We’ve all experienced the uncomfortable bloated feeling, where your tummy seems stretched and full. Usually this feeling will come and go as it’s affected by things in our day-to-day lifestyle.
‘If you’re experiencing frequent or persistent bloating, or your bloated tummy comes with other worrying symptoms, it’s worth speaking to a GP to rule out any digestive problems, issues with your diet or other medical conditions,’ says Dr McClymont.
Although bloating can sometimes be caused by food intolerances, the menstrual cycle or medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), most cases of feeling bloated can often be managed by natural bloating remedies and daily self-care.
What is bloating, exactly?
Bloating is very common and is characterised by a feeling of fullness, tightness, or swelling in the abdomen. It’s often accompanied by excess gas, discomfort and sometimes pain.
Bloating can happen for a variety of reasons, including overeating, certain foods or drinks, digestive conditions or hormonal changes. While bloating is usually not a serious condition, it can be uncomfortable and affect your quality of life.
What causes bloating?
As bloating can be caused by many different factors, it’s a good idea to understand the most common causes so you can work out the best way to get rid of bloating. Here’s what can cause symptoms:
Excess gas and flatulence (farting)
Swallowing air (from talking while eating, eating too quickly, drinking through straws or chewing gum)
Food intolerance – gluten and dairy are the biggest culprits but people may have their own individual intolerances
Certain types of food – especially those high in salt and carbohydrates
Lifestyle choices – lack of exercise, overeating, or eating late in the day
Fizzy or carbonated drinks
Coeliac disease – a common digestive condition where your intestine cannot absorb gluten found in wheat, barley and rye (If you’re diagnosed with this condition, speak to a GP about how to make the best changes to your diet)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – the bloating of IBS is usually caused from the erratic movement of food waste through the bowel
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – this is caused by water retention from a change in hormone levels during your menstrual cycle
How to get rid of bloating – 10 tips
1. Drink the right fluids
Drinking plenty of water and avoiding too many fizzy, sugary or caffeinated drinks can really help. If you can’t do without your morning cuppa, limit yourself to 1 or 2 cups a day. Herbal and decaf teas are good alternatives too.
2. Avoid gassy foods
Try cutting down on foods known to cause bloating after eating, like beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower. Certain fruits can cause a bloated tummy too, like blackberries and watermelon – so bear this in mind when choosing your 5 a day.
3. Up your fibre
Eating more high-fibre foods like wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta, beans and pulses can help improve your digestion and reduce bloating.
4. Consider your eating habits
Making small changes to how you eat, as well as what you eat, can make a big difference to how bloated you feel. Although it’s tempting to eat on the go, try to sit down while you eat and be as upright as possible. Take your time to chew food and keep your mouth closed to stop you swallowing too much air.
5. Get plenty of exercise
Even a 20 minute walk a few times a week can improve your bowel function and reduce bloating as it helps keep everything moving in your gut.
6. Stay clear of culprits
Some of the worst things for bloating include chewing gum and foods that are high in salt, fat and refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, pastries and sweets. Limit these to an occasional treat.
7. Don’t eat too late
Eating dinner a few hours before you go to bed gives yourself more time to digest properly. If you find your bloating is particularly bad in the evening, try and eat a bit earlier than usual.
8. Understand IBS
We have lots of helpful guidance for IBS relief which covers how to manage bloating symptoms linked to IBS. If you’re worried about bloating caused by IBS, it might be worth speaking to a GP to discuss your symptoms.
9. Try a natural bloating remedy
Lots of people use bloating remedies as a quick fix – like taking peppermint oil tablets or drinking a cup of ginger tea.
10. Spot your triggers
Keep a daily food diary for a couple of weeks to spot any triggers, noting down everything you eat and drink. This will help you identify when your bloating seems to be at its worst so you can cut it from your diet. If you’re considering cutting out a food group long-term, always get advice from a GP first.
‘Many people have individual triggers for their bloating, and so what works for one person may be less effective for another. It’s helpful to try and identify what makes your bloating worse so you can avoid or minimise that trigger,’ explains Dr McClymont.
What natural bloating remedies can I try?
Peppermint is used to aid digestion and reduce bloating. It contains compounds that relax the muscles in your digestive tract, which can help reduce bloating and excess gas. You can try drinking peppermint tea or taking peppermint oil supplements to see if it helps.
Ginger can help reduce bloating by getting rid of unwanted inflammation in your digestive tract. Try drinking ginger tea or taking ginger supplements to see if it helps.
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your gut and help support digestion. They can also help reduce bloating by keeping your digestive system healthy. You can find probiotics in yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods.
Staying hydrated can help flush out excess salt and reduce bloating. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and avoid fizzy drinks which can contribute to bloating.
When should I speak to a doctor about bloating?
If your bloating is persistent, making you uncomfortable, and you don’t seem to get relief from these lifestyle tips, it’s best to speak to a GP to rule out an underlying condition.
‘There are many different reasons for bloating, mostly linked to lifestyle and dietary habits, but sometimes an underlying medical condition,’ says Dr Rhianna McClymont.
‘If you’re worried about your bloating, or you’ve noticed other symptoms like unexplained weight loss, changes in your bowel pattern or blood in your poo, then you should speak to a doctor.’