How do you deflate a bloated stomach?

What causes bloating?

Bloating is when your belly feels swollen or enlarged after eating. It is usually caused by gas or fluid retention. The most common causes of bloating are:

  • Eating too much at one time
  • Eating foods that are hard to digest like beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and apples
  • Not chewing food thoroughly
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Eating too fast
  • Food sensitivities or allergies
  • Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine
  • Constipation
  • Swallowing air when eating or drinking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Certain medications like antibiotics, pain medicines, antidepressants

When you eat foods that are difficult to digest, it can lead to excess gas production and bloating. Food sensitivities, constipation, swallowing air, and gut health imbalances can also contribute. For women, hormonal fluctuations right before their periods can also bring it on. In some cases, bloating may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

How long does bloating last?

For occasional bloating after a heavy meal, it may resolve itself within a few hours. But if you experience chronic or recurrent bloating, it can persist for days or weeks at a time. The duration depends on the underlying cause. For example, bloating from constipation may last until your bowel movements get back to normal. Premenstrual bloating generally lasts up to a week. With food sensitivities, bloating may come and go depending on your diet. If there is an infection or serious digestive disorder involved, bloating can become prolonged without proper treatment.

When to see a doctor

In most cases, minor bloating can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter remedies. See your doctor if you experience:

  • Bloating that is persistent or severe
  • Bloating accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, pain, or weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever, vomiting, or blood in your stool

These symptoms could indicate a medical condition requiring treatment, such as:

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Gastroparesis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colon cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Giardiasis

Your doctor can help diagnose the cause and rule out potentially serious illnesses. Depending on your symptoms, they may order blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, or other imaging tests.

10 ways to get rid of bloating fast

When bloating flares up, here are some quick tips to find relief:

1. Massage your stomach

Gently rubbing or massaging your tummy can help gas pass through. Try laying down and circling your stomach in a clockwise direction using your hands. Apply light pressure and massage around the swollen areas.

2. Go for a walk

Getting moving can stimulate the muscles in your gut to push out excess gas and stool. A quick 10-15 minute walk may be enough to get things moving through your system again.

3. Drink ginger tea

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the gut. Try sipping on ginger tea or adding fresh grated ginger to hot water. The phytochemicals may relax gastrointestinal muscles to release trapped gas.

4. Take activated charcoal

Activated charcoal supplements can absorb excess gas in your intestines. Look for capsules made from coconut charcoal. Take as directed on an empty stomach and wait an hour before eating. Don’t take activated charcoal for more than a few days.

5. Try abdominal yoga poses

Certain yoga positions can stretch out your core and encourage the release of gas. The child’s pose, happy baby pose, and knees to chest pose put pressure on the abdomen. Hold each pose for 2-5 deep breaths.

6. Have peppermint tea or capsules

Peppermint is a natural anti-spasmodic. It contains menthol, which can relax muscle contractions and help gas dissipate. Sip on peppermint tea or take enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.

7. Use a hot water bottle

Applying warmth to your stomach can provide relief from bloating. Lay down and place a hot water bottle or heating pad on your belly for 10-15 minutes as needed. The heat helps muscles relax.

8. Try an over-the-counter remedy

Simethicone products like Gas-X contain an anti-foaming agent to break up gas bubbles in your gut. Beano has an enzyme to make it easier to digest beans and other gas-causing foods. Look for chewable or liquid forms for faster relief.

9. Avoid chewing gum

Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can lead to bloating. Avoid gum while you’re feeling gassy. Also skip hard candy, which makes you gulp down air as well.

10. Loosen tight clothing

If your bloating is accompanied by abdominal discomfort, loosen your belt, button pants, or skirt waistband. Tight clothes can put pressure on your belly and exacerbate symptoms. Wear loose, comfortable fabrics until it passes.

12 ways to reduce bloating long-term

To prevent recurrent bloating, try making some dietary and lifestyle changes:

1. Limit gas-producing foods

Some of the biggest offenders are beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic, leeks, peas, and raisins. Soak beans before cooking, chew thoroughly, and spread servings out over days rather than all at once.

2. Slow down while eating

Eating too fast causes you swallow more air, leading to bloating. Set utensils down between bites, chew each mouthful 20-30 times, and take pauses during meals. This allows food time to digest.

3. Avoid straws and gum

Cut out drinking through straws and chewing gum, both of which cause excess air swallowing that can build up in your GI tract. Stay hydrated by drinking water normally from a glass instead.

4. Check for food intolerances

Food sensitivities to dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, and seafood are common triggers. Try an elimination diet to pinpoint problem foods, then avoid them to prevent bloating.

5. Treat constipation

Straining with bowel movements traps air in the colon. Relieve constipation by eating more fiber, drinking fluids, exercising, and consider a stool softener or laxative if needed.

