What causes stomach bloat and how do you get rid of it? The first thing to remember about bloating is that when it comes to the size of our stomachs, we are often our own worse critic. Just because you *feel* bloated doesn’t mean that anyone would be able to notice with a before and after photo sequence.
There are five causes of stomach bloat: gas, water retention, fiber, excess food, and medical problems. Lets start with the last first, eating too much. Gluttony causes bloat as many who have stuffed themselves at a holiday meal can attest to. They need to literally loosen their belt to be comfortable. Eating too much distends you stomach, you are a proverbial python who has just swallowed a pig whole but it doesn’t take this magnitude of excess to cause bloating. For some people, simply a normal sized meal causes bloating. The suggestion? Instead of eating three larger meals, divide that same amount of food into five or six meals.
On a similar subject, lets cover fiber. Getting lots of fiber is vital for weight loss, fat loss, and also for disease prevention but it does have a few negative side effects. The first temporary negative side effect is when you start adding fiber to your diet to get up to the recommended amounts, you need to do it gradually to allow your digestive system time to adapt otherwise you will get a lot of gas and bloating as your stomach tries to figure out what to do with all this new fiber that it has never seen before. Another negative side effect of fiber is that foods with high fiber also have a lot of bulk and that bulk fills your stomach – again the python swallowing the pig effect. For example, if you want 800 calories you can either eat one stick of butter (yick) or you can eat eight pounds of spinach! This illustrates why fiber is good for weight loss and why it causes bloating! Again, the solution is the same, eat more frequent, smaller meals!
Now lets talk about water retention. When many people report feeling bloated, its often salt thats the problem. Eating a bag of chips makes you really, really thirsty so you drink an entire two liter bottle of coke. Two problems here other than the obvious dietary choices you are making :) The first problem is that the proverbial python swallowing the pig problem. That bag of chips doesn’t take up much room in your stomach but that two liters of coke sure does. The second problem is that the salt causes you to retain the water, a lot of water. Not all the water gets retained in the belly but since thats where most of the fat is, thats where a lot of water gets stored. The solution, consume less salt!
Gas is traditionally the biggest cause of bloat. Having your abdomen stuffed with gas like an overfilled balloon certainly makes you bloated and there are two causes of this gas. First is from swallowing it. Sounds stupid but some people gulp air, especially when eating too fast and this swallowed air ends up almost immediately as bloat. The second cause of gas is as a byproduct of digestion. Some people have stomachs that seem to be able to digest anything but most of us are negatively affected by certain foods. Almost everyone has certain foods that their stomach just cant handle which will result in gas production, lets list them here
- Dairy. This is the biggest one! Many people are lactose intolerant and many of them don’t realize it. It has varying degrees but for some, even a slight amount of dairy is enough to tie their stomach in big puffy knots. If you frequently have bloating, try eliminating anything with dairy in it for a few days.
- Vegetables: onions, celery, carrots, brussels sprouts, cucumber, cabbage, radishes, and leafy greens. These vegetables have a double whammy. Not only do many peoples digestion not handle them well but they have lots of fiber as well. As discussed above, the fiber causes an additional bloating compounded by the gas produced.
- Legumes (beans, peas, etc). Most people pin all the blame for gas on beans unfairly in my opinion which is why I have put it down at the #3 spot on my gas list. Often your system gets used to beans after eating them for a few months and the gas producing effects go away. Of course, there are some people though who just cant handle beans.
- Fruit: Believe it or not, fruit causes gas in some people. Bananas, apricots and prunes being the worse.
- Spicy food
- Fried, fatty foods
The last possible cause of bloat is from medical problems, some of which are serious. It can be from irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, or blockage in the intestines. If you have cut out all the gas producing foods, you eat slowly without gulping air, and eat small meals and you still have bloating then its definitely worth seeing a doctor to see if you have a more serious problem.