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Belly Bloat... Solutions
Beth Ley Knotts, Ph.D.

I seem to have more and more patients complaining about belly bloat, that uncomfortable bloated, gassy feeling after eating. This does become more common as we get older, but can happen at any age. It is very often rooted in stress, but can also be the result of antibiotic use which disrupts our natural probiotic levels.

1. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins can all be triggers of bloating. However, certain foods may be worse than others, and digestive issues will vary from person to person. Common bloating triggers include:

  • apples
  • beans
  • cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage
  • dairy products, (Milk and milk products, such as cheese and ice cream) and packaged foods prepared with lactose if you are lactose intolerant
  • lettuce
  • onions
  • peaches and pears
  • artichokes and asparagus
  • Whole grains such as whole wheat and bran
  • Soft drinks and fruit drinks


You don’t have to avoid these foods altogether. Instead, try eating one potential culprit at a time and reduce the quantity you eat if it causes any bloating. Get to know which foods in particular are causing issues.

2. Watch your fiber intake
Fibrous foods such as whole grains, beans, and legumes can be a common cause of bloating. While these foods are promoted as healthier than their refined counterparts, their high-fiber content leads to bloat in some people. Fiber is an important part of a heart-healthy diet, but you should gradually increase the amount you eat. For example, instead of switching from refined white grains to whole grains all at once, try replacing one product at a time to see how your body reacts.

3. Excess Sodium
Eating too much sodium can cause a slew of long-term health problems, including high blood pressure. In the short term, an extra salty meal may lead to water retention, which causes bloating. You can avoid excess sodium in your diet by switching to sea salt and using flavorful herbs instead of salt, and by reducing the amount of processed and packaged foods you eat. 4. Avoid fatty foods/fried food High-fat meals take longer for your body to process. The fat moves slowly through the digestive tract, and this may cause bloat. It also explains why your stomach feels like it wants to burst out of your clothing after a large, fattening meal, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Not all fats are created equal though, and digestion can be different between trans, saturated, and unsaturated fats. Pay attention to which types of fat may cause issues. Fried foods, which have saturated and trans fats, commonly tend to cause issues. Instead try a healthier, unsaturated fat such as avocado or nuts and seeds.. Limiting your intake of fried, processed, and refined foods can help with digestion and overall health.

4. Avoid fatty foods/fried food
High-fat meals take longer for your body to process. The fat moves slowly through the digestive tract, and this may cause bloat. It also explains why your stomach feels like it wants to burst out of your clothing after a large, fattening meal, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Not all fats are created equal though, and digestion can be different between trans, saturated, and unsaturated fats. Pay attention to which types of fat may cause issues. Fried foods, which have saturated and trans fats, commonly tend to cause issues. Instead try a healthier, unsaturated fat such as avocado or nuts and seeds.
Limiting your intake of fried, processed, and refined foods can help with digestion and overall health.

5. Limit carbonated drinks
Carbonated water and soda are leading culprits for bloating in the beverage world. As you consume these drinks, carbon dioxide gas builds up in your body. This can quickly lead to bloating, especially if you drink them quickly. Plain alkaline water is best. Try adding a slice of lemon for some flavor without the bloat.

6. Eat slowly
Scarfing down your food will also mean swallowing extra air, which can lead to gas retention. Eating more slowly is not only good for digestion it can also reduce your overall food intake, so you may find yourself tightening your belt rather than loosening it!

7. Go for a walk
There is no denying the benefits of exercise for your overall health and well-being. As an added bonus, working out can also reduce the gas buildup that contributes to bloating. A short walk can alleviate bloating after a meal.

8. Supplements
Digestive enzymes help break down food and absorb nutrients. Digestive enzymes, including amylase, lipase, and protease, help break down carbs, fats, and proteins.

In addition, probiotic supplements can help regulate the good bacteria in your gut, which can decrease bloat. This is especially important if you have recently taken antibiotics.

Licorice (tablets or chewables... not the candy) and Ginger are both excellent digestive aids. They can be taken before or after meals to relieve bloating.

Drinking a little unfiltered apple cider vinegar (the one with the mother) before meals can provide a digestive boost. Vinegar is the same pH as the hydrochloric acid in our stomach. Start with one tablespoon, increase up to one ounce if needed. It is best NOT to dilute with water because this will raise the pH which you do not want to do. Also it is best not to drink a lot of water at mealtimes as this also dilutes the pH of the hydrochloric acid in our stomach. Remember, digestive issues are actually NOT from too much stomach acid, but not enough.

I like to add apple cider vinegar to my salads... or make salad dressing out of it. Check out my "Recipes" here.

9. Don't Eat When Stressed
Stress and the hormonal and biological changes that come with it are very "digestive unfriendly". Meaning when your cortisol levels are high (stress hormone), your digestive system literally stops working... making it a very bad time to be eating and trying to digest food. My favorite supplement to lower the stress hormone to help this is called Enhanced Stress Relief with Lemon Balm and L-theonine.

When lifestyle changes don’t help
Bloating is usually just your body’s natural response to certain foods or habits. But when bloating doesn’t ease up with dietary changes, it may be time to address the problem with your doctor. This is especially the case if the bloating is accompanied with severe cramps and abnormal bowel movements. Possible underlying health problems include:
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Leaky gut
  • food allergies
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • lactose intolerance
  • celiac disease
  • gluten sensitivity


You don’t have to put up with bloating forever. Remember that determining the cause will eventually help prevent uncomfortable bloating episodes. This may require nutrition counseling to determine what is really going on and the best path of treatment for you.