Bloating is uncomfortable and in some cases even embarrassing. It occurs when your digestive system creates gas that can’t immediately be released. Although you might think that eating a pile of broccoli or a bowl of bean soup is the culprit, there are some unusual causes of bloating, as well. Here are some surprising causes of bloating and what you can do to prevent them.
#1 – Stress
It seems as if absolutely anything can be blamed on stress these days, and bloating is no different. In fact, there are two ways in which stress can bring on the bloat.
- Less blood is getting to the digestive system. When your body is stressed out, autonomous processes kick in that may cause bloating. For example, the blood that was once fueling the digestive process is being redirected to your heart, brain, lungs, and other organs to help you process that stress. When your digestive system doesn’t work optimally due to lack of blood flow, gas can build up.
- Nervous habits are creating gas. Sometimes, stress can be one of the more common indirect causes of bloating with the development of nervous habits. For example, you may find yourself swallowing air when you chew gum or eat a meal while you’re stressed out. This air can accumulate in your body.
Here are 21 ways to drastically reduce stress.
#2 – Medication
Medicines are designed to fix what ails you, but unfortunately, some can cause uncomfortable side effects. Medication isn’t one of the most unusual causes of bloating, but it’s often the last thing people attribute to their discomfort. Medications that contain ingredients like lactulose or sorbitol are especially problematic.
Lactulose is a common stool softener, and as it draws moisture into your stool, it can irritate your intestines and cause the buildup of gas. Sorbitol is a sugar alternative found in liquid medications that is metabolized very slowly. Because the body needs to work so hard to digest it, it often causes gas and discomfort. If you’re experiencing bloating, look at the medicines you take – even the over-the-counter ones.
#3 – Dehydration
Dehydration as one of the causes of bloating may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not difficult to understand why a lack of fluids can create gas and discomfort. To pass freely through your intestines and colon, stool must contain water. It acts as a lubricant and keeps your digestive system working optimally. When you’re only slightly dehydrated, it becomes more difficult for your digestive system to move waste along. This results in constipation, which creates a buildup of gas.
What’s more, even slight dehydration can significantly slow your metabolism. It will take longer for food to move from your stomach into your intestine, and even from your intestine to your colon. The longer that food remains in your digestive tract, the more gas it will produce. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent bloating for these reasons.
#4 – Too Much Fiber
All your life, you’ve heard that consuming fiber is good for your digestion, your heart, and your overall health. Although this is absolutely the case, the truth is that too much fiber is also one of the causes of bloating. Soluble fiber, found in foods like beans and broccoli, attracts water once it’s in your intestines. This creates a gel-like substance, which can slow down digestion. Once again, the longer food is in your digestive system, the more gas it creates.
Fortunately, you can avoid this bloating by introducing fiber into your diet slowly and consuming roughly the same amount of soluble fiber each day. What’s more, rather than eating one large serving of broccoli or beans at once, consider making soluble fiber part of each meal – including snacks. When you space out your consumption, these foods produce less gas overall.
#5 – You Ate Too Fast
Everyone’s in a hurry these days. There’s just so much to do and not enough hours in the day. All too often, you probably find yourself chowing down on a sandwich on your commute to work or trying to eat your lunch in 10 minutes so you can get back to work. When you eat too quickly, and even when you gulp a beverage through a straw, you’re swallowing a large amount of air along with your food. This air becomes trapped in your digestive system until it’s released.
If you’re eating too quickly, there’s also a good chance that you aren’t chewing your food properly. When this happens, your body has to work even harder to break down those large chunks of food, and that results in quite a bit of gas that can make you feel uncomfortable and cause digestive issues.
#6 – The Leftovers were a Little “Off”
Whether it’s the pizza you had yesterday for lunch or the other half of a salad you ordered the day before, leftovers that are even the slightest bit “off” can cause some significant gas. Bacteria lives in food, whether it’s frozen, fresh, cooked, or otherwise, and these populations continue to grow as food ages. This means that while your leftover pizza may look, smell, and taste just fine, it contains far more bacteria today than it did yesterday. This can create bloating, even if the food is considered safe to eat.
The best way to minimize this effect is to practice safe food handling and storage guidelines. Refrigerate (or freeze) any uneaten portions of your meal right away, and if you don’t consume your refrigerated food in a day or two – or your frozen food within 30 days – throw it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.
#7 – You Have a Medical Condition
Medical conditions are surprising causes of bloating for many people, and they’re more common than you might think. Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, and even extreme sensitivity to soluble fiber can all be culprits. If your bloating is severe or frequent, a medical condition could be to blame. Make an appointment with your doctor, and if your diagnosis is a food intolerance or sensitivity, change your diet accordingly.
While most people think the causes of bloating involve eating too much, the truth is that there are many things that can create gas in your intestines and leave you feeling miserable. The next time you feel bloated, consider all of the causes listed here and make the appropriate changes to prevent it in the future.