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.
Unfortunately, busy schedules and the convenience of a quick takeout meal can make it difficult to stay on track. Add in other factors that can lead to bloating like dehydration, constipation, PMS, and you can be stuck with an uncomfortably bloated stomach despite your best efforts. 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.
Here are 20 things to do the minute you feel bloated.
Drink 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 that aid with digestion include dandelion, gentian root, burdock, yellow dock, and Angelica.
Eat Celery and Fennel
"These foods are natural diuretics which help to draw water out of our bodies. They also assist with digestion and gas. Fennel contains anethole, fenchone, and estragole which are anti-spasmotic and help decrease discomfort in the GI tract. Add to your salads, smoothies, snack on with a little lemon juice and pepper. Fennel is delicious roasted, as well," says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition.
To help with gas and bloating, add fennel seeds to hot water and drink as a tea.
Drink Water and Stay Hydrated
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."
She adds, "Drink water upon waking before you drink coffee. Try to drink half your body weight in ounces." Since lemons act as natural diuretics, increasing the amount of water and salt expelled from our bodies, "Add lemon or berries if you need flavor but water is water and it should be basic. Herbal tea counts too. Buy a cute water bottle, fancy cup, use a straw whatever helps. Also, drink the temperature that works best for you. I love warm water, others like ice-cold water."
Take a Digestive Supplement
In a pinch, digestive supplements containing ingredients like amylase, lipase, protease, or HCL can help get rid of bloating quickly. These key ingredients aid the digestive process and can reduce gas production. Passler suggests trying SpectraZyme Complete from Metagenics.
Richard Lin, the CEO of microbiome wellness company Thryve, notes studies have shown certain (but not necessarily all) probiotic strains—aka the good bacteria in our digestive system—can help relieve symptoms of bloating.
"When shopping for probiotics for bloating, I recommend looking for a high-quality, clinically studied probiotic supplement containing a few strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium," explains Kelly Heim, PhD, senior director of scientific affairs for Genestra Brands and pharmacologist for Pure Encapsulations. These strains are freeze-dried, which helps preserve bacterial activity and ensures the survival of bacteria during storage. (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).
It's also worth noting that you can incorporate probiotics into your diet: "Greek yogurts contain probiotics that help aid in digestion and decrease bloating," says Shapiro. "Ideally, enjoy plain whole fat Greek yogurt for a boost of healthy bacteria that will smooth digestion and keep your belly flat too!"
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, changing your diet from zero to 100 where fiber is concerned can cause bloating instead of relieving it.
To combat bloating, aim for 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day and drink a lot of water.
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 (basically, chronic constipation), 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. (It's important to note, however, that you should start slowly and see how your body reacts to the oil as taking too much can cause digestive issues.)
Faith Xue, Byrdie's editorial director, found that "Unlike other dietary fats, MCTs don't get stored as fat in the body—rather, they get burned for energy. This study found that over a 12-week period, subjects who got MCT oil lost about two pounds more than the control group."
Consume More 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 can relieve pressure and cramping. It's basically a bloated belly's most formidable match when you're in a bind, so toss a teaspoon into your drink of choice. And like cayenne pepper, turmeric is a detoxifying spice as well. Scott and Dawn recommend buying it in powder form, but you can also get drops of turmeric and add a teaspoon (in either form) to water, tea, juice, or a smoothie.
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 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 to stretch out your tummy.
According to Shapiro, asparagus "Contains asparagine which 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." She suggests you "Blanch and snack on [asparagus] as you would celery and carrots, squeeze lemon and pepper and toss on the grill. Also, add to salads."
Those not prone to constipation can stay regular by eating a diet high in 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 milligrams 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.
Drink 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.
Avoid 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 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."
FODMAP foods include wheat, legume, milk, yogurt, and certain fruits and veggies (like blackberries and lychee).
Try Apple Cider Vinegar Shots
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, saying 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.
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 senior 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."
Avoid Triggering Foods
As Byrdie writer Amanda Montell explains, traditional Chinese medicine deems dairy, processed foods, 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." A further benefit, they explain, is relief from menstrual cramps that cause bloating.
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. Try determining the root cause of the problem, which could range from a food allergy to excess gas or bacteria in the gut. Certain chronic bloat issues won't respond to changes in diet at all, notes Freuman. "If your bloating is caused by swallowed air, there's no food you can eat to remedy it, and no foods to avoid that will prevent it," she says. "In general, when you're bloated, there's very little you can eat that will make it go away... with the possible exception of ginger, fennel, or mint teas for a small subset of bloats. More often than not, it's not eating for a while that makes the bloating go away."