Bloating or water retention is a constant plague for many people.
The condition can be summarized as a buildup of gas in the abdominal region, which often leads to intense discomfort, water retention and an extended gut; not only does this feel very unpleasant but it also hides all your hard work and fat loss efforts!
While 95% of supplements or fad diets promising to reduce or eliminate bloat are a waste of time and money, I’ve condensed the best, research proven methods to minimize or eliminate the dreaded bloat.
Here are the best ways to reduce stomach bloating and potentially prevent it from even happening in the first place!
Adjust Your Diet and Follow a FODMAP Diet to Reduce Bloating
One of the primary culprits behind unwanted gas accumulation in the abdomen, which results in that horrid bloated feeling, is your diet (big shock there, right?) (8).
As our individual bodies are all different, our responses to different types of foods will also vary on an individual basis. However, foods such as dairy, gluten, fructose, excessive fiber, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are the prime culprits for bloating in most people.
In fact, adverse reactions to these types of foods have resulted in experts giving them their own specific label: “FODMAPs” or Fermentable Oligo-, Di, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. This label highlights to the general public the most common foods that cause bloating or intolerances (1).
For those with intolerances, water retention or bloating, following a FODMAP diet can be a smart move. Simply by implementing this approach, I’ve successfully limited symptoms for clients having a variety of conditions which caused them to suffer from bloating.
After a period of time, you can then work some of these FODMAP foods back into your diet, further highlighting which ones cause issues and pin-pointing the problem food groups or ingredients to avoid.
Whether you have a specific condition that results in bloating or are just sensitive to certain foods, adjusting your diet to avoid trigger foods that result in the bloat is a sensible strategy to action.
To help combat the bloat and monitor FODMAP food, keep a journal and note whenever you get bloating or digestive issues. You can then highlight what you ate that day or the day before.
Avoid Eating Very Large Meals
While a large cheat meal sounds like fun, we nearly always regret it afterwards.
The horrible ‘food babe’-like bloat after a cheat meal is largely due to a reduced rate of digestion and gastric emptying, leaving large amounts of food in the stomach for hours. Of course, the other main issue is that this food tends to be low quality and processed and therefore full of intolerable FODMAP ingredients.
In response to a meal, the stomach begins to release gastric acid and different enzymes to help breakdown the meal into its smaller parts for absorption and use by the body.
However, the important point to note is that if you consume a very large volume of food in one sitting, the relatively small quantity of stomach acid may not be able to keep up with the amount of food you are consuming.
This can then slow the rate at which the food in your stomach is broken down and therefore also reduces the rate at which it will be removed from the stomach, subsequently causing digestive issues, bloat and stomach cramps.
During meals, try to be conscious of the amount of food you are eating and the rate at which you are consuming it. Moderating the amount of food, and also the speed at which you consume it, may help prevent feeling bloated.
Another back-up strategy is to consume digestive enzymes to help aid digestion. This will, however, only help slightly; the best course of action is to just be sensible and not eat excessive amounts in one setting (or be willing to face the consequences if you do!).
Exercise Can Help Alleviate Bloating
While exercise may be the last thing on your mind when bloated or after a large meal, it can actually help.
Multiple studies have indicated that performing mild activity, such as going for a walk or riding a bike, can reduce the amount of gas retained in the stomach. Participants in these studies also witnessed fewer symptoms and reported a lower degree of bloating (3, 9).
The following graph, from a study on gas retention (which leads to bloating and digestive issues), shows the bloating to be significantly reduced when participants practiced some form of mild exercise.
Research has revealed that the benefit of exercise on feelings of being bloated is related to the duration and the intensity of the exercise (4). Performing a bout of longer duration or of a very high intensity could make the issue worse, not that this is a surprise.
In short, try to time your eating so that you can go for a 30 minute walk after your large cheat meal or a meal out – you’ll be grateful later that night and the next day!
Probiotics Can Reduce The Bloat & Improve Gut Health
The use of probiotics has become very popular in recent years with breakthrough research on gut health
Research continually shows that having healthy gut bacteria can play a role in how we digest food and absorb nutrients, in how we store fat and even how our brains function (2). Interestingly, having a healthy gut microbiome can help prevent the feeling of being bloated (6).
While there are many different strains of probiotics, it seems that using probiotics rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis are two of the best strains. A recent study revealed that the use of a probiotic supplement containing those two strains reduced symptoms of bloating (7).
Remember, using probiotics alone may not totally rectify the issue. Consider probiotics alongside a prebiotic fiber such as Bob Mills potato starch to help feed the probiotics and promote healthy gut bacteria
Reduce Bloating – The Best Methods
While stomach bloating can certainly be an uncomfortable feeling, there are many different measures you can take to either minimize current symptoms or prevent it from even occurring in the first place.
Adjustments to your diet are quite easy if you can pinpoint certain foods that may trigger stomach bloating; this is why I strongly suggest switching to a FODMAP diet (you’ll likely also lose weight and feel better as you will be removing lots of processed foods).
Additionally, fixing your gut health and using probiotics and prebiotic fiber can be key. Just like a strong foundation to your house will weather more storms, a solid gut will be much more resilient to cheat meals, periods of poor nutrition or processed food (such as when on vacation) and will reduce intolerances, all helping remove or reduce the symptoms of bloating.
To optimize your gut health, read my other article here:
- 1. Barrett, J. S., & GIbson, P. R. (2007). Clinical ramifications of malabsorption of fructose and other short-chain carbohydrates. Practical Gastroenterology, 31(8), 51.
- 2. Cryan, J. F., & O’Mahony, S. M. (2011). The microbiome‐gut‐brain axis: from bowel to behavior. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 23(3), 187-192.
- 3. Dainese, R., Serra, J., Azpiroz, F., & Malagelada, J. R. (2004). Effects of physical activity on intestinal gas transit and evacuation in healthy subjects. The American journal of medicine, 116(8), 536-539.
- 4. de Oliveira, E. P., & Burini, R. C. (2014). Carbohydrate-dependent, exercise-induced gastrointestinal distress. Nutrients, 6(10), 4191-4199.
- 5. Lacy, B. E., Gabbard, S. L., & Crowell, M. D. (2011). Pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of bloating: hope, hype, or hot air. Gastroenterol Hepatol (NY), 7(11), 729-739.
- 6. Nobaek, S., Johansson, M. L., Molin, G., Ahrné, S., & Jeppsson, B. (2000). Alteration of intestinal microflora is associated with reduction in abdominal bloating and pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The American journal of gastroenterology, 95(5), 1231-1238.
- 7. Ringel-Kulka T, Palsson OS, Maier D, et al. Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 versus placebo for the symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders: a double-blind study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011;45:518–525.
- 8. Shepherd, S. J., Parker, F. C., Muir, J. G., & Gibson, P. R. (2008). Dietary triggers of abdominal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: randomized placebo-controlled evidence. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 6(7), 765-771.
- 9. Villoria, A., Serra, J., Azpiroz, F., & Malagelada, J. R. (2006). Physical activity and intestinal gas clearance in patients with bloating. The American journal of gastroenterology, 101(11), 2552-2557.