Surprising Reasons Your Belly Is Bloated

This common symptom can be triggered by certain foods, but it also can be the result of other, more surprising factors.

1. Stomach Bug About 25% of patients who get gastroenteritis, a stomach infection, have bloating even after the illness clears. A likely suspect: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In SIBO patients, abnormal levels of microbes colonise the small intestine, which can lead to gas and bloating, says Dr Henry Lin, chief of gastroenterology at the New Mexico VA Health Care System. Gastroenteritis can disrupt your defence mechanisms that normally keep bacteria out of the small intestine, leading to SIBO. It is typically diagnosed with a breath test and can be treated with antibiotics or other approaches.

2. Watermelon Snack Sweet, refreshing, thirst-quenching – and bloating. Watermelon – like apples, pears and mangoes – has a high ratio of fructose to glucose (both sugars occur naturally in fruit). This can cause gas and bloating in the estimated one in three people who has difficulty digesting fructose. If this sounds like you, switch to fruit with a more balanced fructose-to-glucose ratio, such as bananas and blueberries.

3. Skipping Exercise The last thing you may want to do on a “fat day” is squeeze into workout clothes. But physical activity stimulates the muscles of your digestive tract, and helps move the food and air bubbles that make you feel bloated through your GI tract. In one small German study, people who took a post-dinner stroll significantly sped up the time it took their body to digest their meal.

4. Holidays Almost 50% of people become constipated when they travel, says gastroenterologist Dr Ed Levine. Changes in your circadian rhythm throw off the hormones that help food and waste move through your gut. When the bacteria in your intestines produce air, it can get trapped in your digestive tract and cause bloating. Prevent it by sticking to your bedtime and mealtime routines as much as possible.

5. Work Deadline “When you experience fight-or-flight symptoms, like a racing heart, your body diverts blood flow away from your GI tract, which slows down digestion,” says Levine. Heavy breathing, which occurs when you’re under stress, makes you swallow more air than usual and can also lead to bloating. To feel better, simply focus on changing your breathing pattern so you exhale for a few counts longer than you inhale. This turns off the stress response and moves your body into a calmer state.

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