODMAPs:
- Veggies such as peppers, lettuces, carrots, green beans, zucchini and tomatoes
- Fruits such as grapes, kiwi, melon, pineapple and strawberries
- Most protein sources, such as eggs, fish and meat
- Corn, rice and oats
Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.