Plus, shares her top remedies, too.
Hands up if you've ever experienced a sore, puffy stomach that left you feeling sluggish and in pain? If yes, then you've probably wondered what causes bloating and if there are any simple remedies for it.
As many as 25% of individuals are affected by troublesome bloating, according to a review published in the International Scholarly Research Notices of Gastroenterology.
Not sure what bloating actually is? If not, then lucky you - because if you've ever experienced it, you'll know about it. "Bloating is one of the most common gut symptoms people report," explains doctor Megan Rossi, registered dietitian and author of Eat More, Live Well. "Put simply, it’s the feeling of increased pressure in your intestine that in some cases may also cause a visible protrusion," she explains.
Some may call it an air baby, as your stomach will likely appear round and sticking out. Been there, done that? Keep scrolling for doctor Rossi's insight into the root causes and simple cures.
What causes bloating? Your guide
What are the main symptoms of bloating?
Before we get started on what causes that painful, puffiness around your mid-section, it's worth covering the main symptoms, for those who aren't sure if they've experienced it before.
There are several different types, including intermittent bloating, aka the type that comes and goes over the course of the day. "This type of bloating is more common and is typically managed through diet and lifestyle," she explains.
The other type is continuous bloating. "Continuous bloating, on the other hand - bloating whereby you always feel bloated with no fluctuations over the course of the day - is less common and is best reviewed by your GP first," she advises.
What causes bloating?
Good question - and not a question that has a straightforward answer, sadly.
"Bloating is a topic that falls victim many a latest ‘quick fix’ or ‘magic foods’ that promise to help beat it," Rossi explains.
How so? Well, many doctors claim that certain foods cause bloating - Rossi doesn't think they do - and that you need to do all sorts of whacky quick fixes (we're looking at you, apple cider vinegar shots) to 'cure' it.
"Bloating is not all your food's fault," explains the doctor. "We can be quick to blame what we eat for any gut issues, but the fact is, bloating can be just as much about our lifestyle and how you eat - not what you eat. There's also no superfood or supplement that'll magically fix it - no matter what you read about 'foods to eliminate bloating'."
Some common triggers include:
- Wearing tight pants (for example, wearing gym leggings all day)
- Not chewing your food enough
- Having a stressful day
- Drinking too many fruit smoothies and juices instead of eating the fruit whole
- Holding in your farts
- Chewing gum and other sugar free foods that contain added sweeteners ending in -ol
Is bloating normal?
Another good question, because yes, to an extent, everyone will bloat a little. "The occasional bloating is totally normal - especially after a big meal or eating extra fibre," she explains.
What should I do if my bloating persists?
Is your bloating starting to affect your day-to-day? Rossi reckons that it’s always best to be on the safe side.
If your gut symptoms are accompanied by unintended weight loss (that's more than 5% of your body weight in six months), blood in your poo, low blood iron levels or a fever, 'do visit your GP to rule out more troublesome causes,' recommends Rossi.
5 simple tips for easing bloating
Some simple lifestyle and diet tweaks may ease your bloating if you experience the intermittent kind. "Unfortunately there is no one size fits all, but seeing a qualified nutritionist - and trying the below steps - could help," she explains.
1. Chew your food
Simple, but effective, ensuring you're chewing your food well is key to reducing your risk of bloating. "Aim for ten to twenty chews per mouthful," shares Rossi.
2. Opt for smaller meals
Across the course of the day, she recommends splitting your food intake into smaller meals to help with digestion.
3. Try gentle massage
Already suffering from a bloated stomach and not sure what to do? "Gentle stretching, abdominal massage and heat packs can help to release trapped gas," she explains.
4. Avoid tight clothes
Again, sounds obvious but can be really effective. "Avoid wearing tight clothes, such as gym leggings, where you can," she warns.
5. Rule out food intolerances
Still not sure what causes bloating and worried it could be something more serious? Do make sure that a food intolerance isn't causing your bloat. "Visiting a professional to ensure you don't have any common food intolerances that are causing the bloating is important," she concludes.
Bottom line: if you've tried the above over a four week period and still don’t have relief, it’s time to visit your GP, she advises. "It's important to rule out other causes such as coeliac disease, which can be done with a simple blood test," she explains.
Although a little bit of bloating is completely normal, if isn't normal for it to impact your day-to-day quality of life. Her new book, Eat Yourself Healthy, also offers an evidence-based step-by-step bloating guide.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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