6. Manage stress

High stress can disrupt your gut microbiome balance and slow digestion, leading to bloating. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, journaling, or talking to a therapist.

7. Get checked for SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth involves excessive bacteria in the small intestine causing gas and bloating. Your doctor can test for SIBO and determine if antibiotics are needed.

8. Take probiotics

Probiotics may improve digestion by optimizing the balance of good bacteria in your gut. Look for broad-spectrum formulas with minimum 10 billion CFU daily.

9. Try digestive enzymes

Over-the-counter enzyme supplements can help break down foods to prevent indigestion and gas. They contain enzymes like lactase, lipase, amylase, and protease.

10. Stay active

Regular exercise stimulates bowel motility to reduces stagnation and constipation that contribute to bloating. Aim for brisk walking or moderate activity for 30-45 minutes daily.

11. Maintain good posture

Slouching can make your belly appear more distended, while sitting and standing tall engages the core to look slimmer. Pull shoulders back and keep your spine aligned.

12. Wear looser clothing

Tight pants, shapewear, belts, and slim-fitting dresses put external pressure on your abdomen. Opt for looser, high-waisted pants and flowy tops to avoid irritation when bloated.

5 foods that help reduce bloating

Adding more bloat-busting foods into your diet can also help deflate a swollen stomach:

1. Yogurt

Probiotic yogurt helps populate your gut with beneficial bacteria to promote better digestion and reduce gas. Go for plain, unsweetened varieties.

2. Papaya

Papaya contains the enzyme papain which aids protein digestion to prevent bloating after high-protein meals. Enjoy fresh or in smoothies.

3. Fennel

Fennel has anti-inflammatory properties and naturally occurring anti-spasmodics to relax the muscles in the GI tract and relieve cramping.

4. Cucumber

Cucumbers are diuretic to reduce water retention and flush out excess sodium contributing to bloat. Make cucumber water or add slices to salads.

5. Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory effects that helps break down proteins in the gut to reduce bloating and gas.

Anti-bloating meal plan

Here is a sample 1-day meal plan with foods that ease digestion and prevent a bloated stomach:

Meal Foods
Breakfast Oatmeal with cinnamon, banana, 2 scrambled eggs, herbal tea
Lunch Chicken salad sandwich on gluten-free bread, yogurt, sliced cucumbers
Snack Small handful of almonds, apple
Dinner Baked salmon, quinoa, roasted asparagus, fennel sauteed in olive oil
Dessert Papaya slices

Focus on lean proteins, complex carbs, non-gassy veggies, fruits, and probiotic foods. Limit dairy, beans, cruciferous veggies, carbonated beverages, and excess sugar. Stay hydrated with water between meals.

When to see your doctor

Occasional bloating can often be managed at home with lifestyle remedies. But contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Frequent or severe abdominal bloating
  • Bloating that persists for weeks
  • Pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your stool
  • Fever or chills
  • Cramping that wakes you up at night
  • Persistent appetite changes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bowel habit changes persisting more than 2 weeks

These may indicate an underlying medical condition requiring diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms like pain, vomiting, and bleeding warrant prompt medical care.

Some key things your doctor will look for include:

  • Food intolerances like lactose, fructose, gluten
  • Gut infections
  • Gastrointestinal disorders e.g. IBS, IBD, cancer
  • Pelvic issues in women e.g. endometriosis, ovarian cysts
  • Medication side effects
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Poor gut motility
  • Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO)
  • Enzyme deficiencies

Based on your symptoms and exam, your doctor may order blood work, stool studies, hydrogen breath testing for SIBO, endoscopy, ultrasound, CT scan, or other imaging. Proper treatment can help resolve stubborn bloating when simple home remedies aren’t working.

When to go to the emergency room

Seek emergency care right away if you have:

  • Sharp or severe abdominal pain
  • Fever over 101 F (38.3 C)
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Signs of shock e.g. rapid heart rate, confusion, clammy skin, lightheadedness
  • Blood in vomit or black/tarry stool
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent bloating or swelling of the abdomen

These can indicate a medical emergency such as:

  • Appendicitis
  • Intestinal obstruction or perforation
  • Peritonitis
  • Abdominal abscess
  • Volvulus or bowel twisting
  • Heart attack

Severe bloating accompanied by concerning symptoms warrants rapid evaluation to rule out potentially life-threatening illnesses. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital in these situations – call 911 for emergency assistance. Prompt treatment is crucial.


Mild occasional bloating after meals is usually no cause for alarm and can often be relieved with simple home remedies. But chronic or recurring bloating, especially when accompanied by concerning symptoms, deserves medical attention. Work with your healthcare provider to identify the source – whether a food intolerance, gut infection, digestive disease, or something else. Addressing the underlying cause can help resolve stubborn bloating when over-the-counter solutions aren’t cutting it. Stay vigilant for signs of a medical emergency warranting immediate care for severe abdominal swelling.

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