Why Am I So Bloated? 14 Causes Behind That Full, Puffy Feeling


There’s no mistaking bloating—you know, that pressure-filled feeling in your gut that’s akin to swallowing a bowling ball. Most of us deal with it from time to time and it’s usually NBD. “Transient bloating on occasion can be totally normal,” Elena Ivanina, DO, a gastroenterologist with Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and founder of GutLove, tells SELF.

Still, it can also be super uncomfortable, so you’d probably rather avoid it—and that starts with figuring out what’s actually behind it. There are a bunch of common causes of bloating that could be the culprit, ranging from what you eat to certain health conditions to simply sitting too much. Here are some possible reasons why you feel so damn bloated, and what you can do to prevent the puffiness.

1. You’re eating a bunch of fiber-filled foods.

Plenty of times, a bloated stomach just comes down to what’s on the menu. Namely, fiber-rich foods like beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, whole grains, onions, and apples. When the bacteria in your GI tract get to work on breaking down the fiber from your bean burrito or kale and quinoa salad, they create gas as a byproduct, according to Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RDN, a Seattle-based dietitian who focuses on gut health and the founder of Food/Sense Nutrition Counseling. And all that gas can build up and make you bloat.

Again, this is pretty normal, especially if you don’t eat a ton of fiber on the regular. The good news is that your digestive system gets more efficient at breaking down dietary fiber when it’s used to doing it. So eating more of it can help you curb your bloating in the long run, VenHuizen tells SELF. Just be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly (say, by a couple grams per week—which might look like adding some flaxseeds to your breakfast or a serving of legume-based pasta at dinner), so you don’t get overly gassy or crampy.

2. …or snacks packed with sugar substitutes.

Foods containing artificial sweeteners (particularly sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, mannitol, and glycerol) can also dial up the gas in your GI tract and lead to bloating. As SELF reported previously, your body can’t fully absorb and digest them, so they end up hanging out in your gut, where gas-producing bacteria feed on them. These sugar alcohols are common ingredients in things like sugar-free ice cream, chewing gum, protein shakes or bars—hence, the ever-pleasant “protein farts.”

3. You live for fizzy beverages.

Ditto for carbonated drinks, like sodas or some of the sparking stuff, since all the gas-producing bubbles in your bev go straight to your gut, Ven Huizen says. And if you couple the carbonation with sugar substitutes—say, like you’d get in a perfectly crisp Diet Coke—you might boost the bloat even more. Cue that uncomfortably full feeling. (Plus a burp or two.)

4. A food intolerance could be at play.

If you’re experiencing other GI symptoms like cramping or diarrhea along with bloating after eating something, it might mean you have food intolerance, VenHuizen says. You might develop this if your GI tract lacks the enzymes needed to digest a certain type of carbohydrate or naturally occurring sugar: think lactose (the sugar found in milk and other dairy products) or fructose (a sugar found in fruit and honey).

If you think you have a food sensitivity like lactose intolerance, start by tracking your symptoms in a food diary for at least a few weeks. You’ll want to jot down your meals and snacks, along with how you’re feeling, throughout the day. “It’s the most helpful tool there is to understand your gut issues, including bloating,” Dr. Ivanina says. That log will be valuable info to share with your doctor or a registered dietitian, who can then guide you through an elimination diet, if needed, to see if cutting out the offending food makes you feel better. (It’s super crucial to do this under the supervision of a pro to make sure you’re interpreting any patterns correctly, and aren’t taking out foods you don’t need to.)

5. You haven’t pooped in a couple days.

In that case, constipation, which is typically defined as pooping three or fewer times per week or having hard, lumpy, or difficult-to-pass stools, could be to blame. “When stool sits around for longer than it should, it can cause gas-producing bacteria to build up and cause bloating,” Supriya Rao, MD, a gastroenterologist with Tufts Medicine in Boston, tells SELF.



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