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Immunity, Lifestyle, Longevity
Brett Melanson, PhD
January 21, 2022
Brett Melanson, PhD
From time-to-time, we can all feel a little (or very) bloated.
Bloating is the feeling that you get when your belly feels enlarged or swollen when you’re done eating (1).
Bloating can be caused by too much gas production in the stomach or disrupted movement of the muscles that help your digestive system process food and drink (2).
If you feel like you’re experiencing bloating regularly, you’re not alone—this is reported to happen in about 19% of people. In other words, it is quite common (3).
Sometimes bloating can be a symptom of a serious medical condition.
But, if you are a healthy individual and simply just want to reduce the amount of bloating you experience, here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.
1. Avoid Overeating and Eating Too Fast
One telltale sign that bloating is a result of overeating is if you tend to feel uncomfortable after eating a big meal—in this case, you’re going to want to reduce your portions and spread these smaller portions evenly throughout the day.
Interestingly, most people who experience bloating do not actually have enlarged stomachs or an increase in pressure within the abdomen (i.e., belly).
Instead, the problem mostly resides in sensory perception (4, 5).
In other words, even though you may think you look larger after a big meal, this is actually just how you feel.
Eating too fast can cause air to enter the stomach as we scoff down our meals, which can contribute to gas buildup.
One trick to avoid this and actually improve bloating is to chew your food for longer periods of time.
This can reduce air from rushing into your stomach and help your digestive system break down smaller parts of food particles (6).
Importantly, eating slower may even help you maintain weight (7)!
Main point: Bloating can result from eating too fast or overeating. Try dividing big portions into evenly spaced smaller portions throughout the day and spent more time chewing your food.
2. Avoid Carbonated Drinks and Chewing Gum
Carbonated drinks like soda and soda water contain carbon dioxide (CO2) in them.
CO2 is a gas and gives these drinks the “fizzy” feeling and sound (8).
When you consume carbonated drinks, this adds CO2 into your digestive system and can contribute to gas build-up.
At the same, chewing gum can also contribute to bloating.
This is because as we chew gum, we tend to swallow air. As mentioned, swallowing air significantly contributes to feeling bloated (9).
Main point: Soft drinks and chewing gum increase our intake of gas and air from the external environment. Both can increase gas build-up in our stomachs which can lead to bloating.
3. Avoid Foods That Give You Gas
Some foods are more likely to create gas than others.
One way you can find out which foods may be contributing to your bloating feeling is to keep a food journal every day.
After some time, you should begin to notice a pattern where bloating is associated with certain foods.
Try and limit these foods and see how that helps with your bloating.
Foods that are high in fiber can significantly contribute to gas in the stomach, and thereby increase bloating.
If you are thinking of adding fiber into your diet, it is best to do so over several days to try and avoid the bloating that accompanies fibrous foods (10).
Other foods known to increase bloating include beans, lentils, wheat, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and onion, among others (11).
In your food journal, see if any of these are associated with your post-meal bloating and if so, try and limit your intake or spread your intake of these foods over multiple meals throughout the day.
Main point: Fibrous foods are culprits of gas production in the digestive system. Try and record the foods you eat every day and record when you feel bloated. This should highlight a pattern of bloat-inducing foods and help you reduce or eliminate bloating by cutting back on these types of food.
4. Watch the Sugar Alcohols in Your Diet
Sugar alcohols are not what they sound like—they are not spiked sugars.
Instead, sugar alcohols are just a biochemistry name for sweeteners like xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol (12).
These are usually added to sugar-free and diet food/drinks to replace the sweet taste of sugar to provide a calorie-free option.
While they are considered safe alternatives to sugar, there is evidence that the body has difficulty digesting these sweeteners and can increase gas and bloating (13, 14).
As well, in people who cannot absorb fructose very well (a natural sugar found in fruits and plants), reducing sorbitol in the diet improves symptoms associated with gas and bloating as well as mood and early signs of depression (15).
Main point: Limiting the amount of sugar alcohol (i.e., sweeteners) in your diet, like sorbitol, may help you reduce bloating.
5. Take Probiotic Supplements
One of the biggest contributors to gas in the intestines (and thus, bloating) is our gut bacteria.
These bacteria frequently break down sugars and other molecules and release gaseous byproducts into our gut.
Fortunately, there is evidence that probiotic supplements can help reduce the production of gas and bloating in people diagnosed with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; 16) and general gastrointestinal upset (17, 18).
At the same time, other studies have shown that probiotics are helpful in reducing gas, but do not necessarily impact feelings of bloating, or only reduce the severity of gas/flatulence in individuals with IBS (19, 20).
In any case, we could all use a bit of gas relief from time-to-time, and probiotic supplements are known to have several health benefits (21).
Main point: Gut bacteria are a major contributor to gas. Supplementing with probiotics can help these gut bacteria metabolize foods better and may even reduce gas and bloating.
6. Take Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Lactose is the primary sugar of dairy products and thus, being lactose intolerant simply means you cannot break down this type of sugar (22).
Consuming lactose when you are lactose intolerant can lead to stomach upset, gas, and bloating
This is mainly due to a lack of lactase enzyme in the gut.
So, supplementing with lactase can help digest these sugars (23).
Other digestive enzyme supplements can help reduce strain on your liver and promote digestion as well.
In the end, helping your gut breakdown foods is one of the best ways to reduce gas and possibly help with your bloating.
Main point: Your gut works hard to breakdown food particles, which can release gases into the stomach and promote bloating. One way you can tackle this head on is by including digestive enzymes into your diet through supplements or foods that increase their activity.
These are only some of the ways you can try and reduce bloating in your life. Try a combination of these tips and see how you manage your digestive health.
Journaling is by far the best way to start tracking your digestive issues—from there, try altering your diet and including supplements to see if these changes help reduce flatulence and bloating.
As always, you should discuss any changes to your diet or lifestyle with a healthcare professional.
Brett Melanson, PhD
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