How many times can you recall having a bloated belly while trying to squeeze into a tight-fitting pair of jeans? It’s even more frustrating if you watch what you eat and exercise. Belly bloat is often to blame, but luckily, it can be temporary. We turned to the research to see what’s causing your stomach to buldge, as well as provide helpful tips for how to reduce bloating.
Why do you get a bloated stomach?
Bloat sneaks up on you in surprising ways, depending on what you eat, certain habits you have, and even specific medical conditions. For example, bloating can be a result of digestive distress from eating certain foods (think dairy and ultra-processed, salty foods), eating habits that cause you to take in more air, and even certain conditions such as a weak heart or being pregnant can all contribute to water retention.
Women can also retain water while they’re menstruating. Those who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can also experience uncomfortable bouts of bloating after eating foods that contain FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) or during moments of stress.
These steps will show you how to reduce bloating.
When you’re trying to ease the pressure off of your bloated tum (and ideally, as quickly as possible), you’ll want to rely on these digestion-promoting methods to help you reduce bloating in just 24 hours. Here, we help you identify which habits and foods can help reduce bloating and rev up your metabolism along the way.
Hopefully, after you follow a few of our 25 tips on how to reduce bloating there will be minimal instances of trying to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans.
When people are bloated, they tend to skimp on water because they think it will make their bloating worse. Since water retention is the body’s way of holding onto fluid so it doesn’t dehydrate, the opposite is true. Drinking lots of water (and skipping dehydrating booze) signals the body that it no longer needs to hold onto every last drop to stay hydrated. “Fluids, specifically water, are absolutely key for optimal digestion,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Relaxing in any tub is always nice, and adding two cups of magnesium-rich Epsom salt may help deflate your belly more effectively by pulling excess water and toxins out of your body. Your skin also absorbs the mineral and electrolyte, magnesium, which can help reduce inflammation and may even reduce muscle cramps. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes can help alleviate constipation as well, which is another cause of bloating.
Bananas are packed with potassium, a nutrient that helps regulate fluid balance to flatten belly bloat. (It’s just one of the amazing benefits of bananas!) The potassium offsets the effects of sodium in your diet, which is a common cause of water retention. And bananas won’t just help you beat bloat overnight. A study published in Anaerobe found that women who ate a banana as a pre-meal snack twice a day for 60 days experienced a 50% reduction in bloating.
Even though they’re filled with health-promoting nutrients, foods that are high in FODMAPs also contain sneaky belly-bloaters that may be contributing to your bloated tummy. The culprit is poorly absorbed carbohydrates and sugars. When your body ferments these carbs in your gut, it produces gas, which causes bloating. Avoid eating large quantities of veggies like…
- White onions
- Brussels sprouts
Not only does chewing gum cause you to swallow tummy-bloating air, but many gums also contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol. Because these sugar alcohols are not absorbed by your body, they can cause discomfort and bloating, according to a Clinical Nutrition study.
Eat This! Tip: If you need to have something to chew on, go for an organic gum variety like Glee gum or Simply gum instead. They’re still low-cal, but they don’t use those sweeteners that’ll make you puff up.
Intermittent fasting has become popular over the years for its science-backed weight loss benefits. For most of us, not eating for 16 hours in a day doesn’t seem realistic. But here’s a secret: You actually fast every night, while you’re asleep—that’s why they call the first meal of the day “breakfast.”
The longer you can stretch out that period of fasting, the fewer calories you’ll take in. The fewer calories you consume, the less opportunity you have to eat something that will bloat your stomach. Cut off food intake by 7 pm or 8 pm at night, and delay breakfast a little further into the day. Make sure you have at least 12 hours between your last meal tonight and your first meal tomorrow. You’ll give your digestive system time to recover, and boom, you’ll notice that belly bloat disappear.
Another method is to eat the bulk of your calories before 3 pm. You’ll be more likely to have a flatter stomach than your splurge-at-dinner peers, says a 2013 International Journal of Obesity study.
Once you have awakened your digestion, start your day of eating protein. We all get distracted or busy through the day, but a high-protein breakfast will prevent surprise mid-morning or early afternoon energy crashes that leave us reaching for a quick jolt of energy via ultra-processed foods that are high in bloat-inducing ingredients like excess sodium.
Eat This! Tip: Add a morning protein shake or a breakfast of eggs and nut butter waffles. The goal: don’t leave the house without first loading up on at least 15 grams of protein.
A sluggish digestive system equals a slower metabolic rate — how to reduce bloating and activate your metabolism? Try waking up your innards by starting the morning with a cup of ginger tea. This fast-friendly drink will help improve digestion and promote bowel movements, per a 2000 study, and is a key part of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. Another reason why you may have a bloated belly is inflammation, which is often brought on by spicy foods, dairy, and preservatives/additives. According to numerous studies, ginger, traditionally used to ease stomach pain, blocks several genes and enzymes in the body that promote bloat-causing inflammation. Not a fan of ginger? There are plenty of other teas that make great bloating remedies.
Eat This! Tip: Boil 1/2 tsp grated ginger with 1 cup of water and pour into a cup with your favorite tea bag.
To keep your metabolism revving throughout the day, focus on small, protein- and fiber-packed snacks or small meals every 3 to 4 hours. You will not only burn more calories eating a series of smaller meals, but also avoid the afternoon crash and end of the workday slump.
Eat This! Tip: Use your smartphone or computer to remind you of these intervals. Some go-to healthy snack ideas include:
- Apple with peanut butter
- A handful of nuts and berries
- Hummus and veggies
- Yogurt and granola
When you finally get home after a long day, you’re totally famished—we get it. But that doesn’t mean you should scarf down your dinner in a hurry. Eating too quickly causes you to swallow excess air, which can lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating. Slowing down the chewing with your mouth closed, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. Fight off the urge to engorge your entire meal by snacking on something like a small piece of fruit or an ounce of nuts before dinner is ready.
As much as we love the benefits of coffee, drinking it when you’re trying to get rid of belly bloat in 24 hours or less is a no-no.
“Consuming beverages that are high in sugar or caffeine can not only be dehydrating but, in some cases, can add to excess calorie intake, too,” explains Smith. When your body is dehydrated, it will hold onto water, which causes excessive bloating.
Similar to eating your dinner too quickly, sipping out of a straw can also cause you to suck in too much air and as a result, leave you feeling puffy. This is one of the most important tips on how to reduce bloating to remember because if you’re drinking water out through a straw daily, that could be the reason you’re bloated all day long.
Many beans, including soybeans, contain oligosaccharides. These are non-digestible sugar molecules that the body can’t break down entirely. With nowhere to go, these oligosaccharides hang out where they ferment (aka your intestines), causing gas and bloating. It should be easy to avoid beans in just 24 hours, but make sure you’re on the lookout for other sources. You probably don’t think “beans” when you unwrap a protein bar, but a lot of them include protein isolate derived from soybeans.
Foods made with white flour like white bread, white pasta, and white rice are relatively low in fiber and may cause you to get a little, uh, backed up. Instead, opt for whole-grain varieties. A simple switch from white bread to whole wheat or from white rice to brown will keep things moving along smoothly.
High fiber foods that are free of indigestible fibers mentioned before include:
- Whole grain bread
- Acorn squash
- Berries (blackberries and raspberries)
- Chia and flax seeds
Foods that are high in grease or are really fatty, like a McDonald’s breakfast, can cause gastrointestinal upset. While some fats are great for your gut, like omega-3s found in fatty fish such as salmon or nuts like walnuts, these fats don’t interact with your body the same way. Stuff like fast food often contains high levels of unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats that cause an inflammatory response in the body, meaning your body wants it out!
Alcohol can directly damage the digestive tract and research has also found it to mess with the good bacteria in your gut. But more importantly for when you’re trying to reduce bloating in 24 hours or less, alcohol inhibits digestion, as well.
“Alcohol inhibits digestion and causes dehydration, causing the digestive tract to slow down—which results in constipation,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN. When you drink alcohol, your body switches to processing the alcohol out of your system first before digesting any food, which can leave you with a bloated stomach. It may be tough, but avoid the hard stuff while you’re trying detox.
There are so many health benefits to walking. Instead of lounging around after supper, head outside for a 15-minute nighttime stroll—it’s a great way to get things moving again when you are feeling backed up and bloated. And if you regularly experience constipation, consider making walking part of your nightly routine. And if you tend to toss and turn, check out these tips for how to get better sleep.
Dairy can be very bothersome to the belly because many adults naturally produce less of the necessary digestive enzyme lactase as we get older. If you consume dairy products pretty regularly, try cutting them out for 24 hours (and maybe even beyond this day) and see how your body reacts.
We didn’t say all of these tips on how to reduce bloating were sweet!
“Foods that are processed with added sugars, particularly with artificial sweeteners, can be seriously upsetting to the intestinal tract and can cause gas and bloating for many,” says Smith. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners like sugar alcohols are part of that group of poorly-digested FODMAPs, that will only cause your belly to bloat more.
RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.
The older, wiser, less-bendy sister of yoga, meditation is an amazing activity that people can reap major rewards from. A 2014 study in Eating Behaviors found that individuals who meditate are less likely to overeat or give in to emotional eating—and this is key if you want to stay on track with your anti-bloat plan over the next day. To get started, unroll a yoga mat or sit on a carpet in a sunny room (east-facing if possible) and take five uninterrupted minutes thinking about something that you’re grateful for.
Getting a good night’s rest will help keep your energy levels high the next day as well as make it easier for you to keep a smart eating plan. According to a University of Wisconsin study, people who get more sleep have reduced ghrelin and increased leptin levels. These two hormones work together to help control your appetite throughout the day, making sure you don’t overeat. To get rid of bloating, get a good night’s rest to keep you from overeating the next day.
Eating large portions can leave you feeling inflated, which isn’t what you’re looking for at the end of your 24-hour debloat period. Eat slowly and put your fork down between each bite. A good rule of thumb is to eat until you’re about 90 percent full and then call it. You can also practice portion control by portioning out your meals ahead of time.
Good for the taste buds, but potentially bad for the stomach, high-sodium foods may lead to water retention and temporary weight gain. When you overload your system with sodium, your kidneys can’t keep up; sodium that would otherwise be flushed away has to sit in your bloodstream, where it attracts water, causing increased blood pressure and bloating. When it comes to how to get rid of bloating, your first step should be to assess how much sodium you’re eating per day.
You can cut back on sodium with these tips:
- If you tend to eat at fast-food restaurants a lot, switch to low-sodium fast food orders.
- Use spices to season food instead of solely relying on salt.
- Swap canned foods for fresh or frozen products.
- Skip out on processed meats and replace them with grilled or baked, lean protein.
Whether you’re sipping on a La Croix or a can of Coke, one thing is for certain—you’ll more than likely feel a bit bloated after drinking it. This is because the bubbles can temporarily inflate the stomach, aka making a breeding ground for bloating. Diet soda may especially cause this, as the bubbles coupled with artificial sweeteners could leave you feeling doubly bloated.
Honeydew melon has a diuretic property that fights water retention. Its high potassium levels help displace sodium, flushing excess water from your system and acting a natural electrolyte replacement. Honeydew is just one of the best foods that beat bloating!