Bloating Causes and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 10, 2024
8 min read

Bloating happens when your abdomen (belly) enlarges and feels full and tight. Your stomach may even look like it’s sticking out. 

Feeling "too full" is common. Between 10% and 30% of people experience bloating. Many conditions cause it, which can make finding the reason a challenge. 

For instance, you might feel bloated because of:

  • Constipation (less than three bowel movements per week)
  • Gut sensitivity or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Eating disorders
  • Diet choice or food sensitivities
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Issues with your ovaries or uterus
  • Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (inflammation of your digestive tract)
  • Gas
  • Medications
  • Cancer
  • Gastroparesis (slow emptying of the stomach into the small intestine)

Here's a look at some of these in more detail. 

Gas and bloating

The most common way you get gas into your gut is to swallow it. Everyone gets gas in their intestines when they eat, but some people’s bodies react more severely to it, which can cause bloating

Gastrointestinal disorders

Many gastrointestinal (GI) conditions can lead to bloating, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and constipation. One study showed that 96% of people with IBS have bloating. 


Very few bacteria usually live in your small intestine (where food mixes with digestive juices).But if food moves too slowly through this area, bacteria can linger and start to ferment. This can lead to bloating.


If you feel really bloated during your period, the drop in progesterone and estrogen levels may be the reason.


Some medicines cause bloating as a side effect. Among them are aspirin, fiber supplements, and certain pain relievers.


Cancers of the stomach, ovary, colon, and pancreas can have bloating as a symptom.

Once the cause of your bloating has been found, your doctor can suggest some ways to manage it. Among the treatments they may advise you to try:


This type of medication can help with bloating caused by food. It allows gas to pass more easily through your digestive tract.

Over-the-counter medicine

  • Simethicone helps you pass gas bubbles trapped in your intestines.
  • Alpha-galactosidase breaks down the carbohydrates in vegetables and beans.
  • Activated charcoal may reduce gas symptoms, but research hasn't shown a clear benefit. It could interfere with other medications, so check with your doctor before taking it.
  • Lactase supplements help you digest the sugar lactose in dairy products.


Physical activity can help clear gas from your body. Some studies show that yoga especially can be a safe way to reduce not only bloating, but belly pain, constipation, or diarrhea. Try gentle poses that stimulate digestion like:

  • Wind relieving pose: Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Place your hands on the top of your shins. Inhale and move your knees away from you. Exhale and draw your knees back into your chest.
  • Virasana (hero pose): Kneel on the floor with your knees touching. (If this is uncomfortable, place a yoga block or small stack of books underneath your sitting bones.) The tops of your feet should be flat on the floor or yoga mat. Sit tall, breathing deeply for a few breaths.
  • Child's pose: Kneel on the floor with your knees touching. Bring your toes together and spread your knees wide. Lower your torso between your thighs so your forehead rests on the floor. Relax your neck and straighten your arms overhead. 

Natural remedies

Among the home remedies you can try to reduce bloating are:

Herbal teas

Several kinds may benefit your gut health. For instance:

  • Peppermint has a long history as a digestive aid in folk medicine. Studies show that tea brewed from plant leaves and peppermint oil may relax your GI muscles. That could help with bloating.
  • Ginger is another herb that may help with upper GI symptoms like bloating and constipation. Look for ginger tea at the store, or make your own by soaking a few peeled pieces of fresh ginger in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Turmeric is a bright orange-yellow spice that's well-known in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It has anti-inflammatory powers. To make a tea: add 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder to 1-2 cups of boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes, then strain. High doses of turmeric can interfere with some medications, so ask your doctor before you try it. 
  • Chamomile has been used for hundreds of years. Some studies show that this medicinal plant may relax your digestive tract. It could also relieve gas, indigestion, and diarrhea. Allergies to chamomile are rare, but you're more likely to have a reaction if you're allergic to ragweed.
  • Fennel is used around the world for a number of ailments. Compounds in it appear to help relax the smooth muscles of your intestine and reduce gas.
  • Dandelion may help clear extra fluids from your body by causing you to pee more. But more studies need to be done.

Let your doctor know before you start using any herbs or herbal teas.

