- Stress can affect food movement along the digestive tract, resulting in bloating.
- Gut health can affect the brain and vice versa.
- Managing your stress can help prevent or ease bloating.
The most common causes of bloating are excess gas, constipation, and diet issues. The condition can make you physically uncomfortable and self-conscious about your appearance. Thankfully, there are ways to eliminate bloating, so that you feel more comfortable in your favorite outfit. The first step is to identify what’s causing your bloating.
Below, dietitians share the most common reasons for bloating.
Your gut microbiome and bloating
Registered dietitian Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, author of The Small Change Diet, says that in some individuals, bloating may be caused by an unbalanced microbiome, or having more ‘bad’ bacteria than ‘good’.
The gut microbiome contains trillions of microorganisms that live in your large intestine. The function of these microbes includes breaking down food, producing vitamins and hormones, supporting your immune response, promoting a healthy digestive system, and controlling your mood and cognitive health.
Kansas City-based Intuitive Eating Registered Dietitian Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD says our gut health, determined by our gut microbiome, affects our overall well-being, energy, mood, immune health, and ability to focus.
A disrupted gut health may result in bloating and other digestive issues, says Harbstreet.
Stress and poor gut health
An imbalanced microbiome may be caused by several factors, such as the use of antibiotics, lack of plant foods in your diet, and stress.
Registered dietitian Colleen Christensen, the founder of the brand no.food.rules, says stress can alter our digestive secretion and the intestine’s ability to move food through the digestive tract, causing bloating.
If you’ve ever felt “butterflies in your stomach” when you’re in a stressful situation, that’s your gut and the brain communicating, says Jillian Smith, RD, LD.
The Gut-Brain Axis is made up of millions of nerves and neurons running in both directions, and intimately connecting our digestive tract and our brain. This means that gut health affects our brain health, and vice versa says Smith.
As a result, we sometimes feel bloated when we are stressed and anxious. For this reason, managing your stress is also essential in resolving bloating, aside from maintaining a good diet.
How to support gut microbiome health and reduce bloating
1. Reduce stress whenever possible.
Smith recommends engaging in daily stress-reducing activities to beat bloating. Before eating, take four deep breaths to relax your mind and your gut. Eat slowly and mindfully, and chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing.
2. Eat more probiotics.
Hayley Miller, MS, RDN at Persona Nutrition, says introducing beneficial products into your diet, such as probiotics, can help support gut health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to improve IBS symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain. Miller suggests consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, fermented food and drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha, or taking probiotic supplements.
3. Consider a low FODMAP diet.
FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate that can cause increased intestinal distress in people with sensitive digestive tracts. According to Miller, bacteria in the colon rapidly ferments and digests FODMAPs, which can lead to excess gas production that results in bloating and stomach discomfort. To prevent this, it will help to follow a low-FODMAP diet, which can ease abdominal pain and bloating in people with IBS.
Make sure to work with an expert if you want to consider a low FODMAP diet since it is a restrictive diet that should only be followed for a certain period. If done improperly, a low FODMAP diet can lead to undesirable side effects.
Source: Eat This, Not That!