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Why am I so bloated?

You may know the uncomfortable feeling and unpleasant side effects that come with bloating – the tight tummy, excessive gas, audible gut gurgling and pants that feel like they just shrunk a size.

Don’t be embarrassed. Bloat is a real and common condition.

According to a recent study, nearly one in seven Americans experience bloating on a weekly basis. And that too-full feeling can range from mild discomfort to moderate or severe pain.

Bloat is temporary and is most often caused by what goes in your belly. But for some people, it can be a frequent or long-lasting problem that may require treatment.


What causes bloating?

The most common cause of bloating is the excessive buildup of intestinal gas. When that gas doesn’t exit your body, it can cause pressure, pain and discomfort. It can also sometimes cause your stomach to visibly expand, which is called abdominal distension. 

Excess gas that can lead to bloating and discomfort can be caused by:

  • Swallowing too much air because of:
    • Eating or drinking too fast
    • Talking while eating
    • Drinking carbonated beverages.
    • Chewing gum.
    • Sucking hard candy.
    • Smoking.
    • Catching your breath when you exercise.
  • Eating too many gas-producing foods, including beans, potatoes, corn, onions, and other high-fiber foods. Certain vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli can also cause gas.
  • Food intolerance. When people have trouble digesting certain foods, it can cause some unpleasant side effects, including bloating. The most common culprits are:
    • Lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.
    • Histamines, which occur naturally in foods like cheese, pineapples, bananas, avocados, and chocolate. Histamines are also found in red wine and some white wine.
    • Gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley.
  • Digestive conditions, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance. Recent weight gain can also affect the normal digestive process.
  • Certain medications that cause the digestive system to move more slowly, including some antidepressants, opioid pain relievers, high blood pressure, and allergy medications.

Bloating can also be caused by hormones. As many as three out of four women experience bloating before and after their periods. Bloating is also a common complaint during perimenopause. 

In some cases, prolonged bloating and discomfort may be a sign of something more serious, including:

  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) or enteritis (inflammation of the intestines). This type of inflammation is typically caused by a bacterial infection or by consuming too much alcohol.
  • Ascites. This gradual build-up of fluid is usually caused by liver disease, and sometimes kidney or heart failure.
  • Pancreatic insufficiency. This upset of the digestive process happens with the pancreas can no longer make enough digestive enzymes.
  • Cancer. In rare cases, bloating may be a sign of ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, or stomach cancer.


How can I relieve bloating at home?

If the cause of your bloating is something you ate or drank, or because of hormone fluctuations, your discomfort will typically ease within a few hours or days. 

To help alleviate your symptoms, there are several home remedies you can try, including:

  • Herbal teas, including peppermint, chamomile, ginger, turmeric, and fennel, which can aid digestion and help process gas.
  • Peppermint oil capsules to help relax intestinal muscles and pass trapped poop and gas.
  • Antacids. The active ingredient in antacids works to relieve inflammation in the digestive tract and help pass gas more easily.
  • Magnesium supplements to help neutralize stomach acid and relax intestinal muscles.
  • Probiotics to supplement or rebalance gut bacteria.
  • Regular exercise. Core body strengthening is especially helpful.
  • Psyllium husks. This popular fiber supplement can help you poop more regularly.


How can I prevent bloating?

The best way to deal with abdominal bloating is to avoid it. Here are a few tips to help keep your gut health in check:

  • Eat enough fiber. A diet high in this essential nutrient can soften your poop and prevent constipation and bloating. But take it slow. Upping your fiber too quickly can also cause bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water can help move food through your digestive system and prevent bloating and constipation.
  • Exercise. Physical activity can help expel excess gas and get digestion moving.
  • Avoid salty, fatty, and processed foods. These foods are harder for your digestive system to break down and can make you feel gassy.
  • Be aware of food (and drink) sensitivities. If you suspect food intolerance is at the root of your bloating, try to keep track of what you eat, how much you eat, and when you experience symptoms.
  • Try mindful eating. Try smaller portions, eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. Intentionally sitting down for a meal can also put your body in a relaxed state that encourages good digestion.
  • Adjust your pre-workout routine:
    • Eat 2-3 hours before exercise to allow enough time to properly digest.
    • Drink water 30-60 minutes before your start your workout and take only small sips during exercise. 


When should I see a doctor about my bloating?

If you experience bloating for more than a few days and home remedies and OTC treatments aren’t helping, you may need additional treatment.

You should seek medical care if your bloating:

  • Becomes increasingly worse.
  • Lasts for more than a week.
  • Is persistently painful.
  • Is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever or nausea.

Indigo can help when bloating gets the best of you. Just walk into one of our convenient locations or schedule an appointment online.

To get to the root of your bloating, one of our friendly Indigo clinicians will evaluate your symptoms, overall physical health and medical history, and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. If additional care is needed, we’ll refer you to a specialist.

If it’s more comfortable to skip the trip to the clinic, simply schedule a same-day or next-day virtual care appointment and be seen by a provider from your bed, couch, or wherever you are.

Virtually and in-person, we’re here 8 am to 8 pm every day, including weekends.

You should visit your nearest emergency department of you’re having any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your stool or vomit.
  • Inability to keep fluids down.
  • Signs of dehydration (dizziness, headache, fatigue, lethargy, infrequent urination, or dry eyes, lips, and mouth).
  • Fever over 104 degrees F.
  • Severe abdominal pain.

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