Eighteen ways to reduce bloating
Abdominal bloating is when the abdomen feels full and tight. It commonly occurs due to a buildup of gas somewhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bloating causes the belly to look larger than usual, and it may also feel tender or painful. Fluid retention in the body can also lead to bloating.
In this article, we provide techniques for getting rid of bloating quickly and explain how to reduce bloating in the long-term.
Quick tips to get rid of bloating
Fennel essential oil may help to ease bloating.
Bloating usually happens when excess gas builds up in the stomach or intestines. When bloating occurs right after a meal, it usually resolves itself, but it is often possible to speed up this process.
The best way to tackle bloating is to determine its cause. Common triggers for bloating include:
- Digestive issues. Constipation, food allergies, and intolerances can lead to bloating. When stool becomes backed up in the large bowel, it can cause bloating and a feeling of discomfort. Excess gas may also build up behind the stool, making the bloating worse.
- Diet. Fizzy drinks, too much salt or sugar, and not enough fiber in the diet can all cause bloating.
- Hormonal changes. Many people experience bloating before and during their periods due to hormonal changes and water retention.
Many home remedies can help to manage the pain and discomfort of bloating. The following quick tips may help people to get rid of a bloated belly quickly:
1. Go for a walk
Physical activity can get the bowels moving more regularly, which can help to release excess gas and stool. Getting the bowels to move is especially important if a person is feeling constipated. A walk around the block can provide fast relief from gas pressure.
2. Try yoga poses
Certain yoga poses can position the muscles in the abdomen in a way that encourages the release of excess gas from the GI tract. This can reduce bloating.
Child's Pose, Happy Baby Pose, and squats can all help people to relieve a buildup of gas quickly. Learn more about yoga poses for flatulence.
3. Use peppermint capsules
Peppermint oil capsules may also be helpful for indigestion and related gas. Manufacturers usually market them as a treatment for the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but people without IBS can also use them to relieve bloating.
Peppermint works by relaxing the intestinal muscles, which allows gas and stool to move along more effectively. People should always follow the instructions on the packet. Anyone who is prone to heartburn may need to avoid peppermint.
Peppermint capsules are available to buy over the counter (OTC) at drug stores or online.
4. Try gas relief capsules
Simethicone pills and liquid are anti-gas medications that can help to move excess air out of the digestive tract. It is essential to always take medication according to the instructions on the label.
People can find gas relievers in drug stores or online.
5. Try abdominal massage
Massaging the abdomen can help to get the bowels moving. A massage that follows the path of the large intestine is especially helpful. People can follow the steps below to do this:
- Placing the hands just above the right hip bone.
- Rubbing in a circular motion with light pressure up toward the right side of the ribcage.
- Rubbing straight across the upper belly area toward the left rib cage.
- Moving slowly down toward the left hip bone.
- Repeating as necessary.
If the massage causes any pain, it is best to discontinue it immediately.
6. Use essential oils
A study from 2016 tested the effectiveness of supplements containing a combination of fennel and curcumin essential oil in 116 people with mild-to-moderate IBS. After 30 days, people reported an improvement in their IBS symptoms, including bloating and abdominal pain.
People should not consume essential oils without speaking to a doctor first. This is because some formulations may be toxic or can interfere with medication, and there is no regulation of dosages.
7. Take a warm bath, soaking, and relaxing
The heat of the bath can provide relief for a sore abdomen. Relaxation can reduce stress levels, which may allow the GI tract to function more effectively and help reduce bloating.
Long-term solutions for bloating
Quick fixes are not always effective for some causes of bloating. However, people who have frequent bloating may find that certain lifestyle changes can tackle the causes and reduce bloating over time.
People can use these simple steps to try to prevent bloating in the long-term:
8. Increase fiber gradually
Increasing fiber intake may help to treat bloating.
Eating more fiber helps to prevent constipation and bloating. Most people in America do not get enough fiber, with only 5 percent of people meeting their recommended daily fiber intake of 25 grams (g) for females and 38 g for males.
However, it is important to bear in mind that eating too much fiber or increasing fiber intake too quickly can cause even more gas and bloating. People may notice adverse effects from eating more than 70 g of fiber a day.
