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Ask a Dietitian: Why Do I Get Bloated?

We're digging into the science behind bloating. What it is, why it happens and what can you do to help manage it with our expert Gastroenterology Dietitian, Dr Sammie Gill.

What is bloating?

Bloating is a feeling of pressure or tightness in your gut. Your gut may also look visibly larger or swollen, called distension.

Bloating can occur in different locations – some people may experience upper abdominal bloating which is above the belly button, while others may experience lower abdominal bloating, below the belly button.

Upper abdominal bloating may be due to a sluggish upper gut called gastroparesis or eating behaviours such as eating too quickly. On the other hand, lower abdominal bloating may be due to gas build-up caused by food intolerances or other gut disorders such as constipation.

It’s also important to be mindful of the pattern of bloating. For example, intermittent bloating that is transient, or bloating that increases throughout the day is more common and likely due to factors such as gas build-up, a by-product of fermentation by gut microbes.

Bloating around the time of your period is also common. This is triggered by changes in hormone levels mainly estrogen and progesterone.

Remember that a bit of bloating is perfectly normal – in fact, it’s the sign of a healthy functioning gut. But, if it’s continuous and persists no matter what or with no obvious explanation, speak to your GP. This type of bloating can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Similarly, if it’s uncomfortable, painful, and/or interfering with your daily life, seek support.

Why does it happen and what can you do to improve it?

Bloating can happen for many reasons. Below I've shared some of the common ones and what you can do to help.


If you have IBS, you may be more sensitive to the gas produced by certain food groups. This can lead to feeling bloated.

Try this: Find your triggers. Complete a food and fluid diary over 2-4 weeks to help tease out patterns. Seek support from a gastroenterology dietitian.


If you’re feeling stressed, your gut will feel stressed too. Stress affects motility, speeding things up or slowing things down, which can trigger bloating.

Try this: Relax the gut-brain axis. Meditation, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing and gut-directed hypnotherapy can all help. There are lots of apps too, such as Headspace and Calm.

Eating behaviour

Eating too quickly, eating too much and overloading your gut, or eating while distracted can lead to swallowing of large amounts of air and feeling bloated. Plus, if you’re not chewing your food well, your gut must work harder to break it down.

Try this: Slow the pace of your eating and practice eating mindfully. Chew your food well (aim for a minimum of 10-20 chews). Try consuming smaller, more frequent meals (e.g. six smaller meals rather than three larger ones). Avoid drinking through a straw.

Tight clothes

Tight clothes can put extra stress and pressure around the gut area, contributing to feeling bloated.

Try this: Choose flexible materials that give. Go for something stretchy and comfortable that isn’t too tight or restrictive.


Fibre is essential for gut health, but eating too much fibre in one go can trigger bloating. This is because your microbes feast on fibre and release gas as a by-product.

Try this: Spreading meals throughout the day (e.g. six smaller meals rather than three larger ones) can reduce the fibre load. Increasing fibre gradually by making small tweaks (e.g. switching from white to wholegrain bread) will also help to minimise bloating.


Regularly consuming high salt foods (e.g. cured meats, cheese, sauces, tinned soups) can lead to water retention and interfere with digestive processes – combined, this can trigger bloating.

Try this: UK Guidelines recommend no more than 6g salt per day (one level teaspoon). Be aware of which foods contain high levels of salt.


Sitting for extended periods of time can slow digestion and trigger bloating.

Try this: Keeping active can improve gut motility – try and integrate activity into your daily routine. Why not get outside and go for a walk, do a fifteen-minute YouTube work out, or go for a leisurely swim at a local sport centre. Stretching can also help relax the gut while compressing can help with the movement of gas - yoga poses are good for this.

Dietary supplements

Most people can meet their daily vitamin and mineral requirements by eating a healthy, balanced diet (with some exceptions, such as vitamin D). Over-supplementation when you don’t need it can do more harm than good, causing side effects, such as bloating.

Try this: Vet the dietary supplements you’re taking on a daily basis. Don’t exceed the daily recommended amount (unless advised by a healthcare professional).


Carbonated drinks contain high amounts of gas. When you drink these, you end up swallowing this gas – this can worsen bloating. Diet drinks containing sweeteners (such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol) can also worsen bloating in some people.

Try this: Opt for alternatives like fruit teas, water infused with fruit, diluted fruit juice, milk, kefir, or kombucha.

Other things to try…

Peppermint is a well-known antispasmodic. It has a calming effect on the gut, helping the gut wall to relax. Peppermint oil capsules can help with gut symptoms, including bloating.

A microwavable heat pack or hot water bottle can help relax the gut muscles, while a gut massage helps trapped gas to move through the gut more easily.

Certain probitocis may help to reduce bloating. Trial for 4-12 weeks according to NICE guidelines. Record your symptoms over the time you’re taking them so you can decide at the end whether to continue.

Read more from our Ask a Dietitian series:

How can I help manage chronic constipation?

How much gas is normal?

How can I help manage diarrhoea?

NB: There is no one approach to managing bloating and different approaches will work for different people. It’s often a combination of approaches that can help. For tailored advice, please seek advice from a registered dietitian.