Is bloating just a side effect of being a woman? Far too many women accept bloating as a normal part of life. Yes, we will all experience occasional bloating. However, chronic bloating could be a sign that something is out of balance within your body. It could even indicate a serious medical condition.
Are you ready to get to the bottom of your bloating? Let's go big on bloating facts! This is everything I want my clients to know in my work as a female nutritionist, women's health advocate, and certified personal trainer.
What Is Bloating?
I think I can safely assume that we all know what it's like to experience bloating. Bloating is a condition that causes the belly to feel full and tight. You may feel like you've just consumed a huge meal that has left you without any additional room in your stomach. In many cases, bloating is both painful and uncomfortable. You may also notice that your stomach is visibly larger. What causes bloating? Several things could be behind your bloating. Let's investigate the common causes of bloating.
The 7 Most Common Reasons Why a Woman Feels Bloated
There are some common culprits behind that tight feeling at your waistband. Determining why you're experiencing bloating is important because it can help you discover a way to stop the bloat. Is one of the reasons below the cause of your bloating?
#1. Dietary Intolerances
So many women who have accepted bloating as a normal part of life are actually struggling with dietary intolerances. When we eat foods that our bodies can't properly digest, we experience inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Allowing this to turn into chronic inflammation can result in a chronic GI condition. Consider bloating a potential early sign of food intolerance.
You don't have to take any drastic steps if you suspect that your bloating is caused by dietary intolerance. I typically advise my own clients to simply begin the journey into investigating the issue by keeping a food journal. Tracking what you eat can help you to make connections between food triggers and bloating. If you identify potential triggers, you can then eliminate them from your diet to confirm your suspicions.
#2. It May Be Constipation
Chronic constipation is a hidden problem that affects the health of many women. You may be surprised to learn that everything from a change in your routine to a reduction in exercise can cause constipation. Here are the signs of constipation:
- You're making fewer bowel movements than normal for your body.
- You're making lumpy, pebble-like stools.
- You're struggling to pass your stools.
- You always feel like you still need to "go" after you've passed a stool.
Many women don't realize that they are suffering from chronic constipation because they are still technically having regular bowel movements. In reality, you can be constipated even if you're going daily. Both frequency and consistency determine constipation.
My go-to advice for treating constipation is fiber, fiber, and more fiber. Fill your diet with leafy greens, fruits with skins, raw nuts, beans, and whole grains. It's actually common to dip into a bout of constipation when we start relying on fast food, processed food, and starchy food as we go through busy periods of life. If you're struggling to get in tons of fresh fiber, there's no shame in selecting a high-quality fiber supplement to get over the hurdle. Don't forget about hydration! Definitely increase your water intake. You can also consider having broth with your meals to increase your intake of clear liquids. Lastly, exercise is a great cure for constipation. Movement actually tones the walls of the large intestine to help stool pass through more easily!
#3. Your Hormones Could Be Causing It
This next potential cause of constipation is always a shocker for my clients. Constipation could be a hormonal issue! Women commonly experience bloating, cramping, and abdominal pain tied to their menstrual cycles. Research suggests that shifts in progesterone and estrogen levels during the premenstrual period cause the body to retain more water and salt. As a result, the cells in your body become swollen with water weight. What's more, "relaxant" chemicals called prostaglandins that are made by the uterus leading up to your period to aid with shedding uterine lining can also cause relaxation within your GI tract that leads to cramping and diarrhea.
Avoid salt in the days leading up to your period to reduce bloating. Staying hydrated is another good trick because drinking water helps to flush salt and water that could cause bloating. I also recommend avoiding alcohol leading up to your period to help prevent the diarrhea and excess gas that are common when we drink heavily.
#4. Excessive Gas Can Build Up
The simple truth is that our bodies sometimes like to produce a little too much gas. Gas is actually a very normal and healthy part of digestion. However, gas that builds up in your intestines can lead to pain and bloating. Gas generally forms when food is not fully digested when it gets broken down by the colon. The process creates methane and hydrogen that eventually pass the body as "gas."
It's important to know which foods to avoid if you're overly gassy. Foods that are high in fiber and fat can create excess gas. The same goes for fried and spicy foods. Do you drink soda or beer frequently? You may not realize that carbonated beverages are notorious for causing bad gas. Finally, some people who are chronically gassy actually have a hard time digesting the lactose that's present in milk, cheese, and yogurt.
