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What to Do About Bloating After Eating

               Do you ever feel bloated after eating? Maybe the bloating is somewhat uncomfortable, and your pants feel a bit snug from it. You want to know why you have bloating after eating and what to do about it.

person in pain from bloating after eating

Cause of Bloating After Eating

               Why do people have bloating after eating? The most common reason for bloating after eating is due to carbohydrate digestion. When certain types of starches make it to the large intestine undigested, they are great food for the healthy bacteria that live there. These bacteria are able to digest starches that our own enzymes can't digest. They also digest starches that manage to make it past our own enzymes intact. The byproduct of bacteria breaking down starches in our intestines is gas.

Is Bloating After Eating Bad?

               It is important to differentiate between the normal experience of bloating and when bloating is a sign of an underlying problem. Discuss with your physician what symptoms you are having to understand if there is any reason for concern.

               Experiencing a sensation does not necessarily mean that something is wrong. Even an uncomfortable or visually noticeable symptom like bloating is not always a problem. Once you and your physician have ruled out concerning problems, you can move on to dealing with your symptoms.

Why is My Bloating After Eating So Bad?

               If you are in the majority of people who have non-concerning bloating after eating, it is helpful to understand the brain-gut connection. When we feel anxious, it is very common to have some GI symptoms from that. Many people describe "butterflies" in their stomach when they are anxious, or having diarrhea when they are anxious.

               One of the physical manifestations of anxiety is that intestinal transit time is quicker. What that means is that digesting food moves quicker through the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Because the food moves through faster, some food, including starches, escape digestion by the enzymes in the small intestine. That leaves more undigested starches to move to the large intestine for bacteria there to feed on. Because these bacteria now have more food, they produce more gas. Hence, you will have more bloating after eating.

               People who experience anxiety also tend to have gut hypersensitivity. This means that they are super aware of any sensations in their digestive tract. Whereas someone else might barely notice a rumbling in their stomach or some increased bloating after eating, someone with gut hypersensitivity will feel those sensations very strongly. And because they are strong sensations, they seem to be dangerous or harmful.

               This leads to a cycle of increasing anxiety and worsening GI symptoms. When strong sensations seem scary, anxiety goes up. Increased anxiety feeds back into the loop of worsening GI symptoms, including bloating after eating.

What to Do About Bloating After Eating

               Once your physician rules out concerning causes of bloating, the most important next step is to recognize what it is--that is, normal physiological gut function. If anxiety is fueling your symptoms, many people find improvement with gut-focused CBT. There also are some dietary strategies, including the FODMAP diet that can also help minimize symptoms.

               As a Monash trained dietitian on the FODMAP elimination/reintroduction diet, I have been helping patients live their life better with their GI symptoms. Reach out to schedule an appointment to help improve your bloating after eating.

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