Bloating can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, because it strikes without warning and with no apparent cause. It causes considerable discomfort and there’s often no quick and easy way to relieve it. But, as with any annoying and seemingly inexplicable symptom, bloating can be brought on by a variety of factors. Understanding the underlying causes, whether triggered by minor habitual mistakes or an undiagnosed health condition, can help get a handle on bloating. So, let’s take a closer look at the science behind bloating.
What Is Bloating?
Bloating is a sign of indigestion and occurs when gas builds up temporarily in the stomach or intestines. It slows down the digestive system’s function, affecting regular bowel movements. When you bloat, your stomach feels hard and tight. You may also burp or pass gas frequently, both of which will provide some relief, but not without embarrassment.
Causes of Bloating
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, whole grains, including wheat and barley, vegetables such as cabbage, and broccoli are difficult to digest and may cause bloating. Dairy products also lead to intestinal distress in many, especially if there is even a mild intolerance to lactose  or milk sugar. Carbonated drinks also contain high amounts of carbon dioxide that can get trapped in the digestive system to cause bloating .
Many women experience bloating before and after menstruation. Changing levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone often cause the body to retain more water and salt. As a result, the body’s cells become swollen with water, causing bloating .
Overeating and Air Swallowing
Overeating is perhaps the most common cause of bloating. When you overeat, your digestive system may slow down, attempting to process a large intake of food. Another common cause of bloating is swallowing air as you eat. While drinking through a straw or talking and eating, you swallow a lot of air leading to gas buildup in the gastrointestinal tract.
Studies have proven that constipation can trigger bloating. Constipation is characterized by a reduction in the frequency of bowel motions, which allows increased gas buildup in the intestines and consequently bloating .
How to Keep Bloating at Bay and Ways to Reduce It?
Bloating can be significantly reduced or eliminated by making simple changes to your diet. Limit the intake of bloat-inducing foods such as legumes and vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Reduce or avoid the consumption of carbonated drinks and dairy products. Drink plenty of water with high fiber foods. Do not use a straw and refrain from talking when eating to avoid swallowing air. Eat small portion sizes at a reasonable pace.
Try A Low-FODMAP Diet
Several studies have reported that consuming a Low-FODMAP diet can reduce bloating symptoms in IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) patients . FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are small carbs that are resistant to digestion. Instead of getting absorbed into the bloodstream, they reach the colon where gut bacteria reside. Bacteria then utilize these carbs, producing hydrogen as a byproduct, which leads to digestive issues such as bloating, stomach cramps, etc. A low FODMAP diet can significantly reduce these symptoms, even improving the quality of life in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Foods you can eat on a low FODMAP diet include beef, chicken, banana, orange, lactose-free milk, tomatoes, zucchini, peanuts, and walnuts.
Studies have reported that probiotic supplements can help reduce gas production and bloating in people with digestive issues. This is because they improve the bacterial environment in the gut. .
Many studies have reported that peppermint oil can relieve the symptoms of bloating especially in IBS patients. It contains menthol that works as a relaxant for the muscles in your colon, easing digestion. Available in capsule, tincture, or tea forms, peppermint oil reduces excess gassiness, relieving tummy aches and pains .
According to a scientific review, ginger accelerates digestion. This is because it stimulates digestive juices such as bile, saliva and various other compounds that aid digestion. You can consume ginger as a condiment, supplement, or add it to your tea .
Studies suggest that mild physical activity can help remove gas from the gastrointestinal tract and relieve bloating . Yoga stretches that put extra pressure on your abdomen can also aid digestion and encourage passage of excess gas. Deep breathing also helps reduce excess gas and bloating .
Bloating is a natural phenomenon it’s not something you need to worry about, unless it causes considerable discomfort. If there is a sudden increase in gas and bloating that persists for several days, consult a doctor immediately as this could be brought on by some undiagnosed health condition.