It is estimated that up to 30% of people will experience stomach bloating of some sort. In this guide, we aim tackle all things bloating and provide answers to common questions around the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention advice related to bloating after meals.
What is bloating?
Bloating is the feeling of abdominal fullness and tightness; it is often accompanied by visible distension of the stomach. It can cause discomfort and a feeling of pressure or swelling in the abdominal area.
What are the symptoms of a bloated stomach?
The symptoms of bloating can be straight forward to spot, typically a bloated stomach includes:
- Abdominal distension (swelling of the stomach)
- Discomfort or pain in the abdominal region (stomach ache)
- Increased belching or flatulence
- A sensation of tightness or fullness
The symptoms of bloating can vary from person to person, some may experience all common symptoms at once whilst others may only display very minor symptoms.
Why does my stomach bloat after eating?
There are several causes that can contribute to a bloated stomach. The most common cause is the excessive production of gas in the digestive system, which can be caused by swallowing air while eating or drinking, or the fermentation of certain foods, particularly vegetables by the gut bacteria. Other factors that may contribute to bloating include overeating, rapid eating, food intolerances, and underlying gastrointestinal disorders.
What foods cause stomach bloating?
While trigger foods can vary among individuals, the most reported foods that can cause stomach bloating include:
- Fizzy drinks
- Legumes (beans and lentils)
- Herbs and spices such as onions and garlic
- Dairy products
- High fat foods
Its also important to note that whilst bloating can be unpleasant, it is also a completely normal part of the digestion process which can be caused by foods that should be consumed daily such as Vegetables.
How long does bloating last?
Symptoms of bloating should ease within a few hours and at most within a couple of days. If you are also experiencing constipation, the bloating symptoms you are experiencing will likely not ease until you are able to start passing stools regularly.
If your bloating becomes chronic or lasts for extended periods of time in the region of 3 weeks or more, it is recommended to speak to your doctor.
How can I alleviate bloating after eating?
There are several strategies that can help alleviate bloating after eating. These include consuming smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding or limiting gas-producing foods, chewing food thoroughly, avoiding carbonated beverages and using straws, minimizing air swallowing, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress levels.
How can I prevent bloating?
Prevention is key to managing bloating. Identifying your personal triggers is essential. Keeping a food diary can assist in recognizing patterns and identifying specific foods that contribute to bloating. Additionally, practicing mindful eating, maintaining a balanced diet with adequate fibre and hydration, and implementing stress management techniques can aid in preventing bloating episodes.
When it comes to vegetables, we recommend reducing your portion size instead of completely removing them from your diet as a method to prevent your bloating symptoms. Vegetables should be consumed on a daily basis and you should still aim to meet your 5 a day intake.
Exercise, in particular yoga and Pilates can help to dislodge some of the stubborn gas within your gut and enable you to pass this easier to help relieve symptoms.
Research has shown that stress can slow down the digestion process and cause some of the painful symptoms associated with bloating.
When should I be concerned about my bloating?
While bloating is often nothing to worry about, there are instances where medical attention is warranted. Talk to your GP if you experience severe or persistent bloating, accompanied by alarming symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, severe abdominal pain, blood in the stool, or changes in bowel habits. This is particularly important to rule out underlying medical conditions or gastrointestinal disorders that may require further evaluation and appropriate management.
Is bloating after eating normal?
Yes, experiencing some degree of bloating after eating is considered normal, especially if it subsides within a few hours. In fact, healthy foods such as vegetables are commonly known to cause bloating.
However, if the bloating becomes severe, persistent, or significantly impacts your daily life, it's advisable to consult with your doctor for a proper evaluation.
Are there any lifestyle factors that contribute to my symptoms?
Yes, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to bloating. Eating too quickly, overeating, consuming fizzy drinks, and excessive air swallowing are common culprits. Additionally, stress and anxiety can affect digestion and contribute to bloating due to the impact it has on the digestion process.
Is there anything I can try at home?
Some home remedies that individuals find helpful include:
- Light stretching
- Applying heat to your abdominal area
- Massaging your stomach to try and release trapped wind
- Stay well hydrated
- Eat smaller more frequent meals
- Introduce foods high in fibre into your diet, particularly if you are constipated
While home remedies may provide temporary relief, they might not address the underlying cause of bloating
Is bloating caused by stress and anxiety?
Yes, stress and anxiety can contribute to bloating. When we're stressed or anxious, our bodies may enter a "fight-or-flight" response, which can disrupt digestion and lead to bloating. Additionally, stress and anxiety can affect eating habits, causing individuals to eat too quickly or consume larger quantities of food, which can further contribute to bloating.
In some cases, stress and anxiety may result in someone losing their appetite altogether.
What is chronic bloating?
While bloating is often a common and harmless condition, chronic or persistent bloating can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue. It's important to identify and address any patterns that you think are causing extended bouts of bloating as it may be associated with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or other gastrointestinal disorders.
Could bloating be a sign of IBS or Celiac disease?
In IBS, bloating is often accompanied by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits, constipation, or diarrhoea and in some cases, it can include both. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten consumption. For individuals with a gluten intolerance, it can cause bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Celiac disease is often accompanied with chronic diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
Should I make changes to my diet to help with my bloating?
Yes, dietary changes can be helpful in reducing bloating, however there is not “one size fits all” when it comes to making dietary changes. A food intolerance test will help you to pinpoint your problem foods and provide you with nutritional advice on how to eliminate and replace those foods from your diet.
Some general recommendations include consuming smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding or reducing the intake of gas-producing foods, such as fizzy drinks and legumes, and gradually increasing fibre intake to promote regular bowel movements.
However, individual responses to dietary modifications can vary, so it's best to consult with a registered dietitian or a member of our nutritional team for personalised dietary recommendations.
Can a food intolerance cause bloating?
Yes, food intolerances can contribute to bloating in individuals that are intolerant to certain foods. Conditions such as lactose intolerance or fructose malabsorption can cause bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming certain foods.
Will a food diary help me identify what causes bloating?
Keeping a food diary can be a useful tool in identifying patterns between your diet and bloating episodes. By recording your meals, snacks, and any accompanying symptoms, you may be able to pinpoint specific foods or eating habits that trigger bloating.
Once you have identified your problem foods, you should look to eliminate them from your diet whilst also replacing them with foods that can provide you with a similar nutritional intake.