30% of people regularly experience bloating (1). Are you one of them?
The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can reduce bloating quickly. These are exercise, food, supplements and massage.
While bloating isn’t something you need to get rid of, you can find instant comfort by using some of the strategies below.
What is bloating a sign of?
Bloating is the sensation of pressure on your abdomen. You feel full and tight, often after eating.
Bloating is often caused by excess gas in your digestive system, but not always (2).
I say not always because bloating is complicated. You may be screaming at me through your keyboard that you are not gassy but still bloated. I feel you.
In your case, bloating is caused by an increased sensitivity to sensations in your body.
Congratulations, you are more ‘in tune’ with your body than others. If you feel bloated without gas, the good news is that many of the remedies below will help you.
Although they overlap, water retention and bloating are not the same thing.
Bloating is typically caused by excess liquids, gas and foods built up in your gut and digestive system.
You often feel the pressure or a “full” feeling... and perhaps you also experience the stomach distention that everyone hates.
What is bloating a sign of?
Bloating is often a sign of intestinal gas or pressure in your abdomen. However, we don’t fully understand bloating.
If you experience bloating, you may have a greater sensitivity to abdominal symptoms and intestinal gas.
This doesn’t mean you have gas, just that you are hyper aware of it.
When should you stop drinking water when bloated?
Generally you should not be chugging water when you feel bloated. There is likely already an excess of food in your intestine and colon. Drinking water will slow things down and further delay gastric emptying.
Why am I bloated all the time?
The fool-proof way to reduce bloating is to find the cause. You are likely bloated all the time due to a combination of the factors below:
- Food allergies such as lactose or fructose intolerance or celiac disease.
- A change in the bacteria of your small intestine
- Poor carbohydrate absorption, which disrupts your gut bacteria.
- Food residue in your colon
- Constipation, because the longer food remains in your colon, the longer it ferments and causes issues.
- Hormonal changes: many women experience bloating before, during or after their periods because of hormonal changes.
You can take comfort in the fact that bloating is usually not a sign of serious medical problems.
Here are 17 strategies for instant bloating relief.
What relieves bloating fast?
1. Physical Activity
Physical activity is a go-to for fast bloating relief. I know that is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re bloated.
However, going for a walk is often enough to ‘things moving’ to help release excess pressure.
A simple walk around the block will likely give you fast bloating relief, especially if you are constipated.
Physical activity also takes your mind off the fact that you feel bloated. Your hyper aware body can focus on other things as opposed to the discomfort of bloating.
Exercise also flushes sodium from your system through sweating. This helps reduce water retention associated with bloating.
2. Try Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are gaining popularity for their ability to help us digest food. These can be purchased from your pharmacy and can give you immediate relief of bloating.
Common digestive enzymes are:
- Lactase: An enzyme in your gut that helps you break down lactose. Lactose is the sugar found in most dairy-containing foods like yogurt, milk, ice cream and cheese.
- Proteases: Class of enzymes that help break down protein into small peptides and amino acids.
- Lipases: Digestive enzymes that assist in the breakdown of fats.
- Amylases: Break down carbs like starch into simple sugars.
3. Take Peppermint Oil
Peppermint is an ancient remedy for digestive related issues including bloating, gas and indigestion.
Peppermint oil helps to relax your intestinal muscles. It will reduce spasms in these muscles which allows for food, water, gas and stool to move efficiently through your digestive tract (5).
Peppermint oil is also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, which include bloating (6).
Word of caution: if you have heartburn, do not take peppermint oil.
Peppermint oil can be found over the counter at most pharmacies and grocery stores.
4. Strike a Yoga Pose
There are yoga poses designed to help with bloating. How? They position the muscles around your abdomen and thorax in a way to release gas.
These poses help reduce bloating:
5. Try This Abdominal Massage
Abdominal massage can encourage your bowels to ‘get moving.’ You should specifically focus on massaging the path of your large intestine.
Follow these steps:
- Place your hands above your right hip bone
- Rub in a circular motion toward the right side of your rib cage.
- Massage in circles, working your way across your upper stomach to your left rib cage.
- Then move down toward your left hip bone.
- If you feel any pain, then stop the massage immediately.
6. Take a Warm Bath
Bath’s are the ultimate way to unwind and destress. Plus, the heat of the bath water provides relief to your bloating sensations.
Bath’s are a great way to reduce stress. Due to the gut-brain connection, we know that stress is intimately linked to bloating and digestion.
How to reduce bloating in the long-term
7. Eliminate Common Food Allergens From Your Diet
Food allergies are incredibly common and growing. In 2018, 7% of people are reported to have food allergies.
Eating foods you are allergic to causes a host of issues in your gut and intestinal tract. These issues can produce bloating, gas and a leaky gut.
Below is a list of common food allergens:
- Lactase: 15-70% of the population is lactose intolerant (7). Lactase is the main sugar found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese.
- Lactose intolerance produces bloating and other digestive issues.
- Fructose: the sugars found in fruit and many processed foods. Fructose intolerance also causes bloating (8).
- Eggs: Everyone has a friend who clears out a room after eating eggs. Yes they do cause gas and bloating.
- Gluten and Wheat: A growing part of the population are gluten intolerant. Gluten intolerance can lead to major digestive issues (IBS, Crohn's, colitis) or more minor ones like bloating (9). It’s a good idea to get tested for food allergies by your doctor to know for sure.