#5. You’re Eating More Calories Than Usual
We sometimes confuse weight gain for bloating. When our waistband begins to feel a bit tight, it's normal to assume that we are just "a little bloated". In reality, we've expanded our waist circumference. We tend to notice weight gain in the middle section first because it affects how our clothing fits.
Look back at your eating habits over the past few weeks. Have you been reaching for more snacks than usual? Sticking to an eating plan for a month should help you to see if your bloating symptoms were just signs of minor weight gain.
#6. Extra Belly Fat Caused by Smoking or Alcohol Use
Our vices can sometimes catch up with us "out of the blue." Your bloating could be caused by smoking or drinking. According to a 2016 study focused on the link between smoking and functional gastrointestinal symptoms, smoking is associated with functional abdominal pain, functional bloating, and functional constipation. Alcohol is another bloating culprit because it often causes irritation within the stomach lining that leads to inflammation.
There's no "trick" to this one. Cut out smoking and drinking alcohol if you want to feel better. If you've been drinking what can be considered an excessive amount of alcohol, be sure to reach out for resources for properly detoxing from alcohol.
#7. It Could Be a Symptom of Another Serious Condition
We can't necessarily dismiss all bloating as harmless. While bloating is often just an inconvenience, it could also be an indicator of a serious digestive condition. Bloating is sometimes a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, gastroparesis, or certain cancers.
It's essential to see a doctor if you are experiencing chronic bloating that is accompanied by pain, bleeding, vomiting, or severe constipation. It's also wise to see a doctor if your bloating symptoms aren't resolving after dietary and lifestyle changes.
How Can a Woman Stop Bloating?
We can all do simple things every day to "beat the bloat." I'll admit that I've let my hectic schedule take me away from smart eating and consistent exercise until I've experienced strong bloating. Consider bloating your sign that it's time to reassess things. Here are my favorite hacks for stopping bloating.
"When you eat too fast, you swallow more air, which can cause bloating and gas," according to physicians associated with Northwestern University. This is where mindful eating becomes important! Slowing down to properly chew your food allows food particles to be broken down into smaller particles for better digestion. In my experience as a nutritionist, eating slowly can help us to feel more satisfied because we get to actually savor our food.
Bloating Relief Dietary Supplements
Consider taking anti-bloating supplements. I highlight this recommendation for anyone who suffers specifically from PMS-related bloating because supplements can help to get you over the hump. Supplements, such as probiotics for bloating and gas, can be great if you don't want to feel bogged down by bloating when you need to feel your best before heading to a big event.
How Can Women Prevent Bloating?
The goal isn't just to manage bloating once it starts. You should also be focused on getting your body in balance to prevent bloating. These are my tips for escaping the cause of bloating.
Eat Enough Fiber
Diet is probably the most important factor for preventing bloating. Get plenty of fiber from natural sources. This goes back to the leafy greens, fruits, and beans I discussed earlier. If your diet is lacking fiber, you can use a high-quality fiber supplement to fill in the gaps.
I can give you dozens of reasons for why you should be exercising several times a week. However, I suspect that the relief you get from bloating will be enough to keep you wanting to go back for more once you discover how good you can feel. Exercise keeps our GI muscles strong. As a result, our digestive systems can keep things moving along in a way that prevents gas from building up.
Awareness of Food Sensitivities
Is your gas constant, painful, and disruptive? It may be time to see a nutritionist about being tested for food sensitivities. Gluten, dairy, and eggs are some of the common irritants that cause gas in people with food sensitivities. If you have food sensitivity, the only way to get relief from constant inflammation is to eliminate the food from your diet.
Drink Enough Water
I like to see my own clients drinking 11 to 12 cups of water daily. I find that this is the amount that helps to keep things moving along for healthy digestion. Clear liquids are best when the goal is to hydrate to prevent bloating. In addition to water, broth is a great source of hydration and nourishment.
My Final Thoughts on How Women Can Stop Bloating
You can't just wish bloating away. A short bout of bloating typically doesn't require any action. However, you're being given a sign by your body that something is out of balance if you're suffering from chronic bloating. The tips I've shared should be enough to get you on the right track with determining the root cause of your discomfort. Be sure to reach out to your doctor if something with your digestive system just "isn't right" because bloating can sometimes have a serious cause that can't be treated with lifestyle changes. Overall, I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you can turn bloating around when you make simple changes to your diet!