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You'd love to have a flat belly for the party tonight, but thanks to one too many sodas or that basket of tortilla chips, zipping your pants is a real struggle. Abdominal bloating not only looks bad but can also cause physical discomfort. The good news? Experts say stomach bloating is a condition you can avoid pretty easily.

We're not talking about extra pounds of stomach fat here. We're talking about the temporary abdominal distention that plagues most everyone from time to time. Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, says unless your stomach bloating is caused by a medical condition such as liver or heart disease, the only real cause is intestinal gas - not "water weight."

 

womens torso

“It is a myth that bloating in the stomach is from fluid accumulation in healthy adults, because the abdomen is not a place where fluids accumulate first," Jensen says. "Instead, you would see it in your feet or ankles as long as you are upright."

So what causes gas to accumulate and wreak havoc on how you feel and look? Here are answers from experts plus their stomach-slimming advice.

1. Avoid Constipation.

Too little fiber, fluids, and physical activity can lead to constipation, which can result in bloating, Jensen says.

To avoid this, eat a diet high in fiber (25 grams per day for women and 38 for men) from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Also, drink plenty of fluids (aim for 6-8 glasses a day) and aim for physical activity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.

If you're eating a low-fiber diet, gradually bump up the fiber level, making sure you also drink plenty of fluids for better tolerance.

2. Rule Out Wheat Allergies or Lactose Intolerance.

Food allergies and intolerances can cause gas and bloating. But these need to be confirmed by your doctor. Many people self-diagnose these conditions and unnecessarily eliminate healthy dairy and whole grains from their diets. If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, see your doctor for tests.

You may benefit from reducing the amount of the suspected food or eating it with other foods. In the case of dairy, it can help to choose aged cheeses and yogurts, which are lower in lactose.

3. Don't Eat Too Fast.

Eating quickly and not chewing your food well can cause air swallowing that leads to bloating, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet.

So slow down and enjoy your food. Your meals should last at least 30 minutes. Also, keep in mind that digestion begins in the mouth and you can decrease bloating just by chewing your food more, Blatner says.

There's another benefit to slowing things down. When you take your time to thoroughly chew and taste your food, your snack or meal becomes more satisfying. And studies have shown that if you eat more slowly, you may end up eating less.

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