4 Things You Never Knew Can Make You Feel Bloated

Hold the bubbles.

By Jenn Rose Smith
4 things you don't know can be causing you to bloat

A few weeks back we sat down with Danielle Capalino, MSPH, RD Registered Dietition and Nutrtitionist to chat about IBS and chronic stomach pain. She’s dedicated her career to studying the relationship between the brain and the gut, and loves nothing more than helping people suffering from digestive issues reclaim their bodies (and their social lives.) She’s also the author of the new book, Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach

We’re pretty impressed with Danielle’s knowledge (she studied Brain and Cognitive Science at MIT), so we were excited to chat with her again about another issue we ALL deal with from time to time: bloating. With our waistlines a bit tighter after the holidays, this topic seems especially timely.

It turns out there are some sneaky things that can really contribute to bloating, and you may be surprised at what they are.

Read on for Danielle’s tips for battling bloat naturally, and 4 things you can stop doing to get relief now. 

In your experience, how common are problems with bloating for women?

Very common! I’m amazed that when I tell people what I do they almost always open up and share their stories of suffering from bloating. Part of it’s hormonal, so it’s not comfortable but it’s “normal” — and sometimes it really is a chronic uncomfortable and embarrassing issue. 

So, what exactly IS bloating? What’s going on in your body when it’s happening? Is it all about retaining water?

When bloating is hormonal it can be about retaining water. Frequently with food sensitivities, bloating and distention are the results of excess gas. When we eat foods that are difficult for our bodies to break down, bacteria that live in our intestines will go to town “eating” these undigested foods and producing gas which sits in our intestines. I know, it’s pretty strange to think about how that actually works!

nyc street style, classic street styleimage by Able

We’ve been trained to expect some amount of premenstrual bloating as a natural part of womanhood. Is most bloating induced by hormones? Or are there other triggers for bloating as well?

Bloating that fluctuates with your menstrual cycle is typically because of normal hormonal changes throughout your cycle. If you’re bloated or distended all month long, there’s likely another reason. One major reason that I see bloating (though you should talk to your doctor to rule out other causes) is due to food sensitivities.

healthy detox teaimage by kristen kilpatrick

So, is fighting bloating mostly all about prevention? Or are there things you can do to relieve it once it’s already happening?

Prevention is a big part of the solution because if you can identify specific foods that are triggering your bloating, you can avoid them. However, this isn’t always possible. If you find that you’re feeling bloated it helps to understand what’s causing it. You might feel better by getting your digestive tract moving which you can do by simply taking a walk around the block after you eat, or making sure that do not lay down after eating. Excess gas in the upper part of your digestive system can be relieved with over the counter medication like simethicone. You may also feel comforted by a hot mug of fennel tea.

You’ve mentioned there are some sneaky things that can make people feel bloated. What are a few things we should watch out for?

sparkling waterimage by kristen kilpatrick

1. Drinking carbonated water.

There are some benefits to carbonated water, like staying hydrated without all the extra sugar and junk in soda. But for many of us the carbonation can cause some serious bloating. Think about it, you’re swallowing little bubbles!

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2. Chewing gum.

Again, when you chew gum you’re swallowing excess air which can cause bloating. Gum may help your breath, or even keep you from eating when you’re not hungry — but it can also be a hidden reason for your bloating.

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3. Not getting enough exercise.

Our bodies are built to move, and so are our digestive systems. Part of making sure that our gut is working effectively is making sure we move our bodies.

water with lemonimage by sakara

4. Being dehydrated.

Drinking water is critical for making our digestive systems flow smoothly. When our systems are moving it is an easy and natural way to battle bloating. Aim for 8 glasses of water a day!

You can learn more about Danielle on her website here, and be sure and check out her books on all things healthy gut, nutrition, and wellness!