Most of us have felt bloated from time to time. Abdominal bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. Bloating is not the same as water retention, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

While usually not a cause for concern, bloating can interfere with your day-to-day life, and sometimes even your confidence. Below, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about bloating and ideas to help reduce it.

What causes bloating?

Gas builds up in the digestive tract when undigested food is broken down or when you swallow air. Everyone swallows air when they eat, but it can be more of an issue if you are:

  • Eating or drinking too fast
  • Overeating
  • Chewing on gum and hard candy
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Smoking

Eating rich and fatty foods can also be a culprit in bloating because fats take longer than protein and carbohydrates to digest, which keeps the stomach fuller for longer. Another common cause of bloating is constipation. The longer your stool stays in your colon, the more time bacteria has to ferment, which results in more gas and bloating. 

There are also some medical causes of abdominal bloating, which can include:

Possible ways to prevent bloating 

It is important to rule out any of the above medical conditions before working on prevention. Always consult a health professional before changing your diet or routine.

Research shows that eating foods that are low in fermentable, gas-producing ingredients can help. If you’re experiencing bloating symptoms after you eat certain foods, you may have a food intolerance. Common food intolerances responsible for bloating include dairy and gluten. Keeping a food diary can help with recognizing patterns and avoiding those foods in the future. Again, it will be important to check with a healthcare professional before changing your eating patterns.

While most stomach bloating will resolve itself over time, here are some additional ideas that could help reduce the effects:

  • Consider eating more foods that include probiotics
  • Try to chew less gum
  • Stop using straws for drinking
  • Replace carbonated beverages with water
  • Eat more foods that are high in fibre
  • Eat slowly and give your body time to digest
  • Drink beverages at room temperature
  • Consume smaller, more frequent meals at regular intervals
  • Be more active throughout the day
  • Try yoga. Just 10-15 minutes a day relaxes your muscles, helps regulate breathing and improves digestion

When to see a doctor?

In most cases, the occasional gas and abdominal discomfort does not call for a trip to the doctor. However, you may want to seek medical attention when there is an increase in frequency, location or severity of symptoms or if they are accompanied by weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting or heartburn, fever, severe abdominal pain or appetite changes.