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Feeling bloated? It's natural and happens to everyone. While you don't need to get rid of bloating, there are ways to find relief from the discomfort. While Charles Passler, DC, founder of Pure Change and nutritionist to celebrities like Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima, recommends preventing bloating with a balanced diet of organic veggies, gluten-free grains, and easily digestible proteins as well as minimizing alcohol intake and avoiding fatty, salty foods, we know that's not always realistic. Fortunately, there are plenty of methods to reduce bloating quickly when you're already experiencing the pesky symptoms. Ahead, we spoke to Passler, family doctor Dr. Nicole Swiner, and a few dietitians for 25 ways to get rid of bloating fast, so you can get back to your routine and feel your best.
Causes of Bloating
"Generally speaking, an imbalance of salt (sodium) and water causes bloating or a bloated feeling," says family physician Nicole Swiner, MD of what exactly is happening when you're bloated. 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 keep your digestive system in balance. Then there are other factors, like dehydration, constipation, and PMS, all of which can leave you stuck with an uncomfortable, bloated stomach despite your best efforts.
Among the most common causes of bloating is excess intestinal gas, usually caused by digestive issues (like a food intolerance) or even just your monthly cycle. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Amy Shapiro details a few more specific causes:
- Too little or too much fiber: It's important to achieve the right fiber balance in order to reduce bloating. "Too little fiber may lead to constipation and bloating," Shapiro says. "Too much fiber [also causes bloating] because our gastrointestinal (GI) tract could not break down most of the fiber—the bacteria in the colon would digest the remaining fiber and create gas byproducts."
- Dehydration: Need another reason to drink more water? "Dehydration would lead to bloating because your body is trying to hold onto as much water as it can," she says. "Dehydration can happen when [you're] not drinking enough water or eating high-sodium food."
- Bacterial fermentation: Shapiro tells us that some foods in our diet are prone to fermentation by the bacteria in the colon—this ferments undigested carbohydrates and produces gas byproducts. Foods to be aware of include dairy products with lactose (especially if you're lactose-intolerant), fruits with high fructose content (like apples, pears, and mangoes), and beans due to their raffinose.
- Sugar alcohols: If you're feeling bloated lately, take a look at the ingredients lists of the foods you've been consuming. "Sugar alcohols, which are found in many processed foods, are poorly absorbed in the GI tract," Shapiro says.
- Menstruation: Your cycle can cause bloating, especially leading up to and during your period. If none of the other explanations seem to fit, the hormone changes that happen as part of menstruation may be part of the cause.
- Eating too fast: Shapiro says that eating too quickly causes you to swallow excess air, which leads to excess bloating once it's in your digestive tract.
- Stress: Further proving that mental health is a major part of physical health, periods of stress or anxiety can lead to bloating. This also goes for physical stress, such as if you've worked out immediately after eating.
How to Get Rid of Bloating
Sip on Herbal Bitters
According to Passler, herbal bitters—medicinal herbs and botanicals that have been preserved—are helpful in reducing bloating. 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 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 can help draw water and excess sodium out of our bodies, as well as assist with digestion and gas. Certain foods, like celery, fennel, asparagus, and lemon, are natural diuretics that Shapiro says we should consider incorporating into our diets to get rid of bloating. "Fennel contains anethole, fenchone, and estragole, which are anti-spasmodic and help decrease discomfort in the GI tract," she says. Asparagine (found in asparagus), on the other hand, "is an amino acid that acts as a diuretic and helps reduce water retention." While fennel is delicious both raw and roasted, Shapiro suggests adding seeds to hot water and drinking it as tea.
Asparagus actually has several key benefits—Shapiro says the inulin found in this food is a type of prebiotic fiber that supports gut health. As you'll see throughout this list, certain superfoods may help you reduce bloating in multiple ways.
Drink More Water
Experts recommend women drink around 2.7 liters of water per day. "When we are dehydrated, we tend to hold on to any water we can," Shapiro explains. "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."
Avoid Ice-Cold Drinks with Meals
"I cringe when I see people drinking ice-cold liquids during meals," holistic nutritionist and wellness expert Kimberly Snyder says. "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.
Try 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 digestive enzyme capsule before big meals can make a world of difference in reducing bloating.
Essentially, enzymes help your body better break down the food you consume and minimize indigestion and, in turn, excess bloating and gas. Snyder likes Solluna's Feel Good Digestive Enzymes ($37). Hum's Flatter Me supplement($26), with a blend of 18 enzymes, also promises bloat relief.
