Ever had this happen to you? You finish eating a meal and all of a sudden – you can practically watch it happen – your belly seems to almost double in size. It’s not that you’ve eaten too much – it’s more like your belly has suddenly been pumped full of air, like a balloon. Your tummy presses against your belt or your waistband, and you grow more and more uncomfortable. Finally, you just have to give in – loosening your belt, unzipping your pants or rearranging the elastic on your underwear – since your increasingly fat-looking belly is becoming more uncomfortable by the minute.
Common causes of abdominal bloating
When you get that ‘puffed up’ fat belly feeling, it’s often the result of air that gets trapped in your digestive tract. But that extra air can come from a surprising number of sources. Often, it’s simply a matter of swallowing excess air while you’re eating – which can happen if you eat too quickly, drink liquids through a straw, or talk while you’re chewing. And if your meal includes carbonated beverages – even sparkling water – you’re chugging down not just liquid, but air too.
Let’s say you take your time, you steer clear of straws and you never talk with your mouth full – but you’ve still got the fat belly bloat. Where else could that air be coming from? When you eat certain plant foods – like cabbage, broccoli or beans – you’re not swallowing air, but they’re notorious gas-producers, simply because the body has a tough time breaking down some of the carbohydrates and natural sugars that they contain. Once the bacteria in your digestive tract get to working on them, there’s plenty of gas released in the process.
Some people find that certain sweeteners give them indigestion too, especially if they take in a large amount at one time. And gum chewers should take note – you’re likely gulping down plenty of air while you’re chomping away. There’s also the possibility that you have a food allergy or intolerance that leads to indigestion, gas, and bloating, but that’s best determined by your doctor.
Tips to beat that bloated belly feeling
Eating quickly can sometimes be traced back to a skipped meal – so don’t skip and make sure to take your time when you do sit down. Not using a straw is easy, and there are plenty of reasons not to chat with your mouth full. Instead of carbonated beverages, try switching to plain water (maybe flavor with lemon, lime or cucumber if you don’t like plain water) or tea. You might be tempted to give up the veggies and beans that give you gas, but they’re such healthy foods, you don’t really want to ditch them. Instead, try small portions and eat them frequently – which often allows your digestive system to adjust. You can even replace the gum-chewing habit by munching on healthy raw veggies instead.
If you suspect that you have a problem with lactose (the natural sugar found in dairy products) or perhaps with gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), you can try eliminating these foods to see if ithelps, but you don’t want to give up these healthy foods unnecessarily – so it would be wise to check in with your doctor to be sure.
Written by Susan Bowerman. Susan is a paid consultant to Herbalife.