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Reduce Stomach Bloating: 9 Daily Habits That Flatten Your Belly

Kale and caffeine are just two of the surprising culprits behind why you're feeling fuller than a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade float. Read on for simple ways to banish the bloat.

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Beware of booze

Most of us associate bloating with beer (hence the term “beer belly”), but any alcoholic beverage could make your stomach puff up for multiple reasons, says gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD, the founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, MD and the author of The Bloat Cure: 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief. Alcohol wipes out the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system that normally keep bloat in check. Plus, it can lead to gastritis and liver damage, both of which cause bloat, and it’s high in calories. However, you don’t need to abstain completely. Just try to consume no more than a drink a day. Read on for more of Dr. Chutkan’s natural solutions to reduce stomach bloating. Use these 7 nighttime tricks to banish belly bloat in your sleep.

Cup of coffee on a saucer with a spoon.istock/Sami Sert

Cut down on caffeine

Since caffeine is a well-known diuretic, it’s logical to expect to move water and salt out of your body, and thus reduce bloating. But caffeine may cause dehydration, which makes your digestive system sluggish and could possibly lead to blockages. We regret to inform coffee fans, but when it comes to bloat, the less caffeine the better. Here are 8 normal reasons for a bloated belly.

Man drinking a sports drink outdoors.istock/StockWithMe

Skip the sports drinks

Sports drinks are marketed as an alternative to soda, but unless you’re a pro athlete or exercising like one, give them a pass. These beverages are full of artificial sweeteners, extra sodium, and other salts, all of which can cause bloating. Some of them also have a surprising amount of calories. After you work out, replenish your fluids with plain old water or unsweetened, unflavored coconut water.

Plate of baked kale.istock/PoppyB

Look beyond the beans

We all know that beans cause gas, but did you know that kale, cauliflower, and broccoli contain the same gas-inducing compound, called raffinose? Because our bodies are unable to completely digest naturally occurring raffinose, the bacteria in the colon ferment it, creates stinky methane, and causes bloating, according to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders. You should not eliminate these veggies from your diet since their nutritional benefits far outweigh the bloating drawbacks, but you can take Beano or Bean-zyme (they contain an enzyme that helps break down raffinose) before you’re about to consume any of them. Follow these 23 tricks to flatten your belly without a lick of exercise!

Glass of milk with soybeans on the table.istock/Sean824

Switch out processed soy

Soy contains compounds that are chemically similar to estrogens and have estrogen-like effects, including bloating and weight gain. You should reduce the amount of processed, unfermented soy (the kind found in soy milk and soy cheese) that you consume. However, eating small amounts of unprocessed fermented soy such as miso, natto, and tempeh is okay, says Dr. Chutkan. If you’re lactose intolerant and rely on soy milk as your dairy substitute, substitute almond milk, coconut milk, or rice milk instead. Take a look at the 8 foods gastrointestinal doctors try to avoid.

Group of friends laughing while eating lunch.istock/PeopleImages

Respect your body’s rhythms

Your body follows its own cycle, and that goes for your digestive system, too. Like your brain, your stomach is more active during the day and quieter at night. This means that the later you consume a big meal, the slower your GI tract digests it. Also, the later in the day it is, the less likely you are to be up and on your feet, allowing gravity to assist in moving your system. So shrink your meal sizes as the day goes on. If you want to go out to eat, go for lunch or brunch. Added bonus: These meals are usually cheaper than dinner, so you’ll save money.

Bowl of blueberries.istock/Adventure_Photo

Fill up on fiber (the right way)

You probably don’t need to be told that a high-fiber diet is good for you. But what you should know is that supersize servings of fiber can sometimes block your digestive system. This is more likely to occur if your stomach and intestines are unaccustomed to such a diet or if you’re not consuming enough water to flush out your GI tract. To avoid these effects, always drink plenty of water with your meals; try to ingest your fiber earlier in the day, when your stomach is most active; space it out so you don’t eat all your fiber in one meal; and take a vigorous walk after you finish eating to trigger peristalsis, the natural movement of your gut muscles. These are the 13 best foods to eat that fight the bloat.

Dinner plate with chicken, asparagus and salad.istock/bhofack2

Eat measured amounts of meat

Meat takes more time for your digestive system to break down and pass through, leading to bloat. “Eating a lot of meat can expose you to unhealthy amounts of antibiotics that throw your gut bacteria out of whack and fill you with gas,” says Dr. Chutkan. He suggests adjusting your diet so that you consume no more than four ounces of animal protein a day.

Person stubbing their cigarette out in an ashtray.istock/ljubaphoto

Quit smoking

We’ll let Dr. Chutkan give it to you straight. “Smoking is guaranteed to add to your bloat in three important ways,” she explains. “You end up inhaling and swallowing a lot of air when you smoke; the toxins in cigarette smoke cause inflammation in the lining of your stomach and intestines, which makes you bloated and uncomfortable; and smoking kills benefical bacteria in your digestive tract, leading to overgrowth of bloat-causing bad bacteria.” Make sure you know the 12 things your stomach may be trying to tell you.

The Bloat Cure book.

Ready to beat bloat?

Robynne Chutkan, MD, is the founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Maryland, as well as a faculty member at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During the course of her practice, she has treated thousands of patients who’ve been troubled by bloating and gas. If you’re interested in learning more about the different causes of bloat and how to combat them, take a look at her book The Bloat Cure: 101 Natural Solutions for Real and Lasting Relief. Next, read up on the 8 reasons why you don’t have a flat belly.

Medically reviewed by Elisabetta Politi, CDE, MPH, RD, on October 13, 2019