Belly Bloating: The Ultimate Guide

Do you struggle with tightness and fullness in your stomach after eating? If so, you have had an episode of belly bloating.  You are not alone, 10 % of Americans have had one or more episodes of bloating and digestive distress. 
Woman is struggling with bloating.

What is belly bloating?

Do you struggle with tightness and fullness in your stomach after eating? If so, you have had an episode of belly-bloating.  You are not alone, 10 % of Americans have had one or more episodes of bloating and digestive distress. 

Some people suffer from bloating when they are stressed or eat something that does not agree with them. Bloating can also be caused by food intolerances, medications, or other underlying conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or heart failure.

Bloating is defined as a swollen state caused by gas or air in the digestive system or water retention. The stomach feels full and tight and may look swollen.

The digestive system is innervated by motor and sensory nerves. The air or gas increases pressure in the digestive tract and puts pressure on the sensory receptors in the stomach.

Two Categories of Belly Bloating

There are 2 categories of bloating: bloating caused by air or gas in the digestive system and bloating caused by water retention.

Bloating: Air and Gas in the Digestive System

Bloating can be caused by air that enters the digestive system through our mouth when we eat. It can also be caused by the buildup of gas when undigested food is broken down by bacteria in the gut. 

Eating foods rich in soluble and insoluble fiber helps push food through the digestive system and increase intestinal motility and peristalsis.

Bloating and Gas

Gas can be caused by a variety of different things: from medications to diet, underlying conditions Gas is usually trapped in the digestive system when you swallow air, talk, or laugh. It can also occur as a result of the fermentation of undigested food and fiber.

Bloating is the end result of too much gas in the digestive tract that causes increased pressure in the digestive tract.

The Stomach

The purpose of stomach acid is to kill the bacteria from the mouth and the harmful bacteria in the food that we eat.  It is also needed to activate inactive enzymes in the stomach that break down proteins, carbs, and fats.

Low stomach acid can undigested food make it into the small and large intestine where it will be fermented by the bacteria in the gut.

The Small Intestine

When the nutrient-rich food makes it to the small intestine and undigested foods are present due to improper breakdown. This occurs as a result of the lack of enzyme activation that can lead to bloating.

Issues with intestinal motility interfere with the ability of the intestines to move food through the digestive system allow allowing food to sit in the intestines where bacteria will ferment the nutrient-rich liquid and produce gas.

The digestive tract moves food through the digestive system through movements called peristalsis. Peristalsis is controlled by the Enteric Nervous System. If there is any autonomic dysfunction it can slow down the emptying of the stomach, and the small intestines.

When the nutrient-rich food stays in the stomach or small intestine the bacteria will ferment the nutrient-rich food and the side effect is gas.

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols

Our digestive system can not break down sugar alcohols but the bacteria in our large intestine can break them down. The result of this is increased gas.

Eating Too Much Fiber Too Soon

Adding a lot of fiber into your diet all at once can cause bloating due to the inability of the bacteria in the large intestine to break it down.  The best thing to do is to add small amounts of fiber to your diet slowly.

Other causes of bloating:

Bloating can also be caused by:

Eating too quickly

Talking while eating

Chewing gum

Eating products with sugar alcohols

Drinking through a straw

Smoking

Mouth breathing

Drinking soda and other carbonated beverages

Strenuous exercising

Bloating and constipation

Woman on toilet - constipation

Constipation can lead to bloating when waste sits in the large intestine for too long. The large intestine is home to a community of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that make up the microbiome. The bacteria will start to break down the waste and this leads to the production of gas in the large intestine.

Healthy foods that cause bloating:

What are FODMAP’s?

FODMAP’s are fermentable polysaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

These fermentable short-chain carbohydrates are not broken down and absorbed by the small intestine but are broken down and fermented by the bacteria in our large intestine.

These short-chain carbohydrates are broken down into the following:

Oligosaccharides are found in the following vegetables: asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions; the following grains: barley, and wheat; nuts: cashews and pistachios; and legumes: baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans.

Disaccharides include milk products( low fat, goat, evaporated, and sheep milk), yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and margarine.

Monosaccharides include fruits like apples, mangoes, figs, pears, watermelon, honey, and high fructose corn syrup.

Polyols include apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, peaches pears, nectarines, plums, and avocados.

It also includes sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol.

It is also found in the following vegetables like cauliflower, green peppers, mushrooms, and pumpkins.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates and fiber by bacteria, yeasts, and other organisms, and the by-product is the production of gas in the large intestine.

* had formed when the body does not fully/ completely break down certain components includes grains and sugars in fruit and dairy products.

Gas in the colon/small intestine is caused by the digestion and fermentation of undigested food in the large intestine.

Sugar alcohols are sugars that are broken down or absorbed by the body but are fermented by bacteria in the gut.

Sugar alcohols are found in sugar-free and artificially flavored foods and products.

