We’ve all felt it: that too-full feeling you get in your belly. But it’s not always from eating too much. Does your body hold on to too much water? Is it something you ate? Or could a health issue be behind it?
Too Much Gas? Probably Not
Most people who think they’re bloated because they have gas are just more sensitive to it. This is usually related to a health condition. Possible causes include irritable bowel syndrome (when nerves linked to your bowel are too active), acid reflux (which irritates your esophagus, the tube between your throat and stomach), and hemorrhoids. Talk to your doctor if you think you have gas often.
Your body needs this, but most of us get more than we need. It makes you hold on to — or retain — water and can cause more serious health problems like high blood pressure. And it’s not just the saltshaker you should avoid: If you’re like many Americans, most of your salt comes from prepackaged and fast foods. Check food labels for salt (sodium) levels and remember: Just because you don’t taste it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Too Many Carbs
Carbohydrates give your body fuel it can use quickly. But too many at once can make you retain water. And the faster the carbs get into your blood, the more likely that is. Simple carbs — white bread, candy, pastries, and soft drinks — enter your blood almost instantly. Complex carbs — whole grains, fruits, and vegetables — don’t because they take longer to digest.
Well, here’s an easy one. Your stomach is only about the size of your fist. It can stretch, but that can make you feel bloated, especially if you eat lots of salty food and carbs. One tip is to stop eating before you feel full.
Those bubbles in soda and other drinks like beer, champagne, or seltzer are filled with gas. When you drink them, they can fill up your digestive system. You may burp some of it away, but once the gas reaches your intestines, it stays until you pass it. And most sodas are full of sugar, which can make you hold on to water and feel bloated.
You Eat Too Fast
The faster you eat, the more air you swallow. And like with bubbly drinks, once that air passes to your intestine, it can make you feel bloated. It can take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full, so you can eat enough to make yourself bloated and uncomfortable before your brain gets the message.
Foods like milk and ice cream can cause gas, belly pain, and bloating if your body can’t easily digest a dairy sugar called lactose. It’s not usually serious, but it’s a good idea to avoid milk products. Some medicines can help you digest it more easily. This is not the same as an allergy to dairy, where your body’s immune system treats it like a dangerous invader. That can be more serious, causing hives, vomiting, and bloody stools.
If you’ve gained 10 or more pounds in the past year, you may feel bloated because that weight often goes on around your belly. That takes up space and leaves less room for your stomach to stretch. Talk with your doctor about a plan to help you lose that weight and be more comfortable.