Bloating happens to everyone. And while it's not something you need to get rid of, if it's causing you discomfort there are ways to find relief. In a perfect world, we'd all subscribe to a balanced diet filled with organic veggies, gluten-free grains like quinoa, and easily digestible proteins like chicken and fish. We'd trade in happy hour cocktails for water and manage to avoid any trace of fatty, salty foods. While a bit idealistic, this is what Charles Passler, DC, founder of Pure Change and nutritionist to celebrities like Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima, recommends for avoiding the common feeling of belly bloat altogether.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat belly bloat for quick relief from even the worst symptoms of this pesky digestive problem. We spoke to Passler and other health experts on how to get rid of bloating fast, so you can get back to your routine and feel your best.
Below, discover some common causes of bloating—plus 20 things to do the minute you feel bloated.
Common Causes of Bloating
There are myriad things that contribute to bloat, including busy schedules and the convenience of a quick takeout meal—both of which can make it difficult to stay on track. Then there are the other factors that may lead to bloating, like dehydration, constipation, and PMS, all of which can leave you stuck with an uncomfortable stomach despite your best efforts.
Among the most common causes of bloating are excess intestinal gas, usually caused by digestive issues (like a food intolerance) or even just your monthly cycle.
Sip on Herbal Bitters
According to Passler, herbal bitters—medicinal herbs and botanicals that have been preserved—are key to improving bloat. Digestive bitters activate receptors on your tongue that signal the production of more digestive juices down in your digestive tract. "This will help reduce intestinal inflammation and gas production related to consuming offending foods," he explains. Mix yourself up an elixir of sparkling water and herbal bitters—Passler recommends Angostura—to soothe a bloated stomach.
Other medicinal bitters claimed to aid with digestion include dandelion, gentian root, burdock, yellow dock, and Angelica.
Consume Natural Diuretics
Diuretics are meant to help draw water out of our bodies, as well as assist with digestion and gas. Certain foods, such as celery, fennel, asparagus, and lemon, are natural diuretics that Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition, says we should consider incorporating into our diets if reducing bloat is top of mind.
She explains, "Fennel contains anethole, fenchone, and estragole, which are anti-spasmodic and help decrease discomfort in the GI tract" while asparagine (found in asparagus), "is an amino acid that acts as a diuretic and helps reduce water retention. It also contains fiber that acts as a prebiotic and promotes a healthy digestive tract." While fennel is delicious both raw and roasted, Shapiro suggests adding seeds to hot water and drinking it as tea.
Drink (Lukewarm or Hot) Water
Experts recommend women drink around 2.7 liters of water per day. Shapiro explains, "When we are dehydrated we tend to hold on to any water we can. So drinking more water helps us to flush out stored water. The more you drink the less bloated you’ll be. It will also flush out excess sodium, which holds on to water."
Holistic nutritionist Kimberly Snyder adds, "I cringe when I see people drinking ice-cold liquids during meals. This will impede the digestive process by diluting gastric juices, such as your HCL, and cooling your overall digestion at a critical time. You also dilute the digestive enzymes your body needs for the effective digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats." Instead, she recommends sipping on lukewarm water or hot tea—just make sure you sip slowly and don't chug.
Make Friends With Digestive Enzymes
In a pinch, digestive supplements containing ingredients like amylase, lipase, protease, or HCL might help get rid of bloating quickly. These key ingredients are meant to aid the digestive process and can reduce gas production. Incorporating a high-quality capsule of digestive enzymes before big meals can make a world of difference in reducing bloating.
Essentially, enzymes are meant to aid your body's natural digestion to better break down the food you consume and to minimize indigestion and, in turn, excess bloating and gas. Snyder likes Solluna's Feel Good Digestive Enzymes ($35). Hum's Flatter Me supplement, $26, with a blend of 18 enzymes, also promises bloat relief.
Richard Lin, the CEO of microbiome wellness company Thryve, says certain (but not necessarily all) probiotic strains—aka the good bacteria in our digestive system—have been shown to help relieve symptoms of bloating. For a boost of healthy bacteria (read: probiotics), Shapiro suggests, "plain whole fat Greek yogurt that will smooth digestion and keep your belly flat, too."
When on the hunt for probiotics to relieve bloating, Kelly Heim, PhD, a pharmacologist specializing in natural products and personalized medicine, recommends "a high-quality, clinically studied probiotic supplement containing a few strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium." (It's important to note that the potency and survivability of probiotic supplements is a common talking point—and is highly debated—within the health and wellness industry).
Snack on High-Potassium Foods
According to Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist based in Virginia, foods rich in potassium, like bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes, may help regulate fluid retention, which may also help manage—and minimize—morning-time bloating.
