Bloating is one of those things many people don't think about often until they're actually dealing with it — and then you think about it a lot. After all, it's only natural to wonder how to get rid of bloating when your stomach is suddenly puffed up like a marshmallow.
But knowing how to stop bloating often comes down to figuring out the root cause of your issue. Only then can you find the most efficient way to get rid of bloating and, hopefully, keep it that way.
Just know this: You're not alone in your bloating woes. "Bloating is one of the most common GI symptoms people experience," Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Life. Of course, that doesn't mean you should have to live with it.
Here's how to get rid of bloating — and what could be behind it in the first place.
What is bloating, again?
Bloating is a feeling of tightness, pressure or fullness in your stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can also come with a swollen (aka distended) stomach, but it doesn't in all cases, Farhadi says.
There's a range with bloating: It can feel anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to incredibly painful, and it can be a recurrent issue for some people, notes Farhadi.
Common causes of bloating
There's a wide range of things that can cause bloating, but doctors say these are some of the most common that could be behind your misery.
Indigestion, i.e. having an upset stomach, can cause your intestines to produce more gas, Dr. Arashdeep Litt, an internal medicine physician at Spectrum Health, tells Yahoo Life. "That can lead to bloating," she says.
Food sensitivities or intolerances
"Certain foods are not broken down well and pull more fluid into the bowel," Dr. Shaham Mumtaz, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, tells Yahoo Life. "That produces a stretching and bloated feeling." Dairy and gluten are some of the more common food sensitivities and intolerances, Farhadi says.
During a woman's period, there are "lots of changes in hormones" and even changes in the gut motility, meaning how quickly food moves through the gut, Farhadi explains. "That can all change the gut's movement," he adds. At the same time, a woman may experience more fluid retention, Mumtaz says — and all of that can lead to feelings of bloating.
Carbonated beverages contain carbon dioxide, which doesn't just magically disappear when it hits your stomach. "It can float to the top in the stomach, giving a sensation of bloating," Litt says. "Also, some of these drinks have artificial sweeteners, which cause more bloating."
High fiber foods
While dietary fiber is important for a healthy digestive process, too much fiber can cause your stomach to swell, Mumtaz says. Bacteria in your colon can also produce extra gas when it breaks down fiber, leading to more bloating, he adds.
Constipation, which is defined as having less than three bowel movements a week, can cause a backup in your gut, Litt says. "That will lead to more gas and bloating," she adds.
High sodium foods
Foods that are high in sodium "lead to fluid retention," Litt says. That can cause your stomach to swell, leading to bloating.
This isn't a common cause of bloating, but it's important to address it. In rare cases, persistent bloating can be a sign of ovarian cancer, along with pelvic or stomach pain, feeling full quickly, or always feeling like you have to urinate or having to urinate often, according to the American Cancer Society. If you experience those symptoms, see your doctor right away.
How to get rid of bloating
The best way to get rid of bloating largely depends on what's causing it in the first place. Still, Mumtaz says, "Diet changes are the most effective." Keeping a food diary and noting what you eat before bloating strikes can help you pinpoint certain ingredients and foods that may be causing you discomfort, Farhadi says.
Overall, "eating healthier and monitoring trigger foods is the most effective way to manage bloating," Mumtaz says.
Another option, Litt says, is to go on a low FODMAP diet. (FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols — these are short-chain carbohydrates that your small intestine doesn't absorb well, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.) To try out a low FODMAP diet, you first eliminate high FODMAP foods (there's a huge list, but dairy-based foods, wheat products, beans, apples and onions are some of the most common). Next, you slowly re-introduce the foods, keep tabs on how you feel, and then avoid or limit the foods you've identified as causing issues for you.
Exercising often can also help reduce bloating and keep you regular, Farhadi says.
When to see a doctor about bloating
If your bloating is persistent and it bothers you, it never hurts to check in with your doctor, Farhadi says. However, Litt says there are certain symptoms along with bloating that should prompt you to seek care sooner rather than later. Those include:
Night-time abdominal pain
Unexplained weight loss
Blood in your stool
Severe abdominal pain
Also keep this in mind, per Farhadi: "If your bloating is interfering with your social life or daily activity, it's time to talk to your doctor."
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