Home Remedies For Bloating

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Many of us have experienced feelings of heaviness and discomfort when your belly "balloons" from bloating. Although it's common, and (in many cases) not an indication of anything serious, it can sometimes cause unpleasant symptoms that take hours to shake.

As one of the most frequently complained about gastrointestinal symptoms in patients of all ages, bloating is particularly prevalent in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as other functional gastrointestinal disorders.

There is much ambiguity as to exactly why we bloat—it remains an ongoing puzzle for doctors, scientists and, of course, individuals suffering to pinpoint the cause. With reasons spanning altered gut microbiota, hypersensitivity, impaired gas handling and food intolerances (among many others), bloating should really be examined case by case.

To add another layer of complexity to the topic, the physical sensation of stomach distention is considered a separate issue that does not occur in every patient suffering from bloating.

As such, there is no definitive rationale as to why we bloat, rather a multitude of triggers or individual pathophysiology that sparks the reaction.

Common Reasons for Bloating

While most people will experience a form of bloating at some point in their life, symptoms and how we all react to specific foods is unique. However, there are some typical reasons as to what causes it.

"A common culprit of bloating is a food intolerance, which can stem from a range of foods such as acidic or spicy foods, dairy and gluten," says Noom Coach Rebecca Rodriguez, who holds a masters degree in Nutrition Education. "The bloating itself comes from the body working exceptionally hard at breaking these down which can produce discomfort and gas."

Also, a diet with higher sodium can lead to water retention, usually in the midsection, or one with higher starch can cause air to gather as the stomach works harder to digest those foods.

If you suspect a food intolerance, Rodriguez suggests taking note of what you’re eating in a food journal over a period of time, to hone in on what foods are causing the upset.

Other reasons for bloating, outline by Rodriguez, include:

  • Trans and/or saturated fats: Diets high in processed, greasy and fatty foods can cause bloating, and of all three macronutrients, fat is the slowest to digest, meaning it will sit in the stomach the longest and often lead to bloating. Processed foods usually contain high amounts of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a chemical commonly used for shelf-life which can cause bloating for some. 
  • Carbonation: Found in "fizzy" drinks like soda, champagne, or sparkling waters, which, due to the infusion of carbon dioxide, can cause bloating as more air enters the stomach.
  • Fiber: Although excellent for digestion and managing weight, an influx of fiber at once
    can cause you to bloat. Fiber does not digest, which is why it keeps you full for longer, but it also means too large a quantity in a short time can lead to an upset stomach.
  • Changes in progesterone and estrogen for women: Before and during menstruation, these hormones often cause the body to retain additional water, leading to a feeling of swelling in the belly.
  • Eating too much too close to bed time: This often means more bloating in the morning as during sleep, your metabolism slows, and so undigested food is left sitting in your stomach which increases the likelihood you wake up with a fuller tummy. 
  • Some medications: Stool softeners, antacids and iron supplements, to name a few, can trap air in the stomach, causing bloating. 
  • Eating too quickly: The faster you eat, the more air you are likely to intake, causing the stomach to bloat up when your meal is finished. 
  • Constipation: If you are "backed up," chances are your symptoms feature abdominal swelling and bloating, due to the build up of undigested food that has yet to be eliminated.

Diseases and Illnesses That Cause Bloating

Although bloating is short-lived and infrequent for some, it may not be the case for others. In fact, Rodriguez outlines that many functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), a disorder of function in any of the gastrointestinal parts such as the esophagus, stomach and intestines, can cause long term bloating and stomach distention.

"Chronic bloating can be a symptom of a larger disease or disorder such IBS (which affects up to 15 percent of western populations), usually diagnosed by symptoms relating to your digestive system, and is an intestinal disorder that can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation," Rodriguez explains.

For this reason, many find relief in following a low-FODMAP diet that can help ward off symptoms arising from IBS.

Similarly, but not to be confused—Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease specifically targeting the lining of the digestive track, can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and yes, bloating.

Other illnesses include small intestinal bacterial overgrowth know as SIBO, which as is an abnormal increase in the amount of bacteria in the small intestine. According to Rodriguez, SIBO "can cause malabsorption or an inefficient breakdown of bowel movements, resulting in bloating."

Ulcerative colitis is another condition affecting up to millions of people globally that develops over time. This inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation and ulcers to appear in the digestive track.

Quite often, bloating stems from a food intolerance you might not be aware you had, and although many start in childhood, you can develop an allergy at any time. For example, a dairy intolerance is when: "The body lacks sufficient lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, whereby gas and bloating can occur," outlines Rodriguez. If you can identify the trigger, eliminating this food from your diet may be enough to solve the problem.

Home Remedies For Bloating

Thankfully, a number of safe and effective home remedies are readily available to help reduce or eliminate bloat altogether.

Exercise

Something as simple as going for a gentle walk to get things "moving" can help reduce built up air and pressure in the stomach.

A study on the effects of exercise on patients with IBS resulted in positive effects on symptoms, the speculation being an alter in gas and colonic transit from movement contributing to improvements. Rodrigues add: "Simple yoga poses and stretches, like Cat Cow, can help the muscles release a gas buildup."

Abdominal Massage

Similar to the effects of an abdominal massage to treat symptoms of constipation, this type of integrative medicine can help alleviate discomfort.

"Starting at the right hip bone, massage in a circular motion up to the rib cage, continuing on above the stomach and down to your left hip bone, essentially following the path of your intestines," suggests Rodriguez.

Increase Your Water Intake

Rodriguez is quick to note that drinking water helps the body to digest fiber and keeps your digestive system regulated.

Aside from water, peppermint oil (also available in peppermint tea), which contains L-menthol, is known to block calcium channels and therefore relax muscles, as well as provide antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anesthetic effects, among other benefits. This, in turn, can lead to the release of gas or build up of fluids.

Antacids

"Calcium carbonate can help reduce acid in the stomach and therefore reduce the symptoms of bloating," Rodriguez says. "There are many over-the-counter options, but it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before choosing the most suitable one."

Magnesium

Data from 16 placebos and 17 patients taking magnesium oxide found the latter experienced improvement in defecation and a shorter colonic transit time. Seeing as bloating can be a symptom of constipation, a magnesium supplement may help clear out your system. Be mindful of following recommended daily intake guidelines.

Epsom Salt Bath

Coupled with the soothing benefits that arise from a hot bath, Epsom Salt is hailed for its therapeutic and relaxation benefits. Made from magnesium and sulfate, it is said the body can absorb minerals through the skin which can help reduce bloating.

A Word From Verywell

Home remedies, as helpful as they are, may not always be the answer. This is especially true if there's an underlying health condition that requires other treatment. Speak to a health care professional if your bloating persists or worsens.

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6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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