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,’ advises Dr Rhianna 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 daily self-care.
What’s causing my bloated feeling?
As bloating can be caused by many different factors, it’s a good idea to understand the most common causes. This should help you identify what’s causing you to feel bloated and work out the best way to manage your symptoms. Here are some of the common causes of bloating:
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
10 ways to help beat bloating
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
Another easy lifestyle change you can try is cutting down on foods known to cause bloating after eating, like beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower. Certain fruits can cause a bloating 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 beat bloating. You can find lots of handy advice about how to add more fibre to your diet from the NHS website.
4. Consider how you eat and drink
Making small changes to how you eat, as well as what you eat, can make a big difference to your digestion and 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. Taking your time to chew food and keep your mouth closed to stop you taking in too much air.
5. Plan your exercise
Get plenty of regular exercise – even a 20 minute walk, a few times a week can improve your bowel function and ease bloating. With many of us working from home, it’s even more important to schedule in regular exercise breaks during our working day. This helps keep everything moving in our 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. It’s best to stay away from these as much as possible, or limit them 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 you normally do.
8. Get clued up on 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 remedy
Lots of people use natural remedies as a bloating quick fix – like taking peppermint oil tablets or drinking a cup of peppermint tea. Peppermint has lots of other health benefits too including helping you sleep, so it’s a great one to try as part of your bedtime routine.
10. Spot your triggers
Perhaps the most important one is keeping 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 the worst. And 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 your personal triggers i.e. what makes your bloating worse, so that you can avoid or minimise that trigger,’ explains Dr McClymont.
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 a more serious condition.
Although it’s not one of the most common reasons for bloating and feeling full, this can also be a symptom of ovarian cancer. ‘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.’