Shapiro describes how "Potassium helps to flush out sodium and water from the body and, therefore, decreases bloating. Enjoy bananas by adding to smoothies, as a snack, or freeze, and make 'nice' cream!" But remember to keep it to at least two hours before bed or just add one of your favorite potassium-rich foods into dinner.
Avoid High-Fiber Foods
Experts agree that introducing fiber to your diet can transform your health, but it's a double-edged sword in that too much can actually backfire. So while fiber intake is important for healthy digestion (aim for 25 to 35 grams daily), changing your diet from zero to 100 where fiber is concerned may cause bloating instead of relieving it.
If you suffer from chronic constipation, dietary strategies may prove most effective in remedying bloat. "If your bloating is caused by a high stool burden, then eating very high fiber foods will likely make your bloating feel worse, not better," says Tamara Duker Freuman, a New York-based dietitian and the author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer. That means avoiding things that might otherwise actually help with digestion, like broccoli, chia seeds, lentils, and black beans.
Take MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT, for short) are a unique form of fat that requires less energy and fewer enzymes to be digested; "As a result, they are readily available sources of energy, leading to an increase in metabolism and providing quick energy replenishment," says Alexandra Samit, Be Well health coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. The best way to take them orally (they're easy to ingest) is by mixing the oil into beverages, such as coffee or smoothies. (Note: Start slowly and see how your body reacts to the oil as taking too much might cause digestive issues).
Faith Xue, Byrdie's former editorial director, found that "Unlike other dietary fats, MCTs don't get stored as fat in the body—rather, they get burned for energy." An older study from 2001 found that participants who received MCT oil lost more weight and more subcutaneous fat than control groups.
Swap Salt for Spices
The trainers and nutrition gurus behind lifestyle brand Tone It Up, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn, explain how spices can alleviate bloating caused by indigestion or gastrointestinal distress. Cayenne pepper, a type of capsicum annuum, stimulates digestion, eases gas, and may help relieve pressure and cramping. It's basically a bloated belly's most formidable match when you're in a bind, so toss a tiny bit into your drink of choice.
And like cayenne pepper, turmeric is a potentially detoxifying spice as well. Scott and Dawn recommend adding a teaspoon to water, tea, juice, or a smoothie. Even better, try swapping your salt with spices since, according to Karnika Kapoor, DO, a primary care physician at the Medical Offices of Manhattan. "Sodium, which is found in table salt and processed foods, can worsen retention, which is why limiting the amount of salt you consume can help to reduce water bloat."
Since there may be high levels of sodium hidden in everyday staples (bread, soup, and cheese, to name a few), it's important to read nutrition labels and look at sodium levels. Shapiro recommends no greater than 500 mg per serving.
Eat More Fermented Foods
"A happy gut is a happy life," Samit says. "The bacteria in your gut can affect your metabolism." Along with taking a daily probiotic, she recommends adding in foods that naturally contain probiotics like sauerkraut, kimchi, or bone broth. She suggests eating sauerkraut by the spoonful if belly bloat is an issue for you. (Another potential side effect of taking probiotics? Glowing skin).
A nice yoga session (even 10 to 15 minutes per day) can do wonders for your digestive system: "Yoga is an excellent way to stretch abdominal muscles and improve movement throughout the intestines," Passler explains. Grab your mat and do a few easy poses (asanas) to stretch out your tummy.
Those not prone to constipation may stay regular by consuming the recommended amount of fiber, staying hydrated, and maintaining a healthy exercise routine. But if your bloat is caused by constipation, you might consider taking something with laxative benefits to ease your stomach woes.
Passler recommends taking 500 mg of magnesium citrate with a cup of black organic coffee to kick-start your digestive system. Laxatives should not, however, be used on a regular basis, and should be taken under the supervision of a doctor.
Brew Dandelion Tea
When bloat is caused by water retention, brewing up a cup of dandelion tea may be the solution. Passler explains that it "acts as a diuretic to help you reduce bloating by shedding excess water weight related to hormonal imbalances like PMS."
Dandelion helps the body in other ways, too. A 2017 study conducted in China found that the polysaccharides found in the herb benefit liver function, thereby, helping to detoxify the body.
Cut Back on High-FODMAP Foods
If your bloat is caused by gas, there is another crop of foods you'd be wise to cut back on. Those that fall into the high FODMAP (short for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols) category are notorious bloat-inducers: "If your bloating is caused by a slow-to-empty stomach, then eliminating certain 'gassy' foods like beans or Brussels sprouts isn't going to help at all," notes Freuman. "Though if your bloating is caused by too much intestinal gas, then avoiding such 'high FODMAP' foods may indeed help."
