Even though we commonly think of bloating as more of an annoyance than anything else, the condition is actually a legitimate health issue and far more complex (both in cause and treatment) than one would assume. So while certain habits and lifestyle tweaks can most definitely help ease and prevent the feeling of our stomachs expanding into our high-waisted jeans, there may be a larger issue at work that warrants a trip to a health care provider you trust. That said, pretty much everyone experiences bloating to one degree or another at some point in their life, and knowing risk factors (aka super-stealthy instigators) will certainly prove helpful if you're looking to wake up feeling lighter and leaner than you did the night prior.
As holistic nutritionist Kimberly Snyder explains, bloating is often caused by one (or more) of the following: hormones, indigestion, or water retention. And while all the above should be investigated by a health professional—more serious conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn's disease could be at play, after all—they can also be managed with some strategic lifestyle tweaks. When it comes to health and wellness, we're perpetually skeptical of quick fixes, but according to multiple experts we consulted, there are a few worthwhile habits that can soothe and possibly stave off bloating overnight.
Curious about our healthy roster of tips and tricks? Keep scrolling! A healthier, happier tummy awaits.
Make Friends with Digestive Enzymes
Incorporating a high-quality capsule of digestive enzymes before big meals can make a world of difference in reducing bloating. Essentially, enzymes 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 also helps combat bloat, with a blend of 18 enzymes.
Avoid Eating for at Least Two Hours Before Bed
Not only does eating late at night mess with your natural "fast" and potentially discombobulate a healthy circadian rhythm, but it can also induce unwanted bloating. Letting your digestive system rest for a full 10 to 12 hours each night sets your metabolism (and belly) up for success, so it's not hard at work digesting food when it's biologically designed to take it easy.
Swap Ice-Cold Beverages for Warm Ones
"I cringe when I see people drinking ice-cold liquids during meals," says Snyder. "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, Snyder recommends sipping on lukewarm water or hot tea—just make sure you sip slowly and don't chug.
Minimize bloat by not drinking during your meals. Instead, delegate sips to 30 minutes before and at least 45 minutes after you've finished eating.
Prioritize Time to Unwind
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but stress (the bearer of all bad things in the wellness world) is also correlated to bloating. Your gut is a huge house of nerves, after all.
Stress levels are directly connected to your gut, specifically, your digestion. Stress can instigate and exacerbate gastrointestinal pain, imbalances, and other symptoms, and finding ways to manage it can mitigate its effects.
Not only will chewing slowly speed up your metabolism—yes, really—but it also encourages healthier digestion and, in turn, less bloat.
Research suggests that taking time to chew your food allows your brain to communicate with your gut in such a way that you feel satisfied, even if you ate a smaller meal. A 2014 study showed that overweight adults who ate more slowly tended to consume fewer calories. It takes roughly 20 minutes for your brain to realize you're full so, if you chew slowly and enjoy a leisurely meal, your brain will think you're fuller, faster.
Reach for a Potassium-Rich Snack Before Bed
But remember to keep it to at least two hours before bed or just add one of your favorite potassium-rich foods into dinner. 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 will also help manage—and minimize—morning-time bloating.
Don't Carbo-Load at Dinner
Or at least, choose wisely, avoiding refined carbs and minding your portion size. Raymond also notes these types of carbs can cause you to retain water and feel bloated. Thus, if you want to wake up feeling light and lean, reach for a carb that's satiating but features complex (aka longer-burning) carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes.
Swap Salt for Spices
"In Ayurvedic and Asian medicine, the digestive system runs on the fire element. Thus, foods and herbs that support warmth and strength in this area are highly valued and encouraged," explains Snyder. "Some of these include ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon, cinnamon, and others. Table salt is really de-natured sodium chloride salt. It's dead, kiln-dried, highly processed and will also create 'false fat,' making you look bloated and up to nine pounds heavier than you truly weigh."
However, Snyder does go on to say that in addition to substituting spices for table salt, small amounts of high-quality salt that has still retained trace minerals is okay. But again, she doesn't recommend being heavy-handed with your sprinkle.
Getting up and moving (even if it's just a brisk, 20-minute walk) can help ease the discomfort of bloating and spike your digestion. That said, if you're in want of a quick de-bloating remedy, Bebe Ding, fitness expert and cofounder of CruBox, recommends completing as many rounds of these four exercises in eight minutes as possible and repeating the routine twice.
Exercise One: 30 high knees. (Drive your right knee up toward your chest and switch to your left knee, one foot on the ground at a time.)
Exercise Two: 10 tuck-jumps. (Kick off the ground with both feet as hard as you can simultaneously, driving both knees up toward your chest.)
Exercise Three: 20 slow ab bicycles. (With your back on the ground, hands up behind your head, take your left elbow to meet your right knee in front of your chest. Switch sides slowly and make sure you extend the lower leg out fully, two inches above the ground. Switch left and right approximately every two seconds.)
Exercise Four: 20 fast ab bicycles. (Speed up your bicycles, switching left and right in one second.)
Harvard Health Publishing. Stress and the sensitive gut. Updated August 21, 2019.
Zhu Y, Hollis JH. Increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduces meal size in normal-weight, overweight, and obese adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(6):926-931. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.08.020