Food & Nutrition

8 Normal Reasons Your Belly Is Bloated (and 4 Times to Worry)

Why is your stomach suddenly puffy? A bloated belly is often related to diet, but sometimes more serious conditions could be a factor.

You OD on veggies

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If your belly feels a littler bigger than usual, don’t freak. “Unless it’s associated with weight loss, nausea, or vomiting, bloating is very common and usually not worrisome,” says Robert Burakoff, MD, clinical chief of gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It’s often nutritious foods that could be the culprit of a little extra air in your tummy. Chowing down on beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, apricots, or carrots can lead to bloat, says Gina Sam, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Mount Sinai Hospital. (These are more of the 7 worst foods for your belly.) Foods high in lactose, dairy’s main sugar, and foods high in fiber, which can lead to the release of bloating gases hydrogen and methane, can puff you up too, says Dr. Burakoff. If your diet is leaving you bloated, use these nighttime tricks that banish bloat while you sleep.

You eat a lot of ‘diet’ foods

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You’ll find the sugar substitute sorbitol in diet soda as well as in certain sugar-free foods and drinks and certain foods marketed as “diabetic.” Snack on this stuff enough, though, and you’ll notice your pants tighten up, says Dr. Sam. Even the sweetener Splenda’s website states “sugar alcohols (such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, and maltitol) are sometimes a cause of bloating and diarrhea if too much is eaten.” (Learn more 10 more reasons you should avoid diet soda.) Your best bet is to cut back on the sweet stuff, fake or not—even real sugar can puff you up, says Dr. Sam. Use these 8 surprising ways to eat less sugar to get started.

Your beverage of choice is bubbly

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Champagne, soda, and seltzer water might seem like three very different drinks, but the carbonation in a bubbly beverage has the same effect on your stomach. Bubbles expand in your gut and could lead to a slightly bulging belly, says Dr. Sam. Stick to straight water (perk it up with these 10 flavored water recipes) if you’re feeling bloated. Check out these other daily habits that reduce belly bloat.

You eat fruit smoothies all the time

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Sweet, refreshing, thirst-quenching—and bloating? Certain fruits, like watermelon, apples, pears, and mangoes, have a high ratio of fructose to glucose (both sugars occur naturally in fruit). This can cause gas and bloating in the estimated one in three people who has difficulty digesting fructose. If this is you, stick to fruits with a more balanced fructose-to-glucose ratio, such as bananas and blueberries. Add this food that can beat belly bloat to fight the bulge while you sip.

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