Our bodies are capable of incredible feats—from supplying our organs with oxygen to converting foods into fuel, we’re truly well-oiled machines. Yet, despite the efficiency of our bodies, we may experience the occasional backup. And when it comes to the digestive system, a backup can mean pain, cramps, and serious stomach bloat.
Although occasional bloating is normal, it’s often accompanied by uncomfortable and embarrassing flatulence and belching. Not to mention, the frustration of not being able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. Fortunately, there are steps and probiotics you can take to reduce occasional belly bloat and keep your body operating as smoothly as possible.
In this article, we’ll work to answer the question: Why am I so bloated. Then, we’ll isolate the best ways you can prevent future belly bloat and how to reduce bloating altogether.
What is Bloating?
Bloating is a common condition that causes your stomach to feel full and tight. In fact, approximately 10–25% of healthy adults experience occasional bloating. Depending on its severity, bloating can also cause:
- Excess gas or burping
- Stomach distention and pain
- Abdominal rumbling
- Uncomfortable tightness and pressure
These symptoms can make it difficult to work comfortably, keep plans with friends, and enjoy recreational activities (especially eating).
Why Am I Bloated?
Bloating can arise for a number of reasons. You can have occasional bloating or you can have chronic bloating. If you are wondering, “why am I always bloated?” check out our article on chronic bloating.
To pinpoint the root of your bloating, and understand the best way to prevent it, we’ve compiled a list of six common causes of occasional bloating.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint doctors receive. In fact, roughly 4 million people in the U.S. alone experience frequent constipation, resulting in 2.5 million doctor visits annually.
While most people understand constipation to refer to infrequent bowel movements, this condition also includes frequent instances of straining to start or finish a bowel movement, or having the sensation of fullness even after going to the bathroom.
Why does constipation occur?
Normally, to digest foods, the muscles in our digestive system contract to move the food through the intestines and down to the colon. However, if these muscle contractions are sluggish, the process of digestion slows. This means food sits in your colon longer as it's digested, leading to increased gas production and that uncomfortable feeling of fullness.
While causes of constipation can vary, it’s often due to:
- Use of certain medications, including narcotics and pain medications
- Lack of exercise
- Insufficient fiber or water intake
- Lifestyle changes, including things like traveling or even becoming pregnant
- Secondary medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome
#2 Digestive System Issues
While our digestive systems have the crucial task of processing the foods we eat and absorbing their vitamins and nutrients, some foods can pose more of a challenge. This is particularly true in the case of lactose and gluten.
If you find you’re experiencing bloating after enjoying the occasional cheese board, treating yourself to some frozen yogurt, or drinking a warm glass of milk at the end of the night, you may have developed a lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance occurs when our bodies don’t produce enough lactase—an enzyme needed to digest the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. As infants, our bodies produce plenty of lactase, as we rely on milk as our primary source of nutrition. However, after the first few months of infancy, lactase production begins to decrease. By about 20-years-old, roughly 30 million Americans will experience some degree of lactose intolerance.
Gluten intolerance is also a fairly common problem, affecting between 0.5–13% of the population. While less severe than celiac disease (an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks the small intestine in response to gluten ingestion) gluten intolerance can nevertheless cause considerable bloating and discomfort.
Gluten is often found in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. For those with gluten intolerances, this means that excessive bloating may occur after consuming foods such as:
- Baked goods
To determine whether a food intolerance is the culprit of your bloated belly, try working with a dietitian to identify the foods that may be the cause.
#3 Dietary Factors
Dairy and grains aren’t the only sections of your food pyramid that may need rearranging. Certain carbohydrates and overly processed foods may also be difficult for your body to digest, resulting in excess gas, constipation, and bloating.
- Complex carbohydrates – Complex carbs, including whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes, are packed with nutrients and fiber. However, due to their nutritional density, complex carbs require more time to digest. While this means you stay full longer after consuming these foods, it also means the bacteria in your gut can produce more bloating gas during digestion.
- Short-chain carbohydrates – Like complex carbs, some short-chain carbs known as FODMAPs are poorly digested by people who suffer from IBS, and can travel to your colon, where bacteria will ferment them and produce gas.
