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Bloating occurs when a buildup of gas gets trapped in your gastrointestinal tract, which leads to a protruding belly and painful physical sensations, such as heartburn, constipation, cramping and abdominal aches.

The largest contributor of bloating and abdominal pain is your diet. Food digests in the small intestine, and food particles that don’t get properly digested leave the colon as gas. Food allergies are obvious dietary constraints that lead to bloating, but even if you don’t have any food intolerances, there are certain foods that are hard for the human body to digest, like excessively salty, fatty, fried, fibrous or spicy foods. In addition to dietary causes, lifestyle behaviors, hormonal changes and health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome, cause digestive distress and abdominal discomfort.  

Luckily, you can make dietary and lifestyle tweaks to combat belly bloat and alleviate those nagging symptoms. Try these effective, practical and fast-acting remedies for instant relief.

Rule out food intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances cause gas production in your digestive system because your body can’t properly digest those foods. The most common food intolerances are lactose and gluten. Lactose is a sugar molecule in dairy products, such as cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. A whopping 75 percent of the population is unable to break down lactose, which makes it a common gas-producing substance. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, spelt and barley, and those with celiac disease cannot digest it.

To conclude whether these substances or other troublesome foods give you digestive trouble, keep a food journal. Record the foods you eat and the symptoms you experience each day to pinpoint which foods provoke bloating and abdominal discomfort. Eliminate each food to discern whether your physical symptoms improve. Once you figure out what’s stirring up your stomach, cut those foods out of your diet for good.

Adjust your diet

Even if you don’t have a food intolerance, there are certain foods and drinks that produce gas and trigger bloating. FODMAPs are carbs that the human body cannot easily digest, so they cause your belly to swell up. To prevent abdominal pain, steer clear of high-FODMAP foods, such as onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, artichokes, beans and apples. When you’re preparing a meal or grabbing a snack, try easing up on the salt, which causes water retention, and avoid sugar alcohols, which produce gas.

As for drinks, limit your consumption of sodas, seltzers and any other fizzy beverages because they contain carbon dioxide bubbles that stretch out the stomach and trap gas. You can also do your belly a favor by cutting back on alcohol because it’s dehydrating and retains liquids.

Get your daily dose of probiotics 

Taking a probiotic every day is a popular trend that health and wellness bloggers constantly post about on Instagram. And all of the hype is valid. Your intestines contain a ton of bacteria that regulate digestion, and when those bacteria are out of whack, they generate gas. Probiotics are live microorganisms that keep your gut healthy and happy by helping your digestive system operate smoothly. You can increase your consumption of probiotics by eating foods that naturally contain microorganisms, such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi or sauerkraut. You can also take a daily dietary supplement, which quickly reduces bloating and the production of gas.

Pile on the herbs

Whether you want to savor a hot cup of herbal tea or sprinkle herbs on your salad, these natural substances contain carminative properties that relieve gas and bloating. Ginger is one herb that treats bloating and nausea by speeding up the rate at which your body digests food and expels gas. Peppermint is another herb that relieves abdominal pain and cramping by relaxing the intestinal muscles. If you’re PMSing and holding on to every liquid you ingest, try dandelion. Dandelion acts as a diuretic, so it drains excess water your body can’t seem to get rid of. 

Squeeze in some movement

There’s a reason why exercise is the solution to every health problem. Not only does physical activity ward off diseases, boost your mood, speed up your metabolism and contribute to weight loss, but it also keeps your bowel movements regular. Taking a stroll around your neighborhood after dinner or doing a dance cardio routine found in the Online Studio can release gas and speed up the digestion process.

Make lifestyle changes

There are a handful of daily habits that may secretly be making your belly bloat. You can make changes to your routine and stop bad habits right in their tracks. Since large meals make our stomachs swell up like a balloon, limit your portion sizes and opt for more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day. You can also banish the bloat by eating slowly, ditching gum and limiting straws so that you don’t swallow an excessive amount of air. By following these dietary and lifestyle changes, you’ll bust the bloat and shrink your stomach in no time.