Bloating is an uncomfortable stomach ailment brought on by either gas or water retention. It can be caused by a number of seemingly innocent habits. While many turn to medicines such as Tums or Pepto to decrease symptoms, there are plenty of natural remedies that you can try first. Close the medicine cabinet and instead look in the fridge or pantry for these expert-approved foods to reduce bloat.
A prime culprit of bloat is eating or drinking too much sodium. To counteract its effects, try eating foods that are high in potassium. Sammi Haber, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutrition Works NYC, claims that these are the best foods to reduce bloat, explaining, “Potassium is a mineral that counteracts sodium in the body. Sodium causes the body to retain water, which is what [in many cases] causes bloating.” According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, potassium helps by causing the opposite effect of sodium. It relaxes blood vessels, regulates fluid levels, and disposes of excess amounts of sodium.
“When the kidney sees low potassium levels, it will try to hold [water], along with sodium,” adds Jonathan Valdez, MBA, RDN, CSG, CDN, ACE-CPT, and founder of Genki Nutrition. While adults should get around 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day (per the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines), we’re only getting, on average, 2,900 milligrams. If you’re experiencing bloating, consider upping your potassium intake with foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, avocado, and tomatoes.
There are a number of signs that you’re not eating enough fiber—one of which is stomach bloat. Getting too little or too much fiber can throw off your GI tract, resulting in uncomfortable bloating. “The average American consumes 15 grams of fiber [daily] when the recommendation is 25 to 30. Inadequate fiber intake can lead to constipation, resulting in bloating,” says Valdez.
Luckily, high-fiber foods like oats, beans, quinoa, beans, and fruits and vegetables can help remedy the situation. “[Fiber] helps pass your stools. It stops your belly from extending from the intestinal area. However, you also have to be careful to not go from zero fiber intake to 30. This could also cause bloating, since your body may not be used to this,” Valdez adds. “If you feel vegetables are causing bloat because of the high fiber content, consider cooking the vegetables to help break down the fiber. [A] gradual increase to the recommended fiber intake will prevent/decrease bloat.”
Shoot for those 25 to 30 grams a day to avoid the bloat in either case. Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, CLC, and creator of Maya Feller Nutrition, agrees, “Aim to have regular and consistent meals that provide a good amount of fiber, but not too much. The idea is to keep the GI system moving, but not to irritate it.”
If you’re looking for a quick way to relieve painful symptoms, try ginger. “Ginger is one food that helps with bloating by stimulating saliva, bile, and gastric juices that aid in digestion. It can help decrease intestinal gas and reduce inflammation in the colon,” says Amy Shapiro, RDN and founder of Real Nutrition NYC. Ginger is a carminative, meaning it’s an herb that aids in soothing the digestive tract and getting rid of gas. It also effectively thins your blood and improves your circulation, further helping reduce bloat (ask your doctor before using, if you’re on a blood thinning medication).
That’s not all, though. Even the gingerol in ginger acts as a pain reliever, warding off the abdominal pain that usually comes with bloating. To use, ingest two to four grams of fresh ginger daily, or 0.25 to one gram of concentrated powdered root daily. You can also brew up some ginger tea, which we’ll go into a bit more below.
Fennel seeds are small powerhouses, with the ability to improve hair and skin health, enhance sleep quality, decrease menstrual symptoms, and—you guessed it—relieve bloating. “[They] are another natural remedy for bloating. Like ginger, there are properties that cause the gas to dissipate within the GI tract,” notes Shapiro. In other words, fennel seeds also have carminative effects that ginger has, as well as antispasmodic ones. Because of this, they can be used to treat a variety of stomach ailments like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and colic. You sprinkle them over salads, steep them into fennel tea, or add them as a spice to your cooking.
Not all bloat relievers come on a plate or in a medicine container. Help can also come in the form of liquids, making consumption quick, easy, and accessible. One common go-to is tea, with certain types being particularly helpful in decreasing bloat. “Peppermint tea is an herbal tea that can help with bloating. It contains methanol, which aids in digestion and in alleviating gas and other IBS symptoms. Ginger and turmeric teas are also useful because of the benefits mentioned earlier,” Shapiro explains. She also recommends lemon water with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar aids in neutralizing stomach acids and promotes proper digestion. Lemons are a natural diuretic and gentle laxative when added to warm water.
Speaking of water, one surefire way to ease bloat is to drink more of it. “Although it might sound counterintuitive to drink more water when retaining water, drinking water can actually help reduce bloat. Drinking plenty of water helps to naturally flush our systems of excess water and sodium that we might retain,” says Haber. If drinking enough water is a challenge for you, Valdez suggests eating foods with high water content, like watermelon, tomatoes, grapefruit, and cucumber. For a double dose of bloat busting, grab a bottle of coconut water. “Coconut water contains potassium, similar to a banana, and electrolytes that maintain regular fluid levels in the body, all helping [to] alleviate [the] symptoms of bloating,” Shapiro notes. Reach for your water cup and drink up.