8 Little-Known Causes of Bloating (That Have Nothing to Do With Food)

Updated 09/19/17
8 Little-Known Causes of Bloating
Urban Outfitters

Similar to acne and ingrown hairs, bloating is one of those annoying physical nuances for which we're always in search of a remedy. The hunt feels never-ending because bloating is a complex concept. For starters, it comes in two forms: water retention and gas, both with separate root causes. It's also considered a secondary ailment that's non-threatening, so the need to put research funding behind it isn't pressing. And because there are so many contributing factors behind bloating, it's hard to pinpoint what the specific culprit may be.

Oftentimes it's food (processed, refined foods are big-time causes of bloating), but in several cases, it's something completely unexpected. To help shed some light on these sneaky suspects,

We've outlined them for you below.

1. Planes

"[Airplanes] might get you to a vacation spot, but many people end up bloated from traveling," says Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN. "The gas in your intestines can expand, leaving you with that need-to-unbutton-your-jeans feeling. Staying extra hydrated and avoiding those unhealthy plane snacks are the best bet here. Peppermint tea or even peppermint capsules are your best friend on any flight."

2. Your Medication

"Anything from antibiotics to pain killers to birth control pills can cause bloat," says Alpert. "Antibiotics affect your belly bacteria, which can lead to bloating. Pain killers can slow down your G.I. system, as does estrogen from hormonal supplements. The best bets here are to take probiotics (I love Culturelle, $22) to counteract your antibiotics and drink lots of water. A daily magnesium supplement (I love Natural Calm, $18) can help speed up a slow G.I. system."

3. Skipping Your Workouts

Put simply, Alpert says that a slow body means slow digestion. "Any type of physical activity from HIIT workouts to simply walking keeps your digestive system running more smoothly."

4. Eating Quickly

Take your time eating. Not only will this decrease your risk of overeating, but eating in a rush causes you to swallow more air, which is a cause of bloating. And not because it's merely just manners, but eating with your mouth open also causes you to take in more air.

5. Not Drinking Straight From the Cup

Sipping from a long-neck bottle causes you to take in more air than drinking straight from a cup. The same goes with drinking from a straw—this also causes more air intake, so save your intestines (and the environment), and skip it.

6. Chewing Gum

Yet another vehicle for taking in too much air is chewing gum or sucking on hard candies, so try fast-dissolving breath strips if you need to freshen up.

7. Drinking Cold Water

Getting poured a glass of ice water at a restaurant is unheard of in some cultures. Part of the reason is that these cultures are more attuned to the fact that drinking cold water slows digestion by solidifying fat and because your body has to expend more energy to absorb water when it's cold. Ice water also dilutes your gastric juices, which further slows your digestive process and can cause bloating.

8. Your Hormones

Chances are that you've felt bloated during your period (if you haven't, please tell us your secrets). The reason behind this is due mostly to the fact that fluctuations in your sex hormone levels during menstruation may affect the kidneys' water filtration process, causing you to hold on to more water than normal. Speak with your gynecologist, as choosing the right birth control pill is paramount.

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