5 Surprising Reasons Your Belly’s Bloated

Editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello reveals 5 unexpected factors that play a role in belly bloat.

By Liz Vaccariello from 21-Day Tummy (Reader's Digest Association Books) (Reader's Digest Association Books)
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine July 2014
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    Watermelon snack

    Sweet, refreshing, thirst-quenching—and bloating? Watermelon, as well as certain other fruits like apples, pears, and mangoes, has a high ratio of fructose to glucose (both sugars that occur naturally in fruit). This can cause gas and bloating in the estimated one in three people who has difficulty digesting fructose, according to my 21-Day Tummy coauthor, Kate Scarlata, RD. If this is you, she recommends fruits with a more balanced fructose-to-glucose ratio, such as bananas and blueberries.

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    Work deadline

    “When you experience fight-or-flight symptoms, like a racing heart, your body diverts blood flow away from your GI tract, which slows down digestion,” says Dr. Levine. Heavy breathing, which occurs when you’re under stress, makes you swallow more air than usual and can also lead to bloating. To feel better, simply change your breathing pattern so you exhale for a few counts longer than you inhale. This turns off the stress response and moves your body into a calmer state.

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    Skipping exercise

    The last thing you may want to do on a “fat day” is lace up your sneakers and squeeze into workout clothes. But physical activity stimulates the muscles of your digestive tract, which helps move through your GI tract the food and air bubbles that make you feel bloated. In one small German study, people who took a post-dinner stroll significantly sped up the time it took their body to digest their meal.

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    Vacation

    Almost 50 percent of people become constipated when they travel, says Connecticut gastroenterologist Ed Levine, MD. When the bacteria in your intestines produce air, it can get trapped in your digestive tract and cause bloating. Prevent it by sticking to your bedtime and mealtime routines as much as possible. Changes in your circadian rhythm throw off the hormones that help food and waste move through your gut.

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    Stomach bug

    About 25 percent of patients who get gastroenteritis, a stomach infection, have bloating even after the illness clears. A likely suspect: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In SIBO patients, abnormal levels of microbes colonize the small intestine, which can lead to gas and bloating, says Henry Lin, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the New Mexico VA Health Care System. Gastroenteritis can disrupt your defense mechanisms that normally keep bacteria out of the small intestine, leading to SIBO. It is typically diagnosed with a breath test and can be treated with antibiotics or other approaches.

    Buy the book!

    21-Day Tummy (Reader’s Digest, $25.99) is available here or wherever books are sold. The plan reveals breakthrough foods to slim your waist and soothe your digestion.

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