Hey, remember when your pants fit? That was cool.
1. You’re constipated.
A lot of the people who go to the doctor complaining of bloat are just really backed up, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, gastroenterologist and author of Gutbliss, tells BuzzFeed Life. She typically recommends upping their fiber intake, adding a supplement, and drinking way more water.
2. You had all of the alcohol last night.
Post-drinking puffiness is so real. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and strain the liver, which can lead to pain and bloating, says Chutkan. Plus it also causes you to retain water, which is why your whole body feels swollen the next day. And anything carbonated like mixers, beer, or champagne can lead to excess bloat, too.
3. You’re actually swallowing too much air.
No, seriously, this is a real thing. If you eat too quickly or talk while you eat, you might be swallowing a lot of air, which is another really common cause of bloat, Chutkan says. This can also happen when you chew gum or suck on hard candies. A more serious case of this is called aerophagia, which often occurs in people with chronic sinus problems or allergies that cause them to breathe more from their mouths.
Wondering if this is you? Air swallowing will typically lead to bloating and pressure higher up in the stomach, above the belly button, explains Chutkan. It also causes more burping than farting. So if this sounds like your type of gas, slow down your eating and lay off the gum, hard candies, and conference call lunches to see if it makes a difference.
4. You have no idea how much salt you’re actually eating.
You expect to feel puffy after housing a bag of salt and vinegar chips, but sodium isn’t always so obvious to spot. It can hide in salad dressings, sandwiches, and deli meats in really scary amounts. “Limit processed foods as often as possible,” nutritionist Shelly Marie Redmond, R.D., author of Eat Well and Be Fabulous, tells BuzzFeed Life. “If purchasing something, look for less than 500mg of sodium on the label.” And seriously, check the nutrition info online before heading to a restaurant. If your go-to order has more than a day’s worth of sodium (roughly 2,300 mg), that could definitely make you feel bloated.
5. You’ve been lazier than normal this week.
“If you’re not moving, neither are your bowels or gas,” says Chutkan. Even moderate activity like walking around the block — especially after eating — can keep things regular and keep bloat to a minimum
6. You loaded up on artificial sweeteners.
Limiting your sugar is great, but replacing it with the fake stuff isn’t. “In addition to the fact that they’re bad for you because they aren’t really food, they’re a major cause of bloating,” says Chutkan. “The reason they don’t contribute calories is that they’re not absorbed in the small intestine like most sugars. They go to the colon and then get fermented by gut bacteria and produce gas.”
7. Or, along those lines, you love your sugar-free gum.
Air swallowing plus artificial sweeteners? This is a common cause of bloat that most people don’t even think of, says Redmond.
8. You eat dinner super late.
Ah yes, the late-night pasta food-baby feeling. “Your stomach has a bedtime,” says Chutkan. “Your digestive tract is designed to be active during the day and rest at night.” In fact, the muscular contractions down there are actually tied to the light-dark cycle, so you should ideally be done eating when the sun sets, she says. Obviously, that’s not realistic for everyone, but it helps explain why eating earlier can help your whole digestive system.
If you’re a chronically late eater, try to fit dinner in earlier or at least make it your lightest meal of the day. Then get up and walk around for about 20 minutes after you eat. This can help with digestion, since your gastrointestinal tract is already running slower at night.
9. You might be lactose intolerant.
If you’re feeling bloated all the time and also rarely go a day without eating cheese or yogurt, all that dairy might be the problem. More than half of the population has some degree of lactose intolerance, says Chutkan, which is when your body doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme that helps you digest lactose and often leads to gas and bloating. Check with your doctor if you think this is a possibility for you.
10. Or you might not deal with gluten very well.
Only about 1% of the population has celiac disease (the genetic autoimmune disorder where eating gluten can actually damage the small intestine), but many more may have some level of sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, which can also lead to bloating and gas, says Chutkan. If you think gluten might be a culprit, talk to your doctor about your stomach issues and work together to come up with a structured plan of attack. (Cutting out entire food groups from your diet without medical supervision can have some negative consequences, so definitely talk to your doctor for guidance on this one).
11. You just ate a big, high-fiber meal.
Typically fiber is great for keeping your digestive system on track, but eating a lot of it — especially in one sitting — can make you feel a bit clogged, says Chutkan. Try to space out your fiber intake throughout the day to keep things moving.
12. You’re not drinking enough water.
This can lead to bloat for a few reasons. If you’re eating salty or high-fiber foods without getting enough water, that can definitely cause puffiness. But staying hydrated is also important for keeping your poop habits regular. If they’re out of whack, there’s a good chance you’ll be bloated. If you can never remember to refill your glass, bookmark these 13 ways to drink more water every day.
13. You’re a smoker.
“Smoking affects the motility of the digestive tract,” says Chutkan. So basically everything moves a lot slower, causing you to feel plugged up and bloated most of the time. Add this to the 483 other reasons to finally quit.
14. You’re a woman.
It’s not exactly fair, but the female digestive tract is actually more likely to cause bloating. The colon is longer, has a lot more twists and turns, and sits deeper in the pelvis, explains Chutkan. These anatomical differences, plus the hormonal fluctuations that can happen around the menstrual cycle and menopause makes bloating a lot more common in women. Womp womp.
15. Or it could be something more serious.
Most of the time, feeling puffy and swollen is just a temporary thing that goes away with dietary or behavioral changes. But if the bloating is persistent and it’s accompanied by pain, fever, or weight loss, head to your doctor. This could be a sign of a more serious health condition, like ovarian cancer, thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, or colitis.