Bloating: Why It’s Totally Normal and What Causes It

By Nicole Charky

You are not a balloon. Repeat: You are not a balloon.

Bloating feels like there’s an air bubble trapped inside your stomach. It can feel like you have a tight belly, you often feel full due to gas. You might be constipated and not even know it — a victim to your own poop. (Please see poop section below.)

HERE’S THE PART WHERE WE GET REAL ABOUT SHIT

If you’re having fewer bowel movements than you normally do, then that may be a symptom of constipation. And even if you go No. 2 regularly, you may actually still be constipated.

You could be constipated if you experience any of these other symptoms: If you’re straining to poop, or it looks like rocks and pebbles, or you don’t feel empty after a bowel movement.

MORE ON BLOATING: WHAT CAUSES IT AND HOW TO PREVENT IT.

It’s important to recognize that, sometimes, you can mistake and mix up bloating and inflammation. The reason is that both conditions are associated with similar symptoms, and both could signal other real issues your body might be facing.  

You could be chewing gum, swallow too much air (yep!), talking with food in your mouth, or eating too fast — which causes bloating.

If your diet is lacking important digestive enzymes that break down certain foods — for example, if you’re lactose intolerant or have too much salt — then that can lead to excess fluid retention in your body. Reducing fatty foods can be a way to help lessen bloating, giving gas the space to move more quickly through your intestines. It also means your stomach can empty faster.

DON’T GET IT TWISTED

It might be hard to identify whether you are bloated or have inflammation. It’s important to address what the real problem is before you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Bloating vs. Inflammation

Bloating is often associated with periods and being hormonal. It feels like you have a food baby. But there is a difference between that experience and inflammation.

There are two types of inflammation: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. Prolonged inflammation, however, can help you identify other clues that your body is telling you.

Acute inflammation is natural. It happens when you get a cut, which then swells. It’s what helps you heal.

Chronic inflammation can make you feel tired and washed out, and it can be tied to severe health risks. For example, health problems such as heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, and asthma can sometimes be managed with simple dietary changes. An elimination diet is often recommended (no dairy, gluten, added sugars, or processed items). It also helps to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and drinks.

HOW TO PREVENT INFLAMMATION

You can take some steps to prevent inflammation, often with food or diet.

When something foreign enters your body, such as microbes, plant pollen, or other chemicals, inflammation can happen. Many major diseases in our society — cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s — are often linked to chronic inflammation.  

Certain foods increase inflammation, so experts recommend you should limit or avoid these foods as much as possible:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • Soda, other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • Fried foods, such as french fries
  • Margarine, shortening, and lard

Other foods help fight inflammation:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and collard greens)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines)
  • Fruits (including, but not limited to, strawberries, cherries, oranges, and blueberries)

Nicole Charky is a 30-year-old journalist and producer living and working in Los Angeles. She is a contributor to Do The Good Stuff. She writes, creates and manages video content and social media for author and journalist Maria Shriver. Nicole also produces and directs shows and music videos, including Snapchat’s “Phone Swap” and Grammy award-winning artist Bekon’s “Cold As Ice.” Her work has been featured in Snapchat Discover channel Brother, ATTN:, The Los Angeles Times, AOL and Glamour. Her health quest is new, and she's only getting started.