Abdominal massage

Gently massaging your belly can relieve bloating by softening your stomach muscles and speeding up digestion. It's generally safe unless you're pregnant, have a belly wound, or live with a condition that affects your spine.

Try heat

Warmth on your belly can help soothe cramping muscles. Try a hot water bottle or heating pad, or take a warm bath.


Bloating after eating

Eating too quickly causes you to swallow more air, which can lead to gas and bloating. Try to eat slowly, chewing each bite carefully. Mindful eating can make it easier to realize when you're full. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is another way you can try to cut back on bloat. 

Foods to reduce bloating

If you notice certain foods causing you to bloat, try cutting back or avoiding them. Common culprits include wheat, beans, lentils, garlic, onions, and asparagus. Milk and dairy foods can also cause bloating if you have a hard time digesting lactose.

Stomach bloating often happens when poorly digested carbohydrates begin to ferment in your colon. Many people find that a low-FODMAP diet helps. 

A low-FODMAP diet cuts out some or all of the following:

  • Oligosaccharides: found in legumes, onions, garlic, wheat
  • Disaccharides: such as lactose and found in dairy 
  • Monosaccharides: such as fructose and found in apples, pears, and honey
  • Polyols: found in most stone fruits, cauliflower, chewing gum, and candies

One option is to remove FODMAP foods that you suspect of creating bloat one at a time. Or you could try an elimination diet, removing all FODMAP foods and then slowly adding them back to see how they affect you. A food diary can help you keep track.

Constipation can also cause stomach bloating, so a diet high in fiber can help with both conditions. If you have at least one of the following symptoms, you may be constipated:

  • Incomplete or infrequent bowel movements
  • Small, pebble-like stools
  • Straining to start or complete bowel movements

Drinking more water can help. You might also add kiwifruit to your diet, which has proven helpful in cases of bloating and constipation.

Prescription medications

In some cases, your doctor can prescribe a medication to reduce bloating and other GI symptoms. For instance:

  • Certain kinds of antidepressants can prevent your body from overreacting to gas.
  • Antispasmodics help reduce bloating as well as cramping and gas.
  • Rifaximin is an antibiotic approved by the FDA for IBS treatment. A short course can help symptoms like bloating that may be caused by too much "bad" bacteria in your gut.

Less fiber

Eating fiber can help prevent constipation and reduce bloating. But eating too much is one of the most common reasons for bloating. The key is to eat fiber in moderate amounts. If you're just starting to eat more fiber-rich foods like beans, lentils, broccoli, whole wheat, apples, berries, or quinoa, add them slowly to your diet. That way, your system can get used to them.


Many people use probiotics (live "good" bacteria) to help with digestive issues. There's some evidence that taking them can help reduce stomach bloating, but more studies are needed to figure out which strains are most helpful.

Digestive enzymes

Over-the-counter enzymes can help you digest two foods that often cause bloating: dairy and legumes (such as beans). 

If you have a hard time digesting the sugars in these foods, you might try lactase supplements for dairy or alpha-galactosidase supplements for beans and other legumes. 

Stop chewing gum

When you chew gum, you're swallowing more air, which can lead to bloating and burping. Sucking on hard candy has the same effect.

Cut your salt intake

Salt causes your body to hang on to extra fluids, which can make your belly feel full and tight. To cut back, try to eat less fast food or processed food that comes in a box, can, or bag. They tend to contain a lot of salt.

Try biofeedback

Biofeedback is a technique that helps you learn how to control some of your body functions, like your breathing and heart rate. It may help with IBS symptoms, but more studies need to be done.

Most stomach bloating will resolve on its own. But see a doctor if it doesn't go away or if you notice any of the following:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Intense or ongoing belly pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Change in stool color, consistency, and frequency
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or feeling of being "too full"

If you're an older person who doesn’t usually have bloating and you suddenly have it for more than a few days, your doctor will want to rule out other more severe conditions.

Everyone feels bloated and "too full" sometimes. Often, it can be treated at home and prevented by watching the foods you eat. But if bloating's an ongoing issue, talk to your doctor to rule out a more serious cause.

Am I bloated or pregnant?

Bloating and pregnancy can both make your belly look full. Pregnancy can also cause constipation and indigestion, which are also causes of bloating. 

If you think that you may be pregnant, take a test to find out and follow up with your doctor.