The real reasons you feel bloated & what to do

Author: talkhealth

Date: Aug 2019

Most people will experience bloating at some point in their life. Bloating can be caused by a number of reasons, and today we’re joined by Ali Mortimer and Simone Gilbert from the UK Health Coaches to help uncover reasons why you might be bloated and how to fix them.

If you have a question for any of the UK Health Coaches about bloating or additional health concerns, we have an upcoming Ask the Expert session in September so bookmark it here and make a note in your diary!

Reasons why you might be bloated

Your diet is upsetting your gut

Being bloated after a big meal is one thing, but if you find you’re continually bloated and it’s really uncomfortable, your diet might need some tweaking.

Ali says:

“I have suffered IBS and bloating as well as a long history of digestive issues. I have found that resetting my gut health has really helped. To restore your gut you can do the following:

  • eat more vegetables and fruit, more whole foods and less processed and refined foods. This floods your gut with polyphenols and fibre. (For example, have fruit for breakfast, a lovely green salad with a variety of veggies for lunch, raw veg as crudites for snacks and in the evening have a plant based meal.)
  • drink plenty of water and herbal tea
  • eat fermented foods (apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, kefir) and take a probiotic as this will help restore your gut bacteria (called microbiome)
  • give your digestive system a rest and allow it to restore and heal by not eating for a 12 hour period - this is easiest done overnight. So for example, eat your last bite at 7.30pm and have your breakfast at 7.30am.

If you can do the above for a few days as plant based only, this will help hugely. Then slowly introduce other foods back into your diet - whole grains (brown rice, quinoa) and whole and lean proteins (fish, chickpeas and lean chicken, turkey).”

Simone adds:

“You may find that a food diary helps give you some insights into what is triggering your bloat. That can be a simple two-column approach of "what I ate" and "how I felt"... and that can be immediately, a few hours, 12 and 24 hrs. Your body will tell you. We can all fall out of practice listening to it so a food diary will ease you back into reconnecting and becoming aware.

Beyond this I find that my clients generally feel less bloated with the removal of some food groups, namely dairy and gluten. Many underestimate their power to unsettle our digestion until they dispense with them. For me as well, my bloat diminished when I replaced these with plant-based and gluten free alternatives.”

You’re stressed or anxious

Stress plays a massive part in our digestive system and can alter the way we digest food, which can lead to bloating. In many cases, stress slows down digestion, leading to bloating pain and constipation.

Stress can also worsen digestive conditions such as stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.

Simone says:

“I suggest that you press pause in an effort to let go of the stress that surrounds how you're currently feeling. In my experience - having suffered gut and other mystery conditions - I remember being so focussed and stressed about it. It can make everything that tiny bit worse. Simple breathing exercises that have you nose breathing down into your belly for an inhalation/hold/exhalation count of 4/7/8 will help calm the stress response as it arises.

You may find that regular gentle exercise (so no daily marathon gym workouts required) will help your digestive process and help you to feel better in yourself. If you don't already, consider embracing the habit of going for a morning walk, or 20 minutes of yoga. Exercise supports optimum digestion.

Also, be sure to take kind and gentle care of you. Remember what you love to do and do it. A quiet cuppa, a movie, massage, chat with a friend, diving into a good book...make time for you. It's not a luxury, it's an imperative to our health and well-being.”

Find out more ways to reduce stress

You’re not getting enough sleep

Sleep is imperative to us in so many ways as human being, and when we don’t get enough, our bodies release a stress hormone known as cortisol. This disturbs your digestive system and causes bloating. A lack of sleep can also cause us to overeat and feel bloated as a result.

Simone says:

“We humans need 8-10hrs every night and without it most systems (think, digestive, hormonal, endocrine etc) are all unbalanced. It helps you deal with stress - of any kind - better and helps us keep a steady mindset and motivation to make the small changes we decide to make.”

You’re dehydrated

Bloating can also be caused by dehydration, which usually happens when you’ve been in the sun too long. Dehydration causes your body to retain fluid, which is why you feel bloated.

Simone says:

Be sure you're drinking plenty of water throughout the day - though leave a window either side of your meal of half an hour (more after you've eaten). Despite that is now quite customary in Western household, drinking water with our meal can seriously impinge on our digestive process and can lead to "the bloat".

Start the day with a large glass (with some water and/or apple cider vinegar) and then sip half a glass of water every 3/4 hr. Leave a window of an hour before bed to stop sipping so your bladder doesn't interrupt your sleep!

Register your interest in our free sleep support programme and get expert support in a weekly email

Other reasons why you’re bloated

You’re eating too much & too quickly

Rushing down food too fast almost always lead to bloating. This is because you tend to inhale more air and you’re not chewing your food well enough. Plus, you’re not giving your body a chance to send messages to your brain that you’re full.

The result? You end up with large pieces of food sitting in your belly and gas, which equals bloating.

The solution? Slow down and enjoy your food and really take the time to chew your food properly. Eating slowly will not only improve your digestion and reduce bloating, but it will also give your body chance to register that you’re full to avoid overeating and more bloating!

You’re about to get your period

Bloating before and during your period is completely normal, but it can be uncomfortable and there are ways to reduce swelling.

Avoid salty foods, as they will cause your body to retain water, when you want to try and debloat.

Foods such as bananas, rich in potassium and dark leafy greens with essential minerals will help counteract high levels of sodium in the body and lessen your bloating.

You’re constipated

Constipation is very common and basically means you’re having trouble passing stools regularly or you’re not completely emptying your bowel.

Common causes of constipation include:

  • not eating enough fibre from food such as fruit, vegetables and cereals
  • a change in your eating habits
  • side effects of certain medications

And many more reasons. Constipation can affect people of all ages and many people experience it only for a short time. However, it can be long-term, chronic condition that causes lots of pain and affects quality of life.

If bloating persists, visit your GP and discuss your symptoms, as it could be a sign of something more serious such as coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

You’ve recently had a stomach bug

A stomach virus or bacterial infection can really upset your gut’s bacterial balance and may be the reason you’re experiencing bloating.

When you travel to foreign countries, you’re more likely to be exposed to parasites and tummy bugs like Giardiasis, which are known to cause symptoms such as diarrhoea and bloating.

This is caused by things like drinking water that hasn’t been treated to kill germs, swimming in swimming pools, lakes and rivers, eating unwashed food and more.

See your local pharmacist to see what they can offer and drink plenty of water to flush out any remaining infection.

For extra support and guidance, register now for our free well-being and IBS support programmes, which can help give you tips on general health, diet and questions to ask your doctor.

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 23 August 2019

Next review: 23 August 2022