Are your jeans feeling tighter around your middle?
PMS, stress, food intolerances... there are a multitude of causes for a bloated stomach.
Here we explore some of the reasons for bloating and why what you’re eating might be making it worse.
“I’m so bloated,” is a phrase we’ve all said after a big meal sparks that familiar feeling of fullness.
But over-indulgence is just one of many causes of a bloated stomach. So, what else is your gut telling you when it starts to bulge?
Can stress cause stomach pain and bloating? Why do you get a bloated belly after eating?
The first step towards remedying the feeling of being uncomfortably full is to understand what makes it happen. Here we explore, what causes a bloated stomach?
Bloating is the sensation caused when your stomach fills with gas.
When your tummy feels blown out and the waistbands of clothing suddenly get tighter.1,2
For some people, bloating is only a sensation. For others, it’s accompanied by a physical expansion of the stomach area (officially known as abdominal distension.)3
Symptoms of bloating include:4
When you have a disproportionate amount of gas lurking in your gut for some reason, your body may struggle to excrete this excess air.
If your digestive system is sensitive to these changes, bloating is a side effect.
We all carry a certain amount of gas in our digestive system.
Chewing food, gulping down a drink and talking can all cause you to swallow air. Certain activities can further elevate this – such as chewing gum, drinking fizzy drinks and smoking.9
In addition, sometimes your body produces more than normal amounts of gas. This happens for various reasons and contributes to feeling bloated.
Having a constantly bloated stomach doesn’t necessarily mean you’re producing more gas than usual.
And it’s not always a symptom of an underlying condition. In some people, it’s simply an overreaction to normal amounts of gas in the abdomen.
And unfortunately, the reasons why this happens to some individuals and not others aren’t fully understood.12
The festive period is a common time to experience bloating, for obvious gluttonous reasons.
However, what you eat, as well as how much, can be equally to blame for your bloated belly.
For example, food intolerances can stimulate bacteria breakdown that produces gas and inflammation of the gut.
Does your stomach feel bloated around the time of your period? Oestrogen has a big role in deciding how women retain water.
Levels of this hormone fluctuate during a woman’s monthly cycle, with the body typically retaining more water when oestrogen is higher in the week or so leading up to the start of a period.
As a result, a common symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is bloating.
Bloating and fatigue both have a whole range of causes and triggers. Sometimes making changes to your diet can help.
If bloating and tiredness persist, it’s worth chatting to your doctor to see if an underlying condition may be triggering your symptoms.
If your body has difficulty digesting food, your bowel may not empty properly. This sometimes leads to the production of too much gas and this excess air may get trapped.15
Foods that are more likely to cause problems are:
Bloating is a symptom of a number of chronic diseases, including:
As we learn more about the gut-brain axis, it’s plausible that there’s a link between stress and bloating.
For example, in some people, anxiety and angst can lead to sluggish gut function, making digestive discomfort, such as belly bloat, worse.16
Tummy bloating is usually a harmless annoyance we experience from time to time. And the good news is, it’s usually short-lived.
For example, if it’s caused by your gut’s intolerance for gluten, removing wheat from your meals can often put a stop to bloating and gas after eating.
If your stomach is always bloated or it’s accompanied with other symptoms, it’s worth seeking guidance from your GP.
In simple terms, it’s down to some kind of imbalance in your gut.
But the reality is, what causes bloating for you personally could be any number of things. Maybe the expansion around your middle was set off by what you ate for your last meal?
Or it could be down to changes in your hormones? Perhaps it’s excess air intake due to over-zealous gum chewing or downing a fizzy drink?
If you want to find out what causes bloating in the stomach for you, the secret is recognising any patterns in the swelling around your waist.
So, the old adage ‘listen to your gut’, is literal logic when it comes to working out your reasons for bloating.
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Last updated: 24 August 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.