High FODMAP foods include:
- Processed foods – Processed foods, including frozen meals, canned fruits, and potato chips, pack a serious sodium punch. When you consume foods high in sodium, your body retains water, which can lead to bloating and fullness.
Aside from sodium, some processed foods, particularly those foods touted as being “diet-friendly” contain high levels of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose. While these chemicals may delight your taste buds with their faux sugar sweetness, they confuse your digestive system. In fact, your body may not be able to digest them at all, leading to uncomfortable bloating and swelling.
- Carbonated beverages – If you’re choosing carbonated beverages, such as soda or seltzer, to quench your thirst, you’re filling your stomach with tiny air bubbles that can cause increased bloating, burping, and gas. Not to mention, every time you reach for a diet soda, you’re also increasing your intake of artificial sweeteners that can exacerbate bloating.
While you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, completely eliminate these foods from your diet, particularly whole grains and fiber-rich foods, moderating your intake can significantly reduce your likelihood of uncomfortable stomach bloating.
Aerophagia describes the condition of swallowing too much air when you eat or drink. When excess air becomes trapped in your stomach, it can lead to bloating and discomfort that can be hard to alleviate without burping or passing gas.
Aerophagia is often inadvertent, and can be caused by:
- Eating too quickly
- Chewing gum
- Drinking through a straw
- Drinking carbonated beverages
To combat aerophagia-induced bloating, try chewing your food more slowly, limiting your intake of gum and carbonated drinks.
#5 Hormonal Fluctuations
For some instances of occasional bloating, a certain time of the month may be to blame. During the luteal phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle (which occurs in the days leading up to her period), hormone levels can fluctuate in preparation for pregnancy.
In particular, women experience increased levels of :
- Estrogen – When estrogen increases, the body retains more water, leading to the sensation of bloating and fullness.
- Progesterone – When levels of progesterone increase, the process of digestion is slowed, which can result in constipation and bloating.
If a woman doesn’t become pregnant, her bloating will subside soon after her period starts. However, if a woman does become pregnant, her hormone levels will continue to grow along with her baby. This means she’ll experience the increased water retention that comes with estrogen, and the slowed gastrointestinal tract that comes with progesterone.
Perimenopausal and menopausal women may also experience bloating as a result of fluctuating hormone levels. For instance, when women reach the perimenopausal stage, which can occur between their mid-30s and 40s, increasing levels of estrogen can lead to water retention, while decreasing levels of estrogen can lead to constipation.
#6 Lifestyle Habits
Just as you can’t perform your job effectively if you don’t have the proper tools and support, your body can’t work to digest foods efficiently if your lifestyle habits create additional obstacles. If you’ve adjusted what you eat, yet are still experiencing occasional belly bloat, the issue may be how you’re eating (and what you’re doing when you’re not eating).
- Overeating – Occasional overeating can occur when we’re celebrating holidays or special events, or enjoying a well-deserved vacation. However, overeating past the point of feeling full can lead to uncomfortable stomach pain and bloat. Try to be more mindful when eating and listen to your body when it tells you it’s full. You can work with a dietitian to increase your mindfulness during meals.
- Sudden Diet Change- Your body may need time to adjust after starting a new diet. For example, if you started something like a Paleo or a Keto diet, you might notice digestive changes. Keto bloating is common due to your body changing its metabolic state.
- Sleeping too soon after eating – It may be tempting to cozy up in a cocoon of blankets and doze off after a delicious meal, but sleeping too soon after eating doesn’t allow your body the time it needs to properly digest your food. This means you may wake up with uncomfortable bloating and indigestion.
Say Hello to Bio-K+® and Goodbye to Occasional Bloating
Regardless of what causes your occasional bloating, implementing healthy lifestyle changes, such avoiding hard to digest foods, reducing your portion sizes, or increasing your daily activity level, can ensure your body operates smoothly—the way it’s meant to. Plus, you’ll be able to ensure you don’t have to deal with frustrating and uncomfortable belly bloat.
To provide further support to your digestive system, try adding Bio-K+® probiotic products to your new healthy lifestyle. With delicious drinkables in both vegan and non-vegan flavors, as well as capsules for those on-the-go, Bio-K+ delivers high quality, patented probiotic strains to improve your gut health.
For the ultimate addition to your body’s efficiency, say hello to Bio-K+.
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Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management. (2015,
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