You mostly follow the prescriptive rules of healthy eating by downing H2O, upping your fiber and protein, and steering clear of fatty foods. Yet—yet!—you’re weighed down by bloat. What gives? This uncomfortable, gassy, and icky feeling is one many try to avoid, especially during beach weekends and big events. But it can be difficult to predict what causes the abdominal swell. However, there are certain dietary habits that increase ballooning. We enlisted the help of experts to find out what causes bloat.
Eating Too Much Salt
Registered dietitian Kaleigh McMordie says one of the greatest culprits of bloating is a high-sodium diet. Consider the last time you nommed on Chinese food or went to the movies and indulged in a mega-bucket of popcorn. Did you leave feeling not only full but also puffy? She explains that steep amounts of salt from fast food, restaurant fare, processed buys, or even a few shakes too many can cause your body to retain water, resulting in swollen hands, feet, face, or tummy. In addition to the obvious—eat less salt—she also recommends chowing down on foods that reap magnesium and potassium. These are nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, avocados, bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes, to name a few.
Drinking Too Much Water Late at Night
Sipping on water in the P.M. is a pretty common habit that causes bloat. Many guzzle H2O if they don’t think they reached their daily recommended amount. But it can put your kidneys in a tough place, according to health psychologist Dr. Gretchen Kubacky. They need time to process that water, which they can’t do if you fall fast asleep. “You’re not likely to technically overload them, but there’s a good chance you’ll retain water and see it on the scale and in your body the next morning,” she explains. Try finishing your last glass before 9:30 p.m. to avoid this issue.
You call it a “food baby.” But McMordie calls it what it is: eating too much in one sitting. You’ve probably felt that pregnant-like bloat when lounging around at a party, BBQ, or special occasion. But it’s easy to avoid it day to day by choosing smaller meals. “Eating more slowly and chewing your food well can help with this. You’ll be able to recognize your fullness better than if you’re scarfing down an entire plate in a few minutes,” she suggests. Another tactic that can help you from bloating? Sipping a warm drink, such as hot tea, at the end of your meal can aid in digestion, she adds.
Eating Too Fast
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Ken Immer says many people will rush their food when they’re starving or pressed for time. But the rapid nature will ultimately result in bloat—not only because you may overeat but also for a more blatant reason. When you inhale your meals, you also inhale air. “Air doesn’t go away. If you don’t belch after eating, the air travels to the small intestine and then the colon. It passes eventually and often when it’s least socially acceptable. It also can distend your gut while it travels through the GI tract,” he explains. Try to schedule time in your calendar for eating like meetings and keep them.
Eating More Fiber Than You’re Used To
True fact: High-fiber foods are super-important for your diet. Also true: They can make you super-bloated. This is especially true, McMordie notes, if you recently doubled your fiber intake because too much of a good thing can increase your swelling. That’s why like with relationships, running, and anything else that requires practice, it’s best to take it slow. “Try introducing high-fiber foods, such as beans and lentils, bran, and cruciferous vegetables into your diet slowly or in smaller amounts to avoid too much gas,” she recommends.
An Untreated Food Intolerance
Not a fan of salt? Slow eater? You may be perplexed by your bloating consistencies, but McMordie says your biology could be to blame. Untreated food intolerances—such as lactose, eggs, or wheat—can cause your tummy to inflate if you lack enzymes to digest certain foods. “These foods pass into the intestines, where bacteria feed on them, producing gas, which can cause bloating,” she explains. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome may also have similar side effects. If you’re concerned, she suggests setting up a check-in with your doctor, who can recommend a food elimination trial diet to identify the cause and help you feel less gassy, ASAP.