Beans and gassy vegetables

Vegetables contain the sugar raffinose, a sugar that passes through the small intestine and is fermented in the large intestine.

Legumes

Legumes contain a mixture of proteins, sugars, and fiber that our body is unable to absorb.

Apples

Apples are rich in soluble fiber and contain fructose and sorbitol sugars that the bacteria in the large intestine break down.

Dairy

You don’t have the enzyme that is needed to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

How to relieve belly bloating

Before you can relieve bloating you have to identify the cause of bloating. As I mentioned before there are two categories of bloating and there are solutions for each type of bloating.

Solutions for gas bloating:

A. Decrease the amount of air that enters the mouth, esophagus and stomach by:

1. Chewing food slowly

2. Eating slowly

3. Activating the rest and digest system (with deep breathing) before eating

4. Avoiding carbonated beverages

B. Enhancing digestion of complex carbohydrates and proteins.

1. Taking digestive enzymes

2. Eating enzyme-rich foods like pineapple and papaya

3. Avoiding products that contain sugar alcohols

4. Eating more insoluble fiber

Woman cutting vegetables - soluble fiber

Foods that reduce bloating caused by air or gas:

Insoluble and soluble fiber can reduce gas bloating by helping food move through the digestive tract.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is made up of the indigestible part of plants and is found in fruits, vegetables, starches, and grains.

Soluble fiber definition:

Soluble fiber – dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon (example: adding water to chia seeds).

It is then broken down by the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine (and can release gas).

Soluble fiber is found in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits.

Insoluble fiber definition:

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and stays intact as food moves through the digestive system.

It is also called roughage.

Insoluble fiber speeds up the movement and processing of waste, prevents digestive tract blockage, constipation, increases stool bulk, and promotes colon health.

It is also responsible for absorbing fluid, binding other byproducts of digestion, stool formation, and decreasing the risk of diverticulitis and colon cancer.

Bloating caused by Water Retention

Bloating caused by water retention is linked to dehydration, a diet high in sodium, constipation, and hormone fluctuations that occur during your period.  It can also be caused by medications, heart disease, and pregnancy.

The best solution for water bloat is to eat foods that restore and promote hydration and healthy fluid balance.

Solutions for belly bloating caused by water retention:

1. Eat fiber and eat water-rich foods. The fiber helps the food move through the digestive system quickly.

There are a variety of different fruits that are 90-98% water. Water helps flush out the extra water that is causing you to feel bloated.

2. Eat foods that are rich in potassium

 Potassium decreases sodium levels and increases urine production.

3. Avoid salty foods.

Foods that are rich in sodium lead to water retention.

4. Eat foods with diuretic properties.

Diuretics increase urine production that helps flush out the extra fluid and sodium

hydrating melons - fruits

Foods that reduce water retention

These foods help your body rehydrate and reduce bloating:

Watermelon

Lettuce

Cucumbers

Grapefruit

Oranges

Grapes

Pears

Apple’s

Honeydew melon

These foods are rich in potassium:

Bananas

Oranges

Coconut water

Cantaloupe

Pumpkin

White beans

Beetroot

Sweet potatoes

Foods that contain natural enzymes that help break down protein:

Papaya – papain

Pineapple -bromelain

Foods that contain natural diuretics:

Asparagus

Fennel

Cantaloupe

Honeydew melon

Watermelon

Celery root

Foods that stimulate digestion

Ginger

Peppermint

Kiwi

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Kimchi

Kefir

Yogurt

Sauerkraut 

Fermented fruits and vegetables

If you struggle with belly-bloating or any other digestive health issues, it is important to identify what is causing your symptoms so you can figure out how to treat them. If you would like to get to the bottom of your digestive health issues you can schedule a complimentary 30-minute call.

Before the call 30-minute call, you will complete a  3-day habit tracker which will make it easier to get to the root cause of your digestive complaints. During the complimentary call, I will help you identify what is causing your digestive complaints and help you come up with a plan to address your most pressing issue.

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Dr. Blessing A

I help high-achieving women practice intentional living and prioritize their health so they can optimize their life from the inside out by emphasizing on sleep, digestion, nutrition, movement and personal boundaries for long-term results.

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Hi, I'm Dr. Blessing A

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I am Dr. Blessing A. D.C.,M.S, and at the young age of 8 years old, my mother had an adverse reaction to medications that her doctors prescribed her. Those adverse reactions have had lifelong consequences for her and because of witnessing her struggle for many years, I was inspired to go into whole body health. Because the mind, body and spirit connection is so powerful, it is important for everything to work together in perfect harmony, to sustain maximum health.

With a focus on proper nutrition, improving digestive health, quality sleep and setting clear boundaries, I help women gain more energy, prevent burn-out, manage their stress, reverse inflammation and manage their weight so they can show up with more confidence in their personal and professional lives while living life on THEIR terms.

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