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Why Am I Bloated All the Time? 10 Common Causes of Abdominal Bloating

By Joanna Foley, RD

Medically Reviewed by Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP

Published on June 20, 2022

Bloating is a feeling of trapped gas and tightness in the stomach. It may be caused by things like digestive disorders or imbalanced gut bacteria. It can also be caused by not getting enough exercise, eating too much salt, and many other things.

Written by
Joanna Foley, RD
Registered Dietitian
Joanna received a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from California State University and has been practicing as a Registered Dietitian for 8 years. Working in a variety of settings, her career began in a hospital setting where she worked as a clinical inpatient dietitian, supporting the care and healing of acutely ill patients.
Medically Reviewed by
Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP
Registered Dietitian, Certified