You’re not pregnant and you haven’t gained weight, but your jeans are straining at the waist. So what’s going on?
The slow digestive system is the one to blame about the puffy midsection, which can be a result of bloat, instead of fat, especially in women over 40. Here are the most common causes…
Possible Causes of a Bloated Stomach
- Digestive Disorders
Most people dealing with various functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease have bloating, gas, distension and other symptoms.
- Fluid Retention
Sometimes bodily fluids can be stored around the body, including near the abdomen or pelvis area, which causes excess bloating and temporary weight gain. You might also notice jewelry and clothes becoming tighter, extra swelling, and pain around joints or tightness in the skin. This can be due to a liver disease in some cases or rarely even from cancer.
Ever notice the day after you’ve been eating salty foods or drinking alcohol that you become dehydrated and bloated as a result? It might seem counterintuitive, but the more water you drink (or consume in water-heavy foods) and better you stay hydrated, the less bloating you’re likely to deal with. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances both halt digestion and make it hard to “stay regular.”
When your body tries to recover from you being dehydrated, it holds on to excess water to prevent the situation from happening again — plus you might find yourself becoming constipated. This means when you do finally drink more fluids, you’re likely to store them around your midsection and feel extra puffy.
This might be the most obvious reason you have a bloated stomach — you need to go to the bathroom! Constipation can cause stool to remain in the intestines, leaving you with a hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and gas. The biggest reasons for constipation include eating too little fiber, not drinking enough water, being too sedentary/avoiding physical activity and stress.
- Food Allergies or Sensitivities
Often, food allergies, sensitiveness or intolerances (like lactose intolerance) are common reasons for gas and bloating. There are dozens of other possible food allergies (like shellfish, nuts, eggs), but you’re likely to know if this is what you’re reacting to since symptoms are usually more noticeable.
- Hormonal changes
PMS is known to cause a bloated stomach and digestive issues since it makes you prone to constipation and fluid retention. This is common and not too much of a concern unless you notice other serious symptoms like an irregular menstrual cycle, fibroids or severe cramping.
- You eat too fast
If you don’t chew your food properly, the body will process it more slowly and bloating may appear. Therefore, it is very important to eat in small bites.
How To Flatten Your Bloated Stomach
For gas and bloating, drink a glass of vinegar in water before each meal. For heartburn, drink it as soon as you feel symptoms. The vinegar prevents bloating because it kick-starts digestion so your stomach can better manage your meal.
Measure 1 tablespoon of plain apple cider vinegar.
Pour the vinegar into the bottom of your glass.
Top with 8 to 16 ounces of cool water. Stir to blend so you don’t get a strong vinegar taste at the bottom. How much water you choose to use is based on your taste — a strong vinegar flavor can be off-putting to some people.
Here are some thoughts on how to take charge of your belly, banish the bloat and support the health of both your body and your mind:
1) Soothe your brain, soothe your belly.
An agitated brain can manifest itself in the belly with stress-induced GI disorders, which when combined with poor eating habits and/or medications, can include food allergies, IBD, IBS, ulcers, and GERD.
To help soothe all this the stress-induced inflammation, the first thing to do is to add stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, exercise, or yoga to your routine. The key is to get into the habit of becoming aware of when your stress levels are rising, and make time to consciously bring those levels down with stress-reducing techniques. Another soothing activity? Sleep – 7 hours of good, restful, sleep – it’s like a vacation for your brain.
2) Digestion starts in your mouth.
Your mouth is where digestion begins and saliva is the first step in the digestive process, so help the process along by chewing the daylights out of each bite to thoroughly break down the food before swallowing it. The more “processing” you do in your mouth, the easier it will be on your digestive tract, resulting in less bloating ‘round the mid-section.
3) Whoa, Nelly! Where’s the fire?
Inhaling a meal as if it were your last can create and exacerbate digestive problems. Make mealtimes your unwinding time, savor between bites and don’t rush. Eating slowly gives your body enough time to gear up, stoke the digestive fires and signal to the GI system that it’s time for digestion to begin. Gulping your food down in a hurry is akin to putting a pile of logs in the fireplace and expecting a crackling fire to materialize without striking a match.
5) Drink like a grown-up.
There are hundreds of reasons not to drink soda or carbonated beverages – and here’s another: they bloat your belly! You know the saying “garbage in, garbage out?” The same is true for bubbles. They go in one end and eventually out the other (with or without sound effects!), but in the meantime they tend pause in your belly, causing your mid-section to temporarily inflate. Why do that to your poor belly? Another bloat-avoidance tip: don’t drink through straws or chew gum, as both activities send extra air into the mid-section and can further inflate your belly.
6) Shop with your whole body in mind.
All the digestion tricks in the book won’t keep bloating and GI problems at bay if you’re eating nutritionally bankrupt foods – so give your body the nutritional support it craves by buying whole, unrefined, unprocessed, high quality foods. Eat organic and local to get the most bang for your nutritional buck – your belly will know the difference and behave better for it. Concerned about the added gas some veggies can cause? Then eat smaller servings to start and gradually increase veggie serving sizes over the course of a week or two to give your body time to adjust.
7) Tuck your belly in at night.
Every part of your body needs its rest; even your belly needs a time out. The easiest time to do it? After your evening meal. Get into the habit of resting your digestive system for at least 10 hours at night. For example, if you eat breakfast a 7:00 am, try not to eat anything after 9:00 PM. Another tip: don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime.
8) Yum! More bacteria, please!
In other words, help your belly along by adding probiotics, aka “good bacteria” to the mix. Add fermented foods to your plate plus a probiotic supplement. Boosting good bacteria is one of the simplest ways to restore the gut’s bacterial balance and start repairing gastrointestinal systems under siege.