We’ve all had that feeling before — the heavy, dreaded discomfort of belly bloat after a meal. Bloating is not fun. It can cause pain, make you self-conscious, and even hurt your productivity and self-esteem.
There are a lot of possible reasons you get bloated after a meal. They aren’t always related to food, either: stress, hormonal changes, and lack of sleep can all cause bloat.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to stop bloating and feel your best. As an integrative physician, I’ve spent the last decade working with thousands of patients. Here are my top ways to prevent bloating after you eat.
Try probiotics and prebiotics
Bloating often happens because of dysbiosis — an imbalance in your gut bacteria. You have millions of bacteria in your gut, and if your gut is healthy, the good bacteria thrive and prevent the bad bacteria from growing out of control.
But if your gut health suffers, the bad bacteria can start to take over, causing bloating, digestive issues, and even brain fog and low mood.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can restore your gut balance and help you eliminate bloat . You can also use prebiotics, special types of fiber that feed good gut bacteria and help them grow, improving your gut health even more.
You can take a probiotic supplement or get your probiotics from fermented foods. Good sources include:
Good sources of prebiotic fiber include:
- Jerusalem artichoke (you can take jerusalem artichoke syrup as well)
That said, some people find their bloating gets worse when they eat prebiotic fiber. If you find that’s true for you, see the section below on FODMAPs.
Use digestive herbs and spices
In Ayurveda, practitioners recommend digestion-soothing herbs and spices like ginger, fennel, turmeric, and clove to relieve bloating and settle your stomach.
Western medicine has found the same. Ginger reduces bloating, gas, and discomfort in patients with digestive issues , as do fennel and turmeric .
You can also try tulsi (holy basil) tea. It’s a traditional Ayurvedic remedy, and patients with indigestion saw significant improvement in their symptoms after using or drinking tulsi .
Cut down on FODMAPs
Some people struggle to digest FODMAPs, an acronym for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.”
FODMAPs are types of fiber (including some prebiotic fibers) that your gut bacteria ferment, producing gas and other metabolites that can cause bloating.
How you react to FODMAPs depends on your gut bacteria. If you find vegetables, garlic, onion, sugar, starches, and other high-fiber or high-carb foods make your bloating worse, you may be better off avoiding FODMAPs. You can find a list of high-FODMAP and low-FODMAP foods here.
Increase your stomach acid
Often, bloating comes from poor digestion. If your stomach doesn’t have the acidity it needs to break down food, you can end up bloated as the food moves through your colon.
A lot of people take antacids to relieve indigestion and heartburn, but they actually neutralize your stomach’s acidity, which provides short-term relief but makes matters worse long-term.
Instead, if you have bloating or heartburn, start your mornings with a glass of water that has a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added. The extra acidity will help you digest better, which can be a quick and simple fix for belly bloat.
Pay attention to stress and sleep
It’s counterintuitive, but stress and lack of sleep can also cause bloating . Researchers aren’t entirely sure why stressors often trigger digestive issues. What’s clearer is that relieving the stress in your life can go a long way toward reducing belly bloat, pain, and indigestion.
This article covers some of my favorite stress relievers, as well as a guide to sleeping deeper so your body can relax and recover. You may be drawn to meditation, exercise, reading, an epsom salt soak with essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, or just taking a couple hours at night for some time to yourself.
Whatever it is, incorporate a couple stress relievers into your day. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in today’s fast-paced world, and taking a little time to relax will help you with far more than just bloating and indigestion.
Try my belly bloat smoothie recipe
Finally, if you want to get rid of belly bloat fast, this smoothie recipe can help keep your tummy flat and happy. It has lemon juice to help your stomach acid, as well as plenty of healthy fiber and antioxidants from fresh fruits and veggies. For even better results, you can try adding ginger or a pinch of fennel seed.
Bloating and pain after a meal isn’t inevitable. Use these strategies to relieve belly bloat and look and feel your best. And for more personalized diet and lifestyle tools, try taking my Power Type Quiz. It will give you helpful advice based on your unique biology.
- Hungin, A. P. S., Mitchell, C. R., Whorwell, P., Mulligan, C., Cole, O., Agréus, L., … & Seifert, B. (2018). Systematic review: probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms–an updated evidence‐based international consensus. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 47(8), 1054-1070. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5900870/
- Nikkhah Bodagh, M., Maleki, I., & Hekmatdoost, A. (2019). Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: a systematic review of clinical trials. Food science & nutrition, 7(1), 96-108. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/
- Portincasa, P., Bonfrate, L., Scribano, M. L., Kohn, A., Caporaso, N., Festi, D., … & Fogli, M. V. (2016). Curcumin and Fennel Essential Oil Improve Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of Gastrointestinal & Liver Diseases, 25(2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27308645
- Cohen, M. M. (2014). Tulsi-Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/
- Agrawal, A., & Whorwell, P. J. (2008). abdominal bloating and distension in functional gastrointestinal disorders–epidemiology and exploration of possible mechanisms. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 27(1), 2-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17931344/