Do you ever get an uncomfortable feeling of excessive fullness in your stomach, often accompanied by gaseous cramps, rumblings and frequent burping?
Do you often have to untuck your shirt and loosen your pants to ease pressure on your belly? Is your stomach abnormally jetting out when these symptoms occur?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be suffering from a condition called bloating.
Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of serious gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s also a common discomfort experienced by many as a result of bad lifestyle habits.
A 2000 study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences states that more than 65 percent of people who did not suffer from any serious gastrointestinal disorder reported having mild-to-severe bloating symptoms and significantly reduced physical activity.
Here are 10 bad habits that can cause common bloating.
1. Eating Too Fast
The first thing to understand is that digestion is a process that begins in the mouth, not in the stomach as most believe.
When you eat your food too fast, you unknowingly inhale excess air, which contributes to your belly ballooning out.
Also, you swallow larger chunks of food that accumulate in your stomach while it works harder to digest them. This can lead to a gaseous buildup.
However, when you mindfully chew your food rather than gobbling it up, you break it down into more easily digestible bits, and it has time to absorb saliva and enzymes from your mouth necessary for smooth digestion in the stomach.
2. Chewing Gum
Regularly chewing gum leads to excess air passing through the mouth to the stomach. The air then gets trapped in the digestive tract, leading to bloating.
Furthermore, the constant chewing action and air passing are signals telling your body that your stomach is about to receive food.
This activates your digestive system, and when the stomach fails to receive any food, it leads to symptoms like acid reflux and gaseous buildup-induced bloating.
In addition, sugar-free chewing gums that contain the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and hexitol may cause bloating.
Your digestive tract has trouble identifying and digesting these non-foods. Gas being a by-product of the digestive process, failure to digest these foods leads to plenty of unutilized gas, causing a buildup and subsequent bloating.
You don’t have to be a chain-smoker to feel bloated up from cigarettes. Even 1 or 2 cigarettes a day are enough to cause excess air inhalation that travels down to your stomach and gets trapped in your digestive tract.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, many harmful chemicals enter your body when you smoke.
These chemicals weaken the muscle that connects the stomach and the esophagus and is responsible for preventing food from flowing back into the esophagus from the stomach.
When this muscle doesn’t function properly, it can result in heartburn and increased gas buildup, leading to bloating.
4. Drinking Too Much Soda
Sodas, soft drinks and fizzy pops are everyone’s favorites. The carbon dioxide in these drinks gives them the fizz that we all enjoy. It’s also what causes bloating in your stomach.
Drinking too much soda floods your system with an excess of carbonated gas. Your system deals with this by belching some of it out and passing some out through the anus. However, some gas gets trapped in your digestive tract along the way, causing your stomach to bloat.
Furthermore, many of these carbonated drinks contain artificial sweeteners that your system does not identify and, therefore, does not easily digest.
5. Not Drinking Enough Water
Not drinking enough water is one of the most common bad habits. While it is true that consuming too much water too quickly causes short-term bloating, most people do not realize that not drinking enough water can cause long-term stomach bloating.
Like a crash diet proves counterproductive in the long run because it causes your body to hold onto fat when it is starved, dehydration causes your body to hold onto whatever fluid it has. Gradually, this leads to stomach bloating.
6. Eating Processed Foods
The body requires a certain amount of sodium to perform essential metabolic functions. However, an excess of salt in your body leads to several problems, one of which is abdominal fluid retention.
Processed foods contain excess sodium that acts as a preservative. When you eat processed foods, such as microwave-ready meals, bacon, potato chips and others, it causes an influx of unnecessary sodium. Your body reacts by holding onto fluids in order to balance the salt levels, which causes bloating.
Also, fatty and high carbohydrate foods such as burgers, pasta, bagels, and rice are also known to cause bloating.
7. Poor Sleep Routine and Stress
When you are sleep deprived, it can be hard to perform even routine activities. This is likely to strain your body and raise your level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Cortisol, in turn, spikes blood sugar levels. A sugar overload in your digestive tract overstresses your digestive process and causes poor absorption.
This causes the sugar to enter the intestine where it encounters gas-creating bacteria. Since bacteria thrive on sugar, this interaction activates them, releasing excess gas that causes stomach bloating.
8. Not Exercising Regularly
Lack of regular exercise can lead to myriad problems, big and small. One of those is stomach bloating.
One of the most common causes of bloating is excess digestive gases trapped in the digestive tract. Lack of any form of physical exercise causes these gases to remain lodged in our system, causing long-term feelings of discomfort and fullness.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine stimulates your digestive tract, triggering the movement of these gases and relieving bloating.
A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology notes that 8 patients who complained of stomach bloating reported reduced bloating when they increased daily physical activity.
9. Poorly Fitted Dentures
Many people think that ill-fitting dentures are simply a matter of comfort, but in fact it can also contribute to health issues.
Poorly fitted dentures trap more air while eating and drinking that passes through the mouth to the stomach. Gradually, this leads to excess air inhalation, all of which ends up being trapped in the digestive tract.
This causes bloating, which leads to an uneasy feeling of being too full. Elderly people are even more sensitive to these gastrointestinal discomforts.
10. Sipping through Straws and Sucking on Pen Tops
Sucking on pen tops is a bad habit that many may find hard to kick, even as they grow older. Kids, especially, relentlessly suck on the tops of their pens.
Not only is this extremely unsanitary, it also gives way to excess air entering the body and getting trapped in the digestive tract.
Sipping drinks like sodas and fruit juices through straws have the same effect. In addition, drinking through straws contributes to teeth staining.
In the long term, the overflow of air in the digestive tract caused by either of these activities can trigger abdominal bloating.