We've all experienced the uncomfortable sensation that is bloating. You know, that tightness and fullness in your stomach that sends you running for a pair of yoga pants. Sometimes it happens after eating a heavy meal. Other times it crops up seemingly out of nowhere. But each time, there's no denying it's super uncomfortable. So, which habits can lead to bloating and what can make it worse?
Well, let's first talk about what, exactly, is going on in there to cause such pain and agony. As NYC-based registered dietician Amanda Ryman, MS, RD says, "... bloating is simply the build up of gas in the digestive tract ... It is uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it causes your abdomen to essentially stretch to accommodate the extra gas ... Secondly, the gas itself can cause what are commonly known as gas pains, which can range from mild discomfort to a severe 'I can't stand upright' kind of pain."
While gas and bloating are often completely natural, you don't have to feel this way or deal with painful symptoms every single day. If you're always bloated, it may be worth getting checked for food allergies. If that comes back negative, you can then examine which of your habits may be messing things up. Read on for some likely culprits. If you can avoid them you'll likely feel a lot less bloated.
1. Eating Super Quickly
When out with friends, I'm always the last one to finish my burrito or slice of pizza. It can be kind of annoying — for them and for me — but it turns out eating slow is the way to go. "Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow air, which will build up in the stomach," Ryman says. If you experience a ton of bloating after eating, allow yourself more time to chew and see if it helps.
2. Drinking Through A Straw
So many delicious drinks come with a straw, and sipping through one hardly feels like a big deal. That is, until you learn about the straw/bloat connection. "Straws can cause you to suck in excess air with each sip, leading to bloating," Ryman says. "If you typically consume liquids through a straw, see if you notice a difference simply drinking directly from a cup."
3. Forgetting To Stay Hydrated
I know, it can be tough to remember to drink enough water. But if you're having problems with bloating, it may be a habit worth working on. "Drinking water, among many benefits, improves digestion and ensures consumed foods and snacks are moving quickly and smoothly," board-certified family medicine practitioner Dr. Ralph Holsworth tells Bustle. From now on, try for four to six glasses a day.
4. Chewing Gum All The Time
Gum chewing is another habit that can cause all sorts of bloating issues. As Ryman says, "... you're swallowing air each time you open your mouth to chew it." Plus, most gums contain sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive issues. "Sugar alcohols are notorious for causing gas, bloating, and even diarrhea," shes says. So if you need to freshen your breath, pop a sugarless mint instead.
5. Letting Yourself Get Too Stress
As holistic health practitioner Dr. Svetlana Kogan says, "... stress leads to acid overproduction and malabsorption." Which, in turn, can lead to excess gas. While some stress often can't be helped, it's important to try to deal with it as best you can. Deep breathing, going for a walk, and/or practicing yoga can definitely help calm you down and relieve the bloat.
6. Having Dinner Right Before Bed
Do you come home from work, eat dinner, then face plant right into bed? If so, it may explain your stomach troubles. "Lying down impairs digestion, so if you hit the bed with food in your stomach, it won't be broken down as quickly, leaving you bloated in the a.m.," Alissa Rumsey, RD, told health writer Esther Crain on Health. Whenever possible, try to wait at least three hours before heading off to bed.
7. Eating Fruit Immediately After Dinner
Did you know some foods, when eaten together, can cause problems with digestion? As holistic registered dietitian-nutritionist Dr. Wendy Cohen tells me, eating fruit right after a hot meal can lead to bloating since the fruit will sit on top of your hot meal, heat up, and ferment. To save yourself the resulting gaseous discomfort, let yourself digest awhile before having those strawberries for dessert.
8. Rushing Those Bathroom Moments
Constipation is a big reason many people feel bloated, so take a moment and evaluate your bathroom habits. Do you rush yourself when it's time to go? Or do you find yourself struggling to go at all? As Cohen says, "Not going regularly causes poop to remain in the intestines making you feel icky, uncomfortable, and gassy." It may explain a lot about the current state of your gut.
9. Adding Extra Sugar To Your Diet
While there's nothing wrong with eating sugar, a super sugary diet can cause bloating in some people. "Sugar feeds the bacteria in our intestines which causes fermentation, a process where sugar is turned into gas," registered dietician Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD tells Bustle. "Decreasing the amount of processed sugar can help decrease gas and bloating."
10. Snacking On Oniony Foods
Do you love an onion ring or a garlic-y pasta? If so, it could explain why you're always so bloated. "These foods contain FODMAPS which feed bacteria in the intestines and can be a trigger for those who suffer from IBS or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)," Greenfield says. If you feel uncomfortable, it may be time to avoid 'em for a while.
11. Pouring Artificial Sweeteners Into Your Drinks
As I said above, sugar can certainly lead to bloating. But this is especially true for artificial sweeteners. As Cohen tells me, consuming sweeteners like xylitol, aspartame, and mannitol can make your gas problems worse. So either avoid sugar, or go for a more natural products (like honey) if you can.
While not true for everyone, these habits can definitely lead to problems with bloating. If you feel uncomfortable all the time, it may be worth checking to see which ones may be making things worse.
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