Beat the Bloat: 7 Ways to Reduce Bloating and Feel Better Fast

Woman with hands over healthy stomach

Bloating is an all-too-familiar discomfort most of us have experienced at one point or another, and, although it isn’t necessarily serious, bloating can cause abdominal cramps, make clothing feel tight, and limit activities. Thankfully, living with constant or regular bloating doesn’t have to be the norm: you can try dietary and lifestyle changes to minimize or eliminate the discomfort. 

Board-certified Fairfax plastic surgeon Dr. Christopher L. Hess often consults with patients wondering how they can have a flatter, more toned belly. For some, a bloated-looking belly is actually a symptom of diastasis recti, an uncomfortable abdominal muscle separation that can be repaired with a tummy tuck procedure. For others, bloating is the issue. To help you better define between these two conditions, today Dr. Hess is explaining why bloating may occur and sharing strategies for getting rid of bloating.

Common Causes of Bloating

Bloating affects between 10-30% of adults in the US and can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Hormones
  • Intestinal gas
  • Digestive issues 
  • Stress
  • Certain medications

In addition to the potential causes listed above, bloating can also be caused by less obvious factors, such as how quickly you eat, how long you chew your food, or if you take certain medications (antibiotics and NSAIDs).

Bloating can also be caused by less obvious factors, such as how quickly you eat, how long you chew your food, or if you take certain medications.

What does bloating look and feel like?

Bloating is characterized by a feeling of fullness, pressure, or tightness in the stomach and a visible projection of your abdomen. It may feel only mildly uncomfortable or be rather painful—and may or may not be accompanied by a noticeably swollen-looking stomach. Bloating is usually temporary, coming and going at intervals; long-term outward abdominal projection, in contrast, may be a sign of diastasis recti or another underlying condition.

If it seems bloating may be the culprit, try these tips to help you feel more comfortable as well as flatten your belly’s appearance. 

Easy Ways to Reduce Bloating

1. Eat more fiber

Eating more fiber is one of the best ways to reduce bloating and keep your digestive system running smoothly. Since dietary fiber is actually indigestible (in a good way!), it stays intact and helps move food through your digestive tract, reducing the amount of air and waste trapped in your stomach. Consuming healthy fiber can also normalize blood sugar levels, regulate bowel movements, support your gut microbiome, and help you to feel fuller for longer periods of time.

Fiber-rich foods 

To help prevent and reduce bloating, add more of these foods to your grocery list:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and other legumes

A general guideline for fiber intake is about 25–30 grams per day, though you may require more or slightly less depending on your individual needs. Ideally, your fiber should come from your diet as fiber-rich whole foods offer myriad benefits—but you may also take a fiber supplement if needed. Note: increasing your fiber intake should be done gradually, as sudden dietary changes may worsen gas and bloating! 

2. Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water is essential for good health—not only does it help to keep your body hydrated, it helps with digestion and reduces gas and bloating. This is because water helps break down food so your body can absorb it; it also keeps food moving through the digestive system. Drinking water can additionally help offset the effects of sodium and the water retention excess salt causes. In sum, drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep your body functioning properly and prevent constipation.

You may not feel like drinking water when you’re feeling bloated, but it’s important to try to consume some: it will help flush out excess sodium and other toxins from your body. So next time you feel like your belly is about to explode, try a glass of water and observe if it gradually helps ease the discomfort.

3. Slow down when you eat

Eating too quickly can lead to indigestion and bloating; it can also cause you to overeat. This is because your body doesn’t have time to register that it’s full, leading you to consume more calories than necessary. 

In contrast, thoroughly chewing your food and taking time between each bite helps your body recognize when it’s full, so you don’t end up accidentally overindulging and triggering symptoms of bloating. Thoroughly chewing your food also initiates digestion and otherwise ensures the food you are consuming is ready for the rest of your digestive system to handle. 

Scarfing down meals may be the norm for those with busy schedules, but it’s important to understand saving a few minutes may cost you by having a serious impact on your health! 

4. Go for a walk

A brisk walk around the block can be an excellent way to exercise as well as help relieve gas and constipation. Walking helps to stimulate the bowels, supporting the release of any excess gas that may be causing discomfort, as well as helping the bowels regulate. This is especially important if you feel like you may be constipated, as walking and movement (when combined with other healthy habits like drinking water and getting enough fiber in your diet) can help provide faster relief from this type of discomfort.

Walking also has many other health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health, reducing stress, and boosting energy levels. So if you’re feeling bloated or constipated, it is often a good idea to try going for a walk—even if it doesn’t offer immediate relief for your belly, it will contribute positively to your health and support digestive system healing. It seems that our ancestors’ habit of “evening constitutional” walks after dinner were indeed a good idea!