Richard Lin, the CEO of microbiome wellness company Ombre, says certain probiotic strains—a.k.a. the good bacteria in our digestive system—have been shown to help get rid of bloating symptoms. 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, pharmacologist Kelly Heim, PhD, 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 highly debated topic 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 manage—and reduce—bloating in the morning.
"Potassium helps to flush out sodium and water from the body and, therefore, decreases bloating," Shapiro says. "Enjoy bananas by adding to smoothies, as a snack, or freeze and make 'nice' cream!" Still, 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 New York-based dietitian and author Tamara Duker Freuman. 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," Alexandra Samit, Be Well health coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, tells us. The best way to take them orally is by mixing the oil into beverages, such as coffee or smoothies. (Note: Start slowly and see how your body reacts, 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.
Add Cayenne Pepper to Beverages
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 bit into your drink of choice.
Like cayenne pepper, turmeric is a potentially detoxifying spice. "The curcumin found in turmeric has anti-inflammatory effects and helps improve gut health," Shapiro tells us. Scott and Dawn recommend adding a teaspoon to water, tea, juice, or a smoothie.
Swap Salt for Spices
Even better, try swapping your salt with spices. 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 reduce water bloat."
Since high levels of sodium can be 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 consuming 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 benefit of taking probiotics? Glowing skin.)
Do Some Yoga
Even a 10- to 15-minute daily yoga session 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.
Consider Taking Magnesium
Those not prone to constipation may successfully reduce bloating 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.
Minimize 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," Freuman notes. "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 Apple Cider Vinegar Shots
Apple cider vinegar is the ultimate beauty multitasker. Both Samit and women's health specialist Nicole Granato recommend drinking it to help get rid of bloating. "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. 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 associate general manager. After a lifetime of bloat, she decided to try traditional Chinese medicine to ward off some of her discomfort, and it turned 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," says Emma Suttie, D.Ac., AP. "It's also one of the main reasons people face spleen Qi deficiency."
"I made 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," Metrus says.
Eat More Slowly
Not only will chewing slowly encourage healthier digestion and, in turn, less bloat, but it will also speed up your metabolism (yes, really). Shapiro emphasizes this as a key way to enhance bloating, as you'll both avoid excess air getting into your digestive tract and be more attentive to when you're full.
Sit Up Straight During and After Meals
When it comes to avoiding bloating and other digestive issues, posture can make a major difference—if you've ever eaten a big meal and experienced discomfort after lying down or while slouched, your position may have contributed to your symptoms. Shapiro recommends sitting up straight during and after meals, and seeing if that improves how you feel.
Avoid Triggering Foods
Processed foods, dairy, refined flour, and sugar can trigger bloat for some, 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, but try to single out which ones cause the most immediate bloating and be more mindful about them. If you'd like to get to the bottom of things, try to cut each of the aforementioned foods 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 body and which may be part of the problem.
Add Ginger and Lemon to Your Water
"Ginger is great for de-bloating, whether you make ginger tea or have fresh juice or a smoothie with ginger," Scott and Dawn explain. "We love fresh turmeric, ginger, and lemon for making a juice; that's our favorite." (If you want more detox water recipes, we've got you covered.) A further benefit, Scott and Dawn say, is potential relief from the menstrual cramps that cause bloating.
Do Some Light Exercise
A research review 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 reduce 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, she says, as opposed to sitting or standing in one position too long possibly leading to bloating.
It doesn't matter what you do—be it beginner yoga, a simple jog around the park, or a dance class—the point is, you're moving. Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise a day to start.
If you're looking for innovative or alternative methods to remove excess sodium (which can lead to water retention), Shapiro recommends adding infrared sauna and dry brushing to your daily routine, both of which also have a host of other potential benefits.
Wear 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, and the improved circulation may also help reduce bloating, similar to the effects of exercise. 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.
Does water make you bloated?
While bloating may be associated with water retention, that doesn't mean that the water you're drinking has made your bloating worse. "Typically, dehydration would cause bloating, so the opposite of drinking too much water," Shapiro explains. "Dehydration may lead to constipation, which would lead to bloating." Swiner offers a different view: "Drinking too much water for your body or kidneys to handle, particularly if you aren't digesting or filtering it as quickly as you're drinking it, can make you bloated," she says. We recommend drinking plenty of water, but sipping slowly throughout the day as opposed to chugging a large amount at once.
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