Bloating isn’t just an inconvenience that keeps you from being able to zip up your favorite pair of skinny jeans for a night out—it can also be super-uncomfortable.
Sometimes, you know exactly what caused your puffiness (like that huge dinner you just had); but other times, the cause of the bloating isn’t so clear (was it something small you ate? Was it how you ate it?)
Turns out, there are lots of reasons why you might feel weighed down all of a sudden, says Natalie Allen, R.D., instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University. Here are some of the likeliest culprits in your battle of the bloat.
1. You just drank seltzer.
This one is obvious: The carbonation in seltzer water, soda, and champagne is going to fill your stomach up with air bubbles and make you bloated, says Allen. To avoid it, drink tap or bottled water—and if you really love seltzer, don’t drink it too fast, and drink it in moderation.
2. You sipped through a straw.
You swallow more air when drinking through a straw, says Allen, and that air will go straight into your stomach. Take the top off your iced coffee or smoothie and drink directly from the cup.
3. You had a kale salad for lunch.
“Kale has a lot of nutrition and is a great food option, but it’s in the cruciferous vegetable family so it may cause bloating,” says Allen.
The leafy green vegetable also contains a lot of fiber and a sugar called raffinose, which your stomach may struggle to break down. According to Allen, a good rule of thumb for high-fiber foods is to drink lots of water to aid the digestion process and avoid bloat.
4. You went overboard on the baked brie.
Cheese is a dairy product, which means it’s high in lactose (milk sugar). Allen warns that people who are lactose intolerant—even mildly—may regret going hog wild over soft cheeses like brie because they’re likely to induce uncomfortable gas and bloating. Hard cheese, on the other hand, might be easier for some to stomach, as it may contain less lactose.
5. You ordered a side of fries.
“Greasy, high-fat foods like fries can cause bloating by taking longer to digest,” says Allen. The sodium in fries, which might make you retain water, won’t do you any favors, either. Allen recommends skipping the fries when you’re eating out and baking them at home instead, so you can control the amount of fat and salt included.
6. You chewed gum.
Just like drinking from a straw, chewing gum can cause you to swallow more air, says Allen. Guess where all that air winds up? Yup, in your stomach. Plus, gum contains sugar alcohols (like xylitol and sorbitol) that can make you feel puffy, too.
7. You snacked on an apple
If you’re not used to consuming lots of fiber, explains Allen, your otherwise-healthy Granny Smith might leave you groaning. Not telling you not to eat apples here—they’re a smart (and delicious!) snack option. But eating more fiber on a regular basis should help ease the amount of bloating over time. Meanwhile, you can bake your apples for a sweet treat—cooking fiber-rich foods makes them a little easier on your tummy.
8. You chowed down on bean dip.
The bad news: The high amount of fiber in beans makes them a prime cause for bloating and gas. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. “By eating a serving of beans daily, the body will adapt and learn to digest them,” says Allen. Plus, beans are chock full of protein, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be eating them every day.
9. You ate too fast.
I know—you only get 30 minutes for lunch (on a good day), and you’ve got to make a few personal phone calls and hit the pharmacy before your break ends. Eating a leisurely lunch isn’t a priority. But rushing through it will make you inhale way more air and hamper your digestion, too, says Allen. “Chew your food well and take at least 20 minutes to eat,” she recommends.
10. You ordered barley soup.
You really wanted that creamy broccoli cheddar soup for lunch, but you went for the heart-healthy barley soup instead—and now you’re stuck with a swollen tummy. Why? Barley is a complex carbohydrate, which means it takes longer for your stomach to digest, says Allen—especially if you don’t eat a ton of it already. If you love the stuff, work it into your diet slowly, or opt for something gentler like quinoa.
11. You ate before working out.
Stomach issues after a workout are often related to what you ate prior to hitting the gym. “Blood flow moves from the digestive tract to the muscles during exercise, which could impair digestion,” says Allen. Keep your pre-workout noshes light and simple—like half a banana or a mini protein bar–so your stomach doesn’t have to work overtime during your spin class.
12. You overindulged in sugar-free candies.
You rewarded yourself for ignoring the leftover Halloween candy in the break room with a few sugar-free candies back at your desk, but you still feel uncomfortably bloated. What gives? Well, just like most chewing gum, sugar-free candy contains sugar alcohols, which Allen says are not well-digested by our bodies. Next time, maybe just let yourself have the mini Snickers bar instead.
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