Occasional abdominal bloating is common, affecting as many as 10 to 25 percent of otherwise healthy individuals.1 Of these people, 75 percent report their bloating symptoms are moderate to severe, causing anywhere from extreme discomfort to outright pain.
Though bloating has several causes, many people claim to experience symptoms directly after eating. If eating regularly triggers gas and bloat in you, it's essential to understand why! That way, you can take appropriate steps to minimize their occurrence, alleviate your discomfort and, most importantly, achieve optimal stomach health.
Bloating After Eating
Though bloating after eating is not abnormal, it is not natural. The body should not bloat after eating if you are eating the right foods and in the right way. To understand what is meant by this, it may help to understand why bloating after eating occurs in the first place.
For many people, bloating after eating is simply the result of them eating too quickly. For others, it could be a digestive issue. For instance, bowel obstructions and constipation are two primary causes of bloating. For others, bloating after eating is a symptom of something more serious, such as food intolerance. Or, if you are a woman, there is a high likelihood that bloating is due to hormones.2
Causes of Gas After Meals
Aside from situations involving more serious medical conditions, bloating is typically the result of excess gas in the abdomen. Gas is a natural consequence of digestion. However, when digestion goes awry, too much gas can develop in the intestines. This may occur for several reasons.3
Dysbiosis occurs when your gut microbiome — otherwise known as your gut flora — is out of balance.4 Dysbiosis may occur because you lose too much good gut bacteria, because there is too much growth of harmful gut bacteria or because you lose your gut microbiome diversity entirely. Dysbiosis rarely occurs on its own and often correlates with obesity, diabetes, cancer, IBS, central nervous system disorder, or cardiovascular issues. So, check in with your doc if this sounds familiar.
SIBO — "small intestinal bacterial overgrowth" — is a condition in which gut bacteria from the colon overflows into the small intestine. In many cases, these harmful bacteria overwhelm the good bacteria that are there to balance the bad. While some good bacteria may absorb the bad, too much of either type can throw off the balance of the gut's microbiome.
3. Food Intolerances You Didn't Know You Had
Food intolerances are one of the most common reasons for gas and bloating that occurs after eating. If you experience chronic bloating or bloating after eating certain meals, there is a high likelihood that you live with a food intolerance. It's important to note that food intolerances and food allergies are not the same things. Symptoms of food allergies occur almost immediately and can range from hives to anaphylactic reactions. Symptoms of food intolerances may not develop for hours or even days after consuming the offending food and can include any of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Runny nose
- Flushing of the skin
Though you can have an intolerance to just about any type of food, the most common offenders include dairy, caffeine, gluten, amines, salicylates, sulfites, FODMAPs, fructose, yeast and sugar alcohols.
4. Fiber Overload
High-fiber diets tend to cause bloating because they eliminate too much bad bacteria and replace it with good. Though this may sound like a good thing, the gut microbiome needs a healthy balance of both.
5. High Consumption of Refined Sugar and Processed Foods
Generally speaking, the body ferments carbohydrates and processed sugars as it breaks them down within the large intestine. If too much fermentation occurs, it is likely because your body did not naturally absorb the carbs during the digestive process and before encountering the gut bacteria. The result is excess intestinal gasses.
6. Salt, Salt, Salt
Salt causes water retention. If your diet is high in sodium, and if you are regularly bloated, your body may be holding onto the fluids you consume. To see if this is the case, simply reduce the amount of salt you consume, or eliminate it from your diet entirely.
7. Eating Too Quickly
People unwittingly acquire excess gas by drinking carbonated beverages or swallowing air. Burping typically helps to release the excess gasses caused by these issues.
8. Drinking Carbonated Beverages With Your Meal
Carbonated beverages like soda or sparkling water often cause people to swallow excess air. The air must go somewhere, and if it doesn't escape through a burp, it could become trapped in the intestines, causing bloating.
Other Common Triggers for Gas and Bloating
Eating is often a trigger of bloat and gassiness. However, sometimes, it's not. If bloating is not associated with your diet, it could be the result of any one of the following conditions or lifestyle habits:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lack of exercise
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Excess curvature in the lumbar spine
How To Reduce Symptoms of Bloating
Assuming that bloating is not a symptom of an underlying medical condition, simple changes to your diet and lifestyle may be all you need to reduce the occurrence and symptoms of the condition. Below are just a few things you can do to enjoy abdominal comfort once and for all.
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Exercise often helps aid the digestive process and expel pain-causing gas.
Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics, which is a friendly bacteria that helps to restore balance in the gut microbiome and aids digestion along.
Take Time With Your Meals
By eating more slowly, you can substantially reduce the amount of air you swallow and decrease your chances of bloating. Eating slowly also helps you to eat less.
Though uncomfortable, bloating is generally not something you should concern yourself over. Understandably, however, you may want to reduce instances of bloat and achieve better gut health. You can do both by understanding what causes bloating and taking steps to reduce instances of it today.