8 Things Stomach Doctors Do to Beat Belly Bloat
Gastroenterologists share their top habits of how they fight stomach bloat, from limiting raw fruits and vegetables to working out.
What gastroenterologists do to fight bloat
After eating a delicious full meal you feel “stuffed.” Sneakily, you unbutton your pants because they feel too tight and your stomach starts to stick out. You begin to experience pain and discomfort in your abdominal area—a telltale symptom of stomach bloat.
It’s a common problem—about 1 in 5 adults report regular bloating—that can be triggered by certain foods or drinks among other things. However, there are habits that can reduce the likelihood of frequent bloating. These GI docs (gastroenterologists) share their habits and lifestyle suggestions on how to prevent stomach bloat for better digestive health.
They keep a food journal
Frequently, the cause of bloating is related to diet. Many gastroenterologists first recommend taking a closer look at what you’re consuming daily. Benjamin Cohen, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in The Bronx, New York, asks his patients to keep a food diary for a few weeks. By writing down what and when they’re eating and when they experience symptoms, the patients may be able to “find an association between what foods may be triggering the symptoms,” says Dr. Cohen. From there, the patients—and you—can try to eliminate the potential foods that can trigger bloating to see if doing so fixes the situation. Check out the other common causes of bloating to be aware of.
They go easy on raw fruits and vegetables
While there is no “magic food that’s going to eliminate everything,” says Dr. Cohen, curbing your intake of raw fruits and vegetables can help ease bloating. Generally, foods like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, although healthy, lead to bloating because they can be difficult for your body to break down. “In a way, it’s kind of like you have to cut the roughage out or ingest it in a different form. For example, you can have broccoli in a quiche but not raw,” says Beth Schorr-Lesnick, MD, assistant professor medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. Other bloat-inducing foods that gastroenterologists are careful of are beans and “things with outside skins or shells,” says Dr. Schorr-Lesnick, who herself uses Beano before her first bite of these bloating foods. Here are daily habits that prevent bloating and flatten your belly.
They eat and drink supplements
If you’re looking for natural remedies to help ease your bloating, look no further than your spice rack. Dr. Schorr-Lesnick recommends incorporating substances like turmeric, fennel, and ginger into your diet. Things like chamomile tea and peppermint tea have also shown to be helpful in combating belly bloating.
They don’t drink from straws
You swallow a little air when you speak, eat, or drink. But when you drink with a straw, chew gum constantly, eat very quickly and/or smoke, you swallow excess air, says Shawn Khodadadian, MD, founder of Manhattan Gastroenterology. This leads to excess gas (burping and belching) and bloating. So, Dr. Khodadadian, also director of clinical nutrition in the division of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital, says the first thing he tells his patients is “to try to eliminate any causes of aerophagia or swallowing of excess air.” Always avoid these foods if you’re feeling bloated.
They get tested
According to Dr. Khodadadian, “the most frequent issues are those of lactose and fructose.” But to find out if these substances cause your bloating—lactose being the sugar found in milk and fructose the sugar in fruit—gastroenterologists like Dr. Khodadadian recommend getting hydrogen breath tests. These tests can inform you of your intolerances, if at all, to lactose and fructose (as well as other possible bloaters like gluten) and help you determine the amounts you can tolerate and ultimately, the proper diet.
They treat constipation as a potential cause
Another possible underlying cause of bloating is constipation. Essentially, if you think of your intestinal tract as a long pipe, constipation is the result of a “block in one part of the pipe” backing up everything behind it, says Dr. Cohen. To ease this condition, patients can take stool softeners and laxatives, such as MiraLAX, and increase their intake of fiber.
They drink water—but not too much
Besides being overall good for your digestive help, drinking water can help constipation and decrease bloating. But be careful. Drinking too much water can increase the bloat, says Dr. Schorr-Lesnick. “I don’t think water ingestion really helps necessarily with bloating at all,” she says. “In fact, many patients come complaining that, ‘even water makes me bloated.’”
They lace up their sneakers
For many people, exercise stimulates the bowels, helping to end constipation. It also stimulates the sweat glands, leading them to release fluids that the body could possibly be retaining. According to Dr. Schorr-Lesnick, having “laxity of muscles,” especially in your abdomen, can allow gas to create bloating. Thus, she recommends doing crunches or other abdominal muscle exercises to prevent bloating from occurring again or in the future. Next, read about these daily habits that reduce bloating.
- Gut: "Prevalence and risk factors for abdominal bloating and visible distention"
- Benjamin Cohen, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in The Bronx, New York
- Beth Schorr-Lesnick, MD, assistant professor medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York
- Shawn Khodadadian, MD, founder of Manhattan Gastroenterology