High FODMAP foods include wheat, legume, milk, yogurt, and certain fruits and veggies (like blackberries and lychee).
Take Shots (Of Apple Cider Vinegar)
Apple cider vinegar is the ultimate beauty multitasker. Both Samit and Nicole Granato, a women's health specialist, recommend drinking it to boost the de-bloating process. "Women who frequently gain weight in the abdominal and stomach area do so because of digestion issues, hormonal balance, and bloating," Granato explains.
"This supertonic balances healthy bacteria in the gut, promoting better digestion, balancing pH levels in the body, and killing any viruses and unwanted bacteria." Samit agrees and says that ACV helps increase stomach acid (which improves digestion) and aids your body's absorption of key nutrients from food. Try mixing one tablespoon of ACV with eight ounces of water, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drop of stevia to taste. Just be careful not to overdo it.
Don't Multitask When Eating
"I'm almost never just eating a meal—I'm also on my computer or watching television or scrolling through my phone," admits Lindsey Metrus, Byrdie's former managing editor. After a lifetime of bloat, she decided to try traditional Chinese medicine to ward off some of her discomfort. It turns out, the distraction was part of the problem. "Multitasking with some sort of digital distraction leads to overeating or scarfing down food hurriedly, which (you guessed it) translates to poor digestion. It's also one of the main reasons people face spleen qi deficiency," according to Emma Suttie, D.Ac., AP.
Metrus continues, "I made it a point to enjoy as many meals as I could peacefully and undistracted, focusing on chewing each piece of food since breaking down foods before they get to the spleen means the spleen has less work to do." Not only will chewing slowly encourage healthier digestion and, in turn, less bloat, but it will also speed up your metabolism (yes, really).
Avoid Triggering Foods
As Byrdie writer Amanda Montell explains, traditional Chinese medicine deems processed foods, dairy, and refined flour and sugar harmful as well as wheat, coffee, alcohol, fried foods, cold drinks, fruit juice, and cold, raw foods. That's not to say you have to give up those specific foods to relieve your own bloat.
Instead, try to single out which foods cause the most immediate bloating and be more mindful about avoiding them. If you'd like to be thorough, jot down the aforementioned foods and try to cut them out separately for a week at a time. Keep a journal of how you're feeling and evaluate afterward. That way, you can tell which foods work for your specific body and which are a part of the problem.
Add Ginger and Lemon to Your Water
"Ginger is great for de-bloating," Scott and Dawn explain, "whether you make ginger tea or have fresh juice with ginger or a smoothie in which you include ginger. We love fresh turmeric, ginger, and lemon for making a juice; that's our favorite." (In case you're interested in more detox water recipes, we've got you covered). A further benefit, Scott and Dawn say, is relief from menstrual cramps that cause bloating.
Break a Sweat
A research review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found gas retention was lower in individuals who engaged in physical activity—thus, exercise (even mild movement like walking or stretching) can help with abdominal bloating.
Getting adequate movement is important in general, but especially when it comes to water retention. "Movement prevents water from collecting at extremities like your ankles and feet," Shapiro says. It helps blood flow more efficiently through the body, she says, while sitting or standing in one position too long can prevent efficient movement and lead to bloating, as discussed above. It doesn't matter what you do—be it beginners yoga, a simple jog around the park, or a dance class—the point is, you're moving. At least 20 minutes of exercise a day is the first benchmark you should be working toward.
If you're looking for innovative or alternative methods to remove excess sodium (which can lead to water retention), Shapiro cites adding infrared sauna and dry brushing to your daily routine, both of which also have a host of other potentially beneficial effects.
Try Out Compression Socks
Compression socks are tight stockings that apply gentle pressure to your legs and ankles. They work to boost circulation to the legs as well as promote lymphatic drainage and prevent blood from pooling in the veins. People tend to wear compression socks on long flights to help with blood flow. They're also a lifesaver when it comes to reducing leg swelling and inflammation, not to mention a potential natural remedy for varicose veins.
It's important to mention that some people may be more sensitive than others when it comes to retaining water. When it comes down to it, the exact reason you're retaining water applies to you individually. What works for someone else might not be helpful to you, so use caution when it comes to hastily taking on a new trend, and consult a physician first.
What foods make you bloat?
Water retention is often caused by eating too much salt, processed foods, and not drinking enough water. Corn, lentils, dairy, garlic, onions, soda, and non-nutritive sweeteners can also cause bloating. Even chewing gum can be a source of bloat, as it causes consumption of air.
What should I eat when bloated?
Eating foods like celery, fennel, asparagus, lemon, and ginger can help relieve bloating.
How long can bloat last?
After a meal, bloating can last for two hours or more. Eating the above foods can help speed up the process.
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