A considerable amount of research suggests including enough probiotics in your diet can help improve digestion and benefit your overall health.

5. Try incorporating probiotics into your diet

Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria which are naturally present in many traditional foods across cultures—and may help reduce bloating for those suffering from GI symptoms. A considerable amount of research suggests including enough probiotics in your diet can help improve digestion and benefit your overall health. They can be found in fermented foods, such as:

  • Yogurt (unsweetened is best)
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha 
  • Specialty cheeses which are not exposed to heat, such as aged traditional European cheeses, or probiotic cream cheese

Among probiotic-rich foods, the following are even more desirable as they contain dietary fiber and prebiotics that support your gut microbiome:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Nattō

If you are not able to conveniently consume enough probiotics in your diet, you may prefer to supplement—if you choose this option, be sure to find a high-quality live probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and other beneficial strains. But, because the FDA does not regulate supplements, and the potency and survivability of probiotic supplements are highly debated within the wellness industry, it’s best to focus on food-based probiotics. 

6. Give yoga a go

After a big meal, or whenever you’re generally feeling bloated, easing into a few simple yoga asanas (poses) may help relieve symptoms and promote digestion. This is because certain positions can help move the abdominal muscles in a way that encourages the release of excess gas from the GI tract and thus provide some relief from uncomfortable bloating and cramping. To start, try a few of the following options:

  • Seated or prone twists
  • Alternating Cat and Cow poses
  • Happy Baby pose
  • Child’s pose 
  • Squats

To get the most benefit out of these asanas, hold each one for five deep breaths, slowly breathing in and out through the nose. Allow your belly to expand fully with each inhale, and exhale slowly and evenly, as this will activate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body and help you digest food better.

7. Cut back on alcohol

Alcohol is known for causing bloat, and, more seriously for some, inflammation in the stomach and intestines (gastritis or enteritis). When alcohol triggers gut inflammation, your body may produce more gas than usual, which can easily lead to digestive discomfort. 

The inflammatory effects of alcohol overuse are not limited to the gut: it can affect your entire body. Alcohol is also a diuretic which deprives your tissues of hydration, demonstrably affecting the appearance of your skin. Lastly, alcohol consumption can impair digestion and contribute to a permanently protruding “beer gut.” 

Cutting back on alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional drink, as long as you don’t overdo it! Moderation is key—and if you choose to drink, stay hydrated by drinking water before, after, and between alcoholic beverages. 

Are you bloated, or do you have diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is a very common condition that occurs when the muscles in your abdomen have separated down the vertical middle of your belly. Typically caused by weight gain or pregnancy, diastasis recti causes the stomach to project outwards, similar to the effects of bloating. It is often the cause of a permanently “pregnant” appearance.

Differences between diastasis recti and bloating

While they may have visually similar symptoms, these conditions have quite different underlying causes and require greatly different treatment. Bloating is primarily caused by excess gas or inflammation in the digestive system which causes your entire belly to swell; it can be relieved by passing gas, regular bowel movements, changing the foods you eat, or other therapeutic and medical methods for treating digestion. 

In contrast, diastasis recti is a condition where the abdominal muscles separate from each other and thus, are unable to hold your organs in their normal positions close to the spinal column, allowing the belly to bulge outward. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for diastasis recti and medical intervention, commonly called tummy tuck surgery, is usually required.

Diastasis recti is a condition where the abdominal muscles separate and are unable to hold your organs in their normal positions, thus allowing the belly to bulge outward.

Diastasis recti self-assessment

If you suspect you have diastasis recti, you can do a simple self-test to check and later have it confirmed by a medical professional.

Step 1: Lay on your back and bend your knees. 

Step 2: Place your fingers along each side of your belly button and pointing down into your stomach, and then lift your head off the floor while keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. You should feel your abdominal muscles contract as you do this. 

Step 3: If you can feel a gap between the two sides of your abdominal wall muscles when doing this test, it may indicate that you have diastasis recti. 

Treatment for diastasis recti

Tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is ideal for repairing abdominal muscle separation and sculpting a smoother, tighter midsection. Many patients who require a tummy tuck to treat diastasis recti request other body contouring surgeries to accomplish a complete transformation, often referred to as a “mommy makeover.”

Look and feel your best at Hess Plastic Surgery

Board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Christopher L. Hess has been named one of the Top Plastic Surgeons in the region by Northern Virginia Magazine for 9 years. At Hess Plastic Surgery, we have served patients in Northern Virginia for over 20 years and offer a full range of skin treatments in addition to procedures for the breast, body, and face. To schedule a personal consultation with Dr. Hess—during which he will recommend a tailored treatment plan to help you meet your appearance goals—call us at (703) 752-6608 or contact us online.

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