When increasing fiber intake, it is best to start slowly and increase the intake over several weeks to allow the body to adjust to this change in the diet.
9. Replace sodas with water
Fizzy, carbonated drinks contain gas that can build up in the stomach. The carbon dioxide that makes soda and similar beverages fizzy can also cause bubbling and bloating in the stomach.
Sugars or artificial sweeteners in the diet can also cause gas and bloating. Drinking water eliminates these issues and helps to treat constipation as well.
10. Avoid chewing gum
The sugar alcohols in gum can cause bloating in some people. Swallowing air while chewing also may lead to bloating and gas pain. People can use ginger mints or peppermints to freshen their breath instead.
11. Get more active every day
Exercise helps your body move stool and gas out of the colon and may make bowel movements more regular. Exercise also releases extra sodium from the body through sweating, which can help to relieve water retention.
It is vital to drink plenty of water before and after exercising to stay hydrated, as dehydration can make constipation worse.
12. Eat at regular intervals
Many people experience bloating directly after a big meal. It is possible to avoid this by eating several smaller meals each day, which can help to keep the digestive system moving.
Swallowing food quickly can introduce air into the digestive tract. Drinking from a straw can also lead to people swallowing more air, which in turn leads to gas and bloating. People who have bloating should avoid using straws if possible and try eating slowly to avoid swallowing air during meals.
13. Try probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in the intestines. Taking a probiotic supplement may help to regulate the colon bacteria that can produce gas and cause bloating.
14. Cut down on salt
An excess of sodium causes the body to retain water. This can cause a swollen and bloated feeling in the belly and other areas of the body, such as the hands and feet.
15. Rule out medical conditions
In some cases, bloating may result from a medical condition. To get rid of this bloating, a person may need help from a doctor to diagnose and manage their condition.
Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, may cause people to experience bloating. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can also cause this symptom.
People with these symptoms should discuss them with a doctor, who will also want to know about any relevant family medical history and other medical conditions. The doctor may order diagnostic tests to look for any problems. These may include an X-ray, ultrasound, colonoscopy, or blood tests.
16. Consider a low-FODMAP diet
FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate that occurs in many different foods. A 2012 review article of multiple studies concluded that a low-FODMAP diet might improve symptoms in at least 74 percent of people with IBS. Typical symptoms include bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain.
17. Keep a food diary
Food intolerances are responsible for many cases of bloating. They can lead to excessive gas in the digestive tract.
Bloating is common in people who have lactose intolerance and are unable to digest the lactose sugar in dairy products. Autoimmune intolerance to gluten, known as celiac disease, is another potential culprit.
For people whose bloating happens after meals, keeping track of food and drink intake for several weeks should help to determine whether specific foods are responsible.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offer tips for keeping a food diary and provide a template for people to get started.
18. Look at supplements and medications
Some supplements, such as iron, can cause constipation and other symptoms of indigestion. This can increase bloating. Potassium, on the other hand, may reduce bloating by helping to balance the body's sodium levels.
Medications may also cause side effects that affect GI function or cause indigestion. If this happens, a doctor or pharmacist can suggest alternatives that are more gentle on the digestive tract.
When to see a doctor
A doctor should assess persistent bloating.
Although it is not common, bloating and swelling of the abdomen can signify a severe medical condition. Liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, heart failure, kidney problems, and some types of cancer can cause bloating.
Bloating that continues for days or weeks may indicate a health issue that needs medical attention. It is advisable to speak to a doctor about ongoing bloating that does not go away over time.
People whose bloating occurs alongside these symptoms should seek medical advice:
- appetite changes or trouble eating
- weight loss
- severe abdominal pain
- bright red blood in the stool
- black or dark maroon stools
Ultimately, the outlook for bloating depends on the underlying cause. Most of the time, bloating is due to minor issues that lifestyle changes or OTC treatments can resolve.
People should see a doctor if bloating is ongoing or occurs with other symptoms. Determining the underlying cause of bloating and other digestive issues is the first step to getting treatment and feeling better.