8. Practise Mindful Eating
The number one cause of bloating is eating too much too soon. When you’re stuffed, it is easy to feel bloated and awful.
Consider adding an extra meal earlier in the day so you do not overeat at dinner.
You can also practise mindful eating strategies. Try to chew your food well until you can taste all of the flavours.
Aim to chew 20-40 times per bite.
Chewing thoroughly ensures that your food is broken down before it reaches your stomach.
Chewing also minimizes the amount of air you swallow with your food. Which is a major bloating trigger in and of itself (10).
9. Minimize Swallowing Air
Swallowing air is one of two major sources of gas in your digestive system. The other is gas produced by your gut bacteria.
Carbonated beverages are a no-brainer cause of swallowed air. Fizzy drinks have carbon dioxide, which is a gas that is released from these drinks after it enters your stomach.
Other major causes of swallowing air:
- Chewing gum
- Drinking through a straw
- Eating quickly
10. Avoid Gas Containing Foods
Many inflammatory food types will increase your gas and bloating. Even vegetables and fiber-rich ‘healthy’ foods will cause gas.
Why? Because your gut bacteria is not used to digesting these foods. It takes a little while for your bacteria to change in order to accommodate these foods.
Gas containing foods include:
- Legumes: beans and lentils
- Cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli
- Other high fiber foods can also cause gas and bloating: chicory root, inulin.
Fatty foods can also cause bloating on occasion. This is because they delay gastric emptying to keep you fuller, longer.
You should keep a food diary to find out which foods trigger gas and bloating for you.
11. Remove FODMAPS From Your Diet
FODMAPS are specific carbohydrates found in many foods, like wheat, beans, vegetables and legumes.
Researchers show that FODMAPS trigger major digestive issues like bloating, gas, constipation and IBS (11).
A low-FODMAP diet is shown to reduce symptoms in those suffering from bloating and IBS (12).
Here are some high-FODMAP foods to avoid:
If you have trouble with bloating, try removing these foods from your diet for two weeks. See how you feel and record the results in a food diary.
12. Remove Artificial Sweeteners From Your Diet
Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are hiding in many new-age healthy foods. These include sugar-free foods, chewing gum, energy bars, cereal and keto snacks.
Here’s a quick story.
I found a delicious, low-sugar chocolate bar at costco. I couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted without any sugar.
The issue was, this chocolate bar gave me tremendous gas and bloating. I checked the label, and it was filled with artificial sweeteners.
As soon as I stopped eating the bar, the symptoms went away… like magic.
Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are generally recognized as safe sugar replacements.
However, many of them cause serious gas, bloating and other digestive issues.
This is because your gut bacteria produces excess gas to try and digest them (13).
Here are some common artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols to test.
- Sucralose (splenda)
- Aspartame (diet soda)
You don’t necessarily need to avoid them if they don’t cause issues.
13. Try Probiotics
The tricky part about probiotics is that they may increase gas and bloating in the short-term.
This is because it takes a while for your gut bacteria to change. Adding probiotics ‘shocks’ your bacteria and can produce gas until they get used to the incoming bacteria.
Many studies show that probiotics help to reduce gas and bloating (14).
Probiotics are personal. Strains that work for some may not work for others.
They are worth trying, but start conservatively. Try half of the recommended dose for the first week. Then increase from there.
14. Reduce Your Salt Intake
Excess sodium is shown to cause water retention. Water retention is a trigger for many who suffer from bloating.
15. Keep a Food Diary
Many of the strategies above require some testing, trial and error. You should keep a food diary to record all of the different food combinations you eat in a given two week period.
Record which foods cause bloating and gas, and which don’t.
Do any of the strategies above relieve your symptoms? Definitely write that down.
16. Supplements to Try for Bloating Relief
There are supplements worth trying to reduce symptoms of bloating.
- Potassium: Potassium helps to regulate fluid balance and muscle contractions in your body. It also buffers sodium levels to reduce water retention and bloating. Chicken bone broth is a great natural source of potassium with 8% of your recommended daily intake per cup.
- Magnesium: Research shows that magnesium improves mood, reduces water retention and bloating in women suffering from premenstrual syndrome (15).
- Ginger: Not necessarily a supplement. Ginger gets things moving in your GI tract so that you can digest food properly. You can eat ginger or consume ginger tea.
17. Rule Out Chronic Medical Conditions
A small percentage of bloating cases could be an underlying medical condition. Long-term very painful bloating could be a sign of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease.
Some gynecological conditions like endometriosis can also cause pain, swelling and bloating.
Please see your doctor if you think things are serious. You may end up getting additional testing to rule out the above conditions.
30% of people experience bloating throughout their life. It feels like pressure, gas or fullness in your abdomen.
Some people with bloating do not have gas. It is thought that these people are hypersensitive to changes in their abdomen and GI tract.
Simple lifestyle changes like exercise, food, supplements and massage can relieve your bloating quickly.
Other strategies can help you get over bloating for good.
Do you experience bloating? What helps you get over it? Leave a comment and let me know.
Image credit: LaylaBird, Yvvone Wierick, Fizkes, monticello, Fascinadora, Getty Images