Beat the Bloat – Part 1: Why Am I Bloated?

 Jul 17, 2017 11:00 PM
by Megan O'Kelly

With the nice summer weather arriving, we no longer have luxury of covering up our bloated stomachs under our hoodies and parkas. It’s time to finally address the issue!

This is the first of a three part series that will get into all the possible reasons why you’re bloated, nutrition tips and tricks for beating it and lifestyle hacks that can help you out as well. I’ll throw a few anti-bloating recipes at you along the way too, so be sure to stay tuned and follow along.

Truthfully, reducing gas and bloating isn’t something we should just be trying to reduce in the summertime so that we can look good in a crop top or muscle shirt. It’s a significant symptom that could be indicating other health issues. So now that you have the motivation, let’s really get to the bottom of your bloating and figure out how to beat it for good!

Why am I bloating?

Before we can begin to address how to stop the bloating, we have to understand why we are bloating!

Simply put, bloating is the build-up of gas in your digestive tract, forcing your stomach to stick out like you’re pregnant, often referred to as a “food baby”. But why is this happening?

Bloating illustrationBloating itself is usually a problem with digestion. Many different things can affect gut health, the ability to metabolize food properly and our body’s natural elimination of waste, which, when disturbed, leads to gas and bloating. For most people, the cause of excessive gas in the intestines comes down to:

  • Inadequate protein digestion: this causes some foods to ferment.
  • The inability to break down sugar and carbohydrates properly: certain complex sugar compounds need the presence of enzymes to be completely digested, yet many people are lacking these.
  • Imbalances in gut bacteria: there are trillions of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the digestive tract, and when “bad bacteria” outweigh the good, this imbalance can lead to bloating and gas.

However, there are some extra sneaky reasons you might develop a bloated stomach, including allergies, hormonal imbalance, sleep problems and stress. It is always best to start by determining if you might be dealing with an underlying health issue that can cause bloating.

Let’s take a quick look at what some of these might be!

Digestive Disorders

Bloating, gas and distension is a front line symptom of various gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s and celiac disease. If you have these symptoms chronically, it may be wise to check out other symptoms of these disorders and make sure you can rule them out.


DehydrationIt may seem counterintuitive, but the more water you drink and the more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to bloat! Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances both inhibit digestion and make it harder to keep your bowels moving, creating the likelihood of build-up in the intestines.



BNHC - Wesite Updates - Specs - July 15 2017

It may seem counterintuitive, but the more water you drink and the more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to bloat! Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances both inhibit digestion and make it harder to keep your bowels moving, creating the likelihood of build-up in the intestines.

When you can’t poop, there is nowhere for that pesky stool to go, so it simply remains in the intestines, leaving you with a hard-feeling stomach, pain, discomfort and... you guessed it... gas & bloating!

The most common causes of constipation include not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough water, being too sedentary and stress.

Food allergies and sensitivities

FoodFood allergies, sensitivities or intolerances are a very common reason for gas and bloating. The most common foods that cause gas due to allergy or sensitivity include dairy, gluten, and certain kinds of carbohydrates called FODMAPS.

FODMAPs are a grouping of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by some people allowing them to travel to large intestine where they are fermented, causing gas & bloating. They can be tough to rule out as a root cause, since there are so many different kinds and everyone has different levels of tolerability. An elimination diet or food sensitivity test can help you pinpoint which foods might cause bloating.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is caused by an accumulation of abnormal bacteria living in the digestive tract, usually in the bowel. This build-up of bad bacteria is often due to the overuse of antibiotics or inflammation and poor digestion.

Ideally, different strains of bacteria are in balance in the colon, which helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients. However, when harmful bacteria overwhelm and take over, you may experience numerous symptoms, including damage to the intestinal lining.


If you’re dealing with an infection, you may become bloated and swollen due to the rising levels of inflammation, caused by an elevated white blood cell count around the urinary, pelvic and gastrointestinal organs. Look for signs of fever, redness, pain and swollen lymph nodes, which usually accompany an infection.


Ladies, we know that if we’re getting inexplicably bloated, it may just be that our time of the month is coming up. PMS is a common culprit of bloating and other digestive issues, since it makes you prone to constipation and fluid retention. This is common and nothing to be concerned about, unless you start to notice more complicated symptoms such as an irregular menstrual cycle, fibroids or severe cramping.

Why do women experience bloating around their menstrual cycles?

During the early days of a women’s cycle, called the follicular stage, estrogen levels rise while the uterine lining thickens. Ovulation also causes the build up of fluids and blood in the area, which can contribute to the feeling of bloating. This feeling should disappear when a woman has her period, as she experiences shedding of excess fluid, tissue and blood. However, some women experience water retention for up to two weeks! How much you bloat and when you bloat before or during your period totally depends on you and your cycle.

Dietary Causes

Each person’s reaction to foods differs, and this isn’t a definitive list, but these are some common foods that tend to wreak havoc on your digestive system and provoke gas & bloating.

Sugar & sweetened snacks: Sugar easily ferments in the gut, which can contribute to the overgrowth of bad bacteria and promote inflammation.

Dairy: We all lose the majority of our natural production of lactase enzymes, the ones we need to break down the milk sugars, by the time we hit adolescence. For this reason, most of us have trouble digesting dairy products.

Refined grains & grain products: Gluten is a sticky protein in wheat, barley and rye that is a common sensitivity and difficult for most people to digest. Corn, oats and other grains can cause similar digestive discomfort due to their high concentration of lectins and phytates, which are specific anti- nutrients that can disrupt digestion.

Certain veggies: Some people have issues with tough vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion and garlic, due to their sulphur compounds. Certain types of FODMAP carbohydrates also cause issues due to their tendency to avoid absorption and ferment in the intestines.

Beans & legumes: The more you eat the more you toot! There’s definitely something to this silly rhyme. Similar to grains, beans & legumes contain lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrients that can cause gas & bloating. It can help to soak and sprout your grains or cook them with a seaweed like kombu. Doing so helps to break down these disruptive components.

Carbonated drinks: The gas from these drinks can accumulate in the intestines, contributing to gas and bloating.

Artificial sweeteners & sugar alcohols: These have shown to cause severe digestive disturbances in some, especially aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.

CoffeeCoffee: Caffeine suppresses the production of stomach acid, contributing to digestive issues. Furthermore, the caffeine can trigger a premature opening of the pyloric sphincter (the valve that opens to let food from the stomach through to the intestines). When this happens before food is properly broken down it can cause extreme digestive distress and inability to absorb nutrients allowing them to ferment in the gut and cause bloating.

So what do I do about it?

Stay tuned for Beat The Bloat – Part 2: De-Bloating with Nutrition to find out! We’ll talk about what to avoid, what to eat more of and how to eat your food to beat the bloat!

To hold you over, here is an anti-bloating dessert! Still a sweet treat, but with plenty of anti-bloating properties that make it an ideal swap for more processed sugary treats that you might otherwise gear toward in the summer. Enjoy!

Anti-bloat popsicles

This is classic flavor combination of strawberry & pineapple using the real ingredients! This one is a nice one to have at a family BBQ as the pineapple contains and enzyme called bromelain that will actually help you break down the other food you eat that day! Popsicles are also an ideal summer treat that won’t cause bloat, as you tend to have to consume it slowly!


  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 3 cups sliced strawberry
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice


  • In a blender, or food processor, puree pineapple chunks with1/3 cup of pineapple juice.Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and set aside.
  • Wash and clean out blender, then puree strawberries with remaining 1⁄2 cup pineapple juice. Transfer to another liquid measuring cup.
  • Pour strawberry puree into mold,filling only halfway.Then, slowly pour pineapple puree into mold.
  • Place molds in the freezer for at least 3 hours.
  • Warm the molds in water and remove. Enjoy!


Megan O’Kelly
Megan O’Kelly B.A. (Hons.), CNP, is a Holistic Nutritional Practitioner focused on healing through food, in realistic and all-inclusive, ways. She believes that everyone has different nutritional needs and that no one diet is perfect for everyone. For Megan, finding what works for each client, their life and their body is the key to optimal health.




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