Medically Reviewed by
Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
8 min read
Bloating is often a feeling and appearance of fullness in the stomach or the gut. You may have felt this after eating a large meal or food that you are sensitive to.
This feeling most often results from a buildup of air or gas in the GI tract. Or, it can also be caused from a buildup of food in your digestive system after a large meal or if you are constipated. Some people may just feel bloated or full, while others may actually be able to see the physical changes associated with bloating like an extended stomach. You might also experience burping, excessive gas, or stomach rumbling and gurgles.
For many people, bloating is a common part of normal digestive function. There are a large number of conditions and lifestyle factors that can cause bloating, but the exact trigger usually differs from one person to the next.
Luckily, most causes of bloating are easy to pinpoint and by avoiding these triggers you can reduce how often you experience bloating. For most people, simple lifestyle and diet changes can help reduce bloating.
Even though the exact cause of bloating may differ among people, bloating is typically the result of a buildup of air and gas within the GI tract.
We all ingest air as we eat and drink and this extra air in your digestive system can result in bloating for some people. Additionally, gas can build up in your digestive system as your body breaks down undigested food.
There are also several factors that may increase the chance that you’ll feel bloated:
For some people, bloating is not caused just by swallowing too much air. There are also several health issues that may cause bloating like food sensitivities, IBS, or Crohn’s disease so it’s important to check with your doctor if you are experiencing excessive bloating.
For the most part, bloating is caused by the same factors for both men and women. That said, women’s hormones can play a role in the digestive system and can impact bloating.
For example, women may notice changes in their digestive system throughout their menstrual cycle. This is caused by fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone which often cause issues like bloating and constipation.
Women who are going through menopause may also experience more bloating than normal. During perimenopause and menopause, women’s hormone levels are drastically changing and this change can affect systems throughout the body, including digestion.
While it is true that some foods may cause bloating for one person, but not another, there are several foods that can increase your chance of feeling bloated, like:
Many of these foods contain large amounts of sugar, starch, or fiber which can release gasses as your digestive system breaks them down. Many people also notice bloating after eating a high-fat meal, this is because fat takes longer to digest than other macronutrients.
If you notice you feel bloated frequently, take note of which foods you were eating before feeling bloated so you can pinpoint what causes bloating in your body specifically. And remember, just because a certain food causes bloating does not mean that it is unhealthy. In fact, many nutrient dense foods cause bloating because they are more complex for your digestive system to break down.
Besides what you eat, how you eat can affect bloating, too. Often eating too fast can cause bloating because you may be swallowing more air than normal. If you think this may be the case for you, try taking smaller bites, slowing down as you chew, and being conscious about pausing for a few moments between bites.
To reduce bloating, many health professionals recommend people first start by making small lifestyle adjustments, since bloating is often linked to eating, drinking, and other daily habits. If you’re experiencing bloating, here are a few things that might help:
Most likely, you don’t need to be worried about bloating. Bloating is often a normal part of digestion and most everyone will experience it at some point.
Bloating can be frustrating though and if you’re frequently bloated or experiencing lots of pain when you are bloated you may want to check with your doctor to confirm if your bloating could be caused by other health concerns.