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Why Do You Always Feel Bloated? An Expert Weighs In

Doctors reveal reasons for stomach bloating

Most people will experience bloating from time to time and while it's discomforting, chances are it's nothing to worry about. However, if it's a common occurrence it could indicate a bigger problem you should speak to your physician about. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to Dr. Marc Khorsandi, Gastroenterologist with Dignity Health Glendale Memorial and Dr. Reginald J. Jones, MD, FACS General Surgeon/Trauma Surgeon Director of Trauma Prevention Director of Disaster with Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center who explained a few causes behind regular bloating. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Signs of Bloating


Dr. Khorsandi says, "abdominal bloating is very common. Symptoms that could occur include belching, a sense of being gassy with abdominal pressure, or distension–visible enlargement around the waist. Bloating could occur with or without alteration of bowel habits. Patients with recurrent bloating and abdominal pain should see a gastrologist to rule out functional versus mechanical causes of bloating."


Why Bloating Happens

Young woman suffers, writhes in abdominal pain lying on couch in living room at home interior

Dr. Jones explains, "The stomach is a distensible reservoir that contains living bacteria which sends acid and enzymes to assist in digestion. As our stomach distends to accommodate the food, many factors occur to cause bloating. These factors include the volume ingested, our native bacteria, the gas content of the food or liquid, and the macromolecular composition of our food (i.e., the carbohydrates, proteins, and the fat content). For example, I think everyone can relate to drinking that carbonated beverage leading to distention and discomfort while waiting for that obligatory burp. Genetically, we also bring factors to our dinner table that may cause bloating. Different food intolerances (i.e. gluten), inflammatory bowel syndromes, and stress factors all play a very important role in digestion and ultimately bloating symptoms."

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woman stressed with work

Stress can cause numerous health issues, including stomach bloating, says Dr. Khorsandi."Stress can trigger stomach issues to even a point of tearing or a wearing of the stomach and intestinal lining."


Heart Attack

man having heart attack

While it's rare, stomach bloating can be a sign of a heart attack. "Holidays can also be troubling as stomach bloating and pain can also be a sign of a heart attack," Dr. Khorsandi says. "If you experience any chronic bloating or sudden chronic stomach issues, speak with your physician to be checked and learn about treatments and alternatives."

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Common Causes of Bloating with Constipation

upset woman in toilet by diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, piles

According to Dr.Khorsandi, common causes of bloating with constipation include, "IBS with constipation, slow transit constipation or dyssynergic defecation." 

In addition people who experience bloating and constipation could have SIBO. 

John Hopkins Medicine reports, "Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): Most healthy people have relatively few bacteria in the small intestine. People who have had intestinal surgery and/or IBS with diarrhea are more likely to have SIBO, which can cause bloating."


How Can We Modify Behavior to Mitigate Bloating?

woman chewing food

Dr. Jones lists the following ways we can help prevent bloating. 

  1. "Chew our food thoroughly and properly (don't just gulp and go).
  2. Smaller meal portions.
  3. Limit sugary food intake
  4. Avoid heavy fruit and legume intake (the insoluble or cellulose portions can cause bloating)."

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What we consume and put into our bodies makes a difference in how we feel. Salt, carbs, soda and dairy can all lead to bloating. For example, when it comes to salt, "Your body needs this, but most of us get more than we need. It makes you hold on to — or retain — water and can cause more serious health problems like high blood pressure. And it's not just the saltshaker you should avoid: If you're like many Americans, most of your salt comes from prepackaged and fast foods. Check food labels for salt (sodium) levels and remember: Just because you don't taste it doesn't mean it's not there," says WebMD.


Eating Too Fast

woman rushing

According to WebMD, having limited time to eat can be bad for your stomach.

"The faster you eat, the more air you swallow. And like with bubbly drinks, once that air passes to your intestine, it can make you feel bloated. It can take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you're full, so you can eat enough to make yourself bloated and uncomfortable before your brain gets the message." 

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When to see a Doctor for Stomach Bloating

woman Doctor in green uniform wear eyeglasses and surgical mask talking, consulting and giving advice to Elderly female patient at the hospital

Dr. Jones says, "if bloating is more than just an acute holiday or random occurrence, then the underlying problem may be a native enzyme deficiency (genetic causes) or endocrine insufficiency which requires a greater emphasis on testing, identification and significant behavior modifications which is beyond the scope of this discussion." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather