Bloating is difficult to deal with for so many reasons, including the discomfort of having a puffy stomach. But bloating is a common challenge that many people face.
"Bloating can have two main causes: Too much gas and a problem with the movement of gas," says Ashkan Farhadi, M.D., a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center and director of MemorialCare Medical Group's Digestive Disease Center in Fountain Valley, California. "Basically, you either generate too much of it or you cannot move it along, and the reasons for those can vary."
"A wide variety of causes, which can range from benign to very serious" can be behind bloating, says Richard Firshein, D.O., integrative medicine practitioner and founder of the Firshein Center. Those more commonly include clinical gut dysfunction, PMS, and food intolerances, he says. If bloating is a regular problem for you, we recommend you talk to your health care provider to try to figure out what could be behind it. But if you're just dealing with occasional bloat, doctors say there are a few steps you can take to ease this, both immediately and overnight.
How to debloat quickly.
Need to debloat immediately, if not sooner? There are a few tricks that could help you feel like yourself again.
Go for a walk.
If trapped gas is behind your bloating, taking a walk may help, given that it prompts your digestive system to move things along, Firshein says. "Patients may find that simply going for a walk can speed up digestion," he adds. Research has also found that people who exercise (yes, walking counts) may have less gas buildup than those who don't. Once things get moving down there, the food in your gut should take the gas along with it—out of your body.
Take an Epsom salt bath.
This is more about relieving stress than anything, experts say. Stress affects your gut and can even slow down muscle contractions in there, Farhadi explains. "An Epsom salt bath is a good stress reliever," he says. Firshein agrees, noting that it "helps to relax stressed muscles." This may help your body debloat by moving food along in your gut or passing gas.
Try foam rolling.
Most people use a foam roller to relieve tense muscles, and the same principle applies here—you're just using it on your abdomen. (Research has found that abdominal massages could help relieve bloating.) To try it, lie facedown on top of your foam roller and gently move up and down. "You roll down the pressure from your sternum to your pelvis," Firshein says. "This can help to stimulate the gut to eliminate excess gas and even improve digestion."
How to debloat overnight.
If you've noticed you're bloated before bed, there are a few things you can try to help your body feel better in the morning.
Take a digestive enzyme or probiotic.
Bloating can be linked to an imbalance in your gut flora, the bacteria, and other microorganisms that live in your intestines that help digest food, Firshein says. "In some cases, simple supplements such as digestive enzymes or probiotics and prebiotics can help repopulate the gut, help break down food, and allow the body to process and digest food more properly,"* he says. At the same time, digestive enzymes and probiotics can "definitely help improve movement in the gut,"* Farhadi says.
Research has tied certain types of probiotics to a reduction in gas and bloating, so look for probiotics that contain Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07, and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM.*
Drink lots of water.
Dehydration can lead to harder stools that are difficult to pass—and that can cause a backup in your gut that can make you feel bloated, Farhadi says. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men have about 15.5 cups of fluids a day (from foods and liquids) and that women have about 11.5 cups a day. "Drinking plenty of water" can help, Firshein says.
Eat fiber-rich foods—but not too much.
"Fiber can be a bloating double-edged sword," Farhadi says. Firshein agrees, calling it a "tricky" thing to try. "While most people believe that fiber-rich foods are good for you—in part because they help with the growth of healthy bacteria—they can also stimulate the growth of bad bacteria at the same time, which in turn, can produce more gas and bloating," Firshein explains. Basically, a little fiber is good for digestion and bloating, but too much could make it worse.
If you find that you're bloated after having fiber-rich foods, Firshein recommends cutting back on how much you have. Then, "slowly build the foundation for digesting those foods by eating small amounts of fiber and slowly increasing to tolerance."
How to tackle bloat long term.
Paying close attention to your diet and how you feel after you eat certain foods is important, Sachdev says.
There are a few tricks that may help, too. "Generally, my rule is no raw food after 4 p.m.," Firshein says, noting that raw foods often contain high levels of fiber. For anyone who experiences bloating related to digestion, "learning to eat slower, chewing your food, and not eating too late at night can help," he adds. Eating more foods that reduce bloating, like cucumbers, avocado, ginger, and yogurt may also help keep future buildup at bay.
Of course, it's possible that your bloating is due to an underlying health condition like a gut imbalance or food intolerance. If bloating is a continuous issue for you, Sachdev recommends seeing your doctor. They may recommend that you try dietary changes or get tested for a food intolerance, among other assessment tools.
Bloating happens to everyone at some point. If you have the occasional bloat, taking these little steps may help you get relief. But if you find that you're regularly dealing with gas and bloating, it's a good idea to check in with your health care provider to try to figure out what's behind it.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, relationships, and lifestyle trends with a master’s degree from American University. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Self, Glamour, and more. She lives by the beach, and hopes to own a taco truck one day.