Originally appeared in the article, "4 ways to reduce bloating and gas, according to experts," by Rachel Hosie in Insider on April 28, 2022.
Bloating to some degree, perhaps after eating a larger than normal meal, is a common occurrence for many — 15-30% of Americans experience bloating, research suggests.
However, if your stomach bloats every time you eat, you should seek medical help, Cedars-Sinai gastroenterologist Dr. Ali Rezaie told Insider.
For those who don't bloat all the time but find it uncomfortable when they do, there are things you can do to minimize the likelihood of bloating, such as eating more slowly and leaving gaps between meals.
There are several causes of bloating
Some people suffer from bloating more than others, and it can occur for various reasons, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food intolerances, the menstrual cycle, eating too fast, and too much fiber.
15-30% of Americans experience bloating. Photo Credit: Getty Images
One cause of bloating is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), where an excessive amount of bacteria reside in the small bowel, according to Rezaie, who is a GI researcher and co-author of The Microbiome Connection.
"After eating, these bacteria ferment food, especially carbohydrates, and produce various side-products and gases such as methane, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulfide," he said. "Accumulation of these gases inside the bowels can manifest as bloating or abdominal distention."
If you develop SIBO, you may notice significant bloating after eating a food you used to be able to tolerate well, Rezaie said.
As well as a regularly distended stomach, other symptoms to watch out for are a change in bowel habits, excessive belching or flatulence, abdominal discomfort, a change in weight, nausea, vomiting, brain fog, or blood in stool.
These could all be a sign that something is not right and you should see a doctor, Rezaie said.
4 tips to avoid bloating
1. Leave gaps between eating
The small bowel keeps itself clean with "housekeeper waves," which move undigested food from the small intestine into the large intestine. These waves occur every two hours when we are not eating, Rezaie said.
"These waves are integral for the balance of our gut microbiome," he said.
To ensure the waves can take place, wait a few hours after each meal or snack before eating again if you can.
2. Eat slowly
You take in less air by chewing your food for longer and eating slowly, gastroenterologist Hardeep Singh previously told Insider. Less air means less bloating.
3. Drink more water
Consuming too much sodium can lead to bloating, and sipping water can help flush it out, Singh said.
4. Try a low fermentation diet
"Low fermentation eating" could help reduce the symptoms of SIBO, Rezaie said, but more research is needed, according to consultant gastroenterology dietitian Kirsten Jackson.
Highly fermentable foods, such as artificial sweeteners, beans, cauliflower, and broccoli, produce gas, so reducing them could help.
However, it's worth remembering that beans, cauliflower, and broccoli have lots of other health benefits, including providing fiber which is important for gut health, so you shouldn't cut them out if you don't have to.
"As a rule of thumb, diets that have less carbohydrates and more protein lead to less bloating," Rezaie said.
Protein powder, however, can lead to bloating and digestion issues for some people, personal trainer Stephanie Sanzo previously explained to Insider.
If you're unsure or regularly bloated to the point of pain, see a doctor who may prescribe medication, an elimination diet, or other treatment.