What causes bloating?

Here are 10 common causes (#10 might surprise you!)

What causes bloating, and how can I avoid it?

This is a question I get asked time and again by my clients.

In fact, when clients come to see me to rewire their eating habits and take control of things, bloating is a most-annoying symptom. People often mistake bloating for body fat – and what a relief that it’s not that at all!

Bloating is a feeling that your stomach area (mid-section) has expanded.

It’s a physical sensation that is uncomfortable and it makes you feel self conscious, your clothes feel tight. Ugh!

The good news is, it’s mostly avoidable. Here’s how.

What causes bloating (and what you can do instead)

Cause #1 – Eating too much

What Causes Bloating? 10 Common Causes and Solutions

Big portions are one of the main causes of bloating, and something about 60% of my clients struggle with.

What you can try:

  • Eat from a smaller plate
  • Setting a timer to 20 minutes, and eating slowly with one eye on the clock
  • Eating a main meal without seconds or dessert
  • Serving a bigger portion to men, teenage boys and/or the most active people in the household.

Cause #2 – Lectins in legumes

Eating legumes can cause uncomfortable bloating and wind if you react to the lectins in legumes.

According to Dr Laura Power, Most blood types are known to react to beans, but if you’re an A, B or AB blood type, you’re more likely to have trouble with lectins and experience excess bloating and gas.

People with digestive issues might also react.

What you can try:

  • soak legumes overnight in fresh water, then drain them well before cooking in fresh water
  • try red lentils or mungbeans as these may be easiest to digest

Cause #3 – Fermentable carbohydrates

Some people react to certain carbohydrates. The FODMAPS diet, developed by Dr Sue Shepherd, helps people to identify which groups of carbohydrates they react to, so they can be avoided in future.

If you tend to feel bloated after eating fruit, artichokes, garlic and onions, wheat, dairy foods, beans and sweeteners, this might be relevant for you.

What you can try:

  • Learn about the FODMAPS food groups and experiment with eliminating one group at a time for two weeks, then testing reactions to a single-day dose
  • Get in touch with a FODMAPS practitioner to have a proper test done. After all, your reaction could simply be an unhealthy gut.

Cause #4 – SIBO or other gut issues

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or other gut issues can cause bloating.

If you have persistent bloating that is accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, reflux and/or heartburn, fatigue, rashes, eczema, asthma, depression and/or rosacea, SIBO or other gut issues could be relevant to you.

What you can try:

  • Contact a functional medicine professional, like Dr Rhona, and enquire about testing, diagnosis and to-the-point solutions.

Cause #5 – Alcohol

What Causes Bloating? 10 Common Causes and Solutions

One of the biggest changes we see in regular alcohol drinkers on the Downsize Me program is a bigger-than-normal shift in their waist circumference and their bloating disappears.

We see that alcohol drinkers tend to lose about 2cm off the waist per kg of weight reduction, compared to 1cm off the waist per kg for non-drinkers.

What you can try:

  • Set a small target to drink less, that feels reasonable and achievable. When you are comfortable there, take another small step toward reduction.
  • Find alternative strategies for managing stress.
  • Experiment with non-alcoholic drinks that taste good and help you relax.


Cause #6 – Coffee

Ah, coffee. Morning glory. Yes, caffeine is a digestive irritant, and it can cause bloating, especially if you drink too much.

What you can try:

  • Experiment with decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea
  • Having your first coffee of the day mid-morning, AFTER food.
  • Set a small target to reduce your coffee intake, that feels comfortable and achievable.
  • Change your daily rituals around to remove yourself from the situations that normally trigger coffee drinking.

Cause #7 – Eating too fast

What Causes Bloating? 10 Common Causes and Solutions

We’re all busy – I get it.

But if you’re rushing out the door with food in your hand, gulping your lunch before a meeting or stuffing the food in while you’re anxious, then you are swallowing a lot of air. That air is now sitting in your stomach, ready to blast out both ends!

What you can try:

  • Sit down to eat with no distractions – no TV, phone or magazine
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes and allow yourself that space to eat slowly
  • Put your cutlery down between bites and chew thoroughly
  • Avoid eating on the run
  • Pay attention to your food and how it feels, smells and tastes. In other words, eat mindfully.
  • Block time in your schedule to have a long enough break to eat slowly.

Cause #8 – Fizzy drinks

Soft drink, soda water, mineral water….it’s gassy. It’s so obvious, and this one is a no-brainer to fix.

What you can try:

  • Sip your fizzy drink slowly
  • Replace it with still water.


Cause #9 – Sugar

Yes, sugar is something that can cause you massive bloating.

What you can try:

  • Find low sugar foods you can enjoy as much as the sugary version
  • Swap sugary foods for savoury foods
  • Brush your teeth when a sugar craving hits
  • Eat some fruit (e.g. citrus) when a craving hits.

Cause #10 – Diet products and chewing gum

Yes, gum-chewing is a bit like #7 – you’re getting more air in your gut than normal.

Sugar-free gum or other sugar-free ‘diet products’ have the added un-bonus of containing sugar alcohols that ferment in the intestine.

What you can try:

  • Find low sugar foods you can enjoy as much as the sugary version
  • Swap sugary foods for savoury foods
  • Brush your teeth when a sugar craving hits
  • Eat some fruit (e.g. citrus) when a craving hits.

What Causes Bloating?

As you can see, your daily life is full of opportunities to get bloated.

I didn’t even mention pre-period bloating, which can be reduced by drinking more water, less coffee and consuming more omega 3 fats in the week before your period.

What do you do now with this information?

I suggest that if bloating is an issue for you, you keep a bloating diary for one week.

Record the times you feel bloated, and then refer back to this list to see if anything you’ve done in the past 24 hours comes up on this list.

If you are still struggling and need assistance, get in touch!

I can help you get to the bottom of things and work out how to create the settled, un-bloated and comfortable belly you wish for.

Click here to make a time to chat, and let’s see if I can help.

Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.