Are you feeling bloated right now? If our collective internet histories are anything to go by, a lot of us are. Google Trends data shows that searches for “anti-bloating foods” have gone up by 400 percent in the last 30 days, while the number of people trying to establish the “reasons for bloating” has doubled. Bloating can feel uncomfortable and, in some extreme cases, debilitating, so understanding why we bloat—whether that’s due to irritable bowel syndrome or a reaction to certain foods—and ways to rectify it, is useful.
Before we start, it’s worth noting that there’s a dark side to the world of bloating remedies. The term has 532.8 million views on TikTok, with a worrying number of posts highlighting users with six-packs, showing how they “reduce bloating.” While some might be well-intentioned and even helpful, the topic can quickly veer into detox tea territory, so it’s really important to only seek out and heed advice from qualified experts when it comes to your digestive health.
Here, Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist, naturopath, and founder of Artah, explains some of the key things to know about preventing and treating bloating.
Focus on your motility
Motility is the gut’s ability to successfully contract and move food through the digestive tract – if it is slow, you’re more likely to experience bloating. “If motility continues to be slow for some time, it can contribute to constipation, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and other bacterial imbalances in the gut,” Stephenson explains. “Poor motility is common in those suffering diabetes, chronic stress, and thyroid issues, but one of its key regulators is triggered by the absence of food, so eating too frequently can also slow things down.”
If you are chronically stressed, make relaxation—breathwork, going for a walk, even deliberately putting your phone down—a priority. If eating too frequently could be the issue, Stephenson recommends leaving at least 12 hours between your dinner and breakfast the following morning, and avoiding grazing. “Aim for a three to four hour gap between meals during the day,” she advises. “Walking is a prokinetic agent for the gut, which means it helps everything move, so try and walk after meals, or even just more frequently throughout the day.”
Avoid raw food
When feeling bloated, you might assume that simple, raw food is a good idea – incorrect. “Too much raw food can be difficult to digest and will exacerbate bloating if your digestive system is under fire,” says Stephenson. “Many vegetables have tough cellular structures that require more energy to digest, so while they are great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, you should seek to reduce your intake if bloating is an issue.”