Sustainable Nutrition

Why Am I Always Bloated?

Written By: Kripa Jalan

Why Am I Always Bloated?

Bloating is one of the most commonly reported GI complaints. However, while it may be common, only a certain amount is considered ‘normal.’

For some people looking bloated is of more concern than feeling bloated. Many clients come to me complaining about being “bloated” when in fact it’s not bloating caused by normal or abnormal digestion at all, but rather just a change in body composition they may not be used to.

Let’s say you eat a huge meal and you’re a little bit uncomfortable or bloated, that may be considered normal, in most cases. Sometimes you may even feel unusually full if you eat too quickly. But, if you’re experiencing digestive distress with most things you eat or for prolonged periods, and it’s hard to identify food triggers, that could be a cause for concern.

What is bloating?

Depending on the individual, bloating will most likely look or feel different for each person. People often think bloating is simply water retention, but that’s not the case. Bloating feels like an uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful belly. In some cases, it could be characterized by swelling/distension. It’s generally a condition caused by trapped gas in the large intestine or an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that’s fermenting the food we’re eating. The body could then potentially release the bloating by releasing the extra gas or air – via belching or farting.

What are the causes of bloating? 

While bloat isn’t always caused by things like diet, inactivity, and a change in routine – these are major factors for many of the clients we see in our clinic. Stress can be one cause. That’s because when we’re stressed, the body is in flight-or-fight mode, which causes the digestive system to slow down. Another could be hidden food sensitivities and intolerances. In some cases, bloating could be a sign of a larger health concern like gut dysbiosis or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. 

Additionally, other factors may contribute to bloating:

  • Drinking carbonated beverages, like sparkling water
  • Eating too fast
  • Not chewing your food thoroughly
  • Not eating enough fiber or eating too much raw fiber
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not having a bowel movement at least once a day
  • Smoking
  • Eating large or oversized portions
  • Taking certain medications
  • Eating too late close to bedtime

What you can do...

When we understand the various bloating causes, it is easier to come up with a plan of action to address what is going on beneath the surface. Of course, individuals are unique, so their treatment protocol would be individualized too. However, most people can benefit from one or more of these recommendations. For starters, try and eat slowly. This way you’ll avoid taking in more air and you’re less likely to overeat and contribute to added fullness and bloat. Exercise is also helpful in expelling gas in some cases as it improves circulation. Even a simple 30-minute walk or restorative yoga flow can help. On the supplement front, probiotics and magnesium can help with bowel movements and may consequently help with bloating. As a last resort, you may want to consider doing an elimination diet under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner to help identify foods that could be exacerbating your digestive issues.

Should I be concerned?

While bloating (abdominal distension) is part of the digestion process, there are of course factors that may cause an increase in bloating, where it might not be normal.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself if you need to go see your doctor or make an appointment with a dietitian. Are you experiencing:

  • uncontrolled vomiting
  • uncontrolled diarrhea
  • constipation, no bowel movements for days at a time
  • blood in your stool or vomit
  • dizziness, light headiness
  • nausea with every meal
  • painful bowel movements
  • bloating with every meal you eat

Need additional support in understanding and overcoming your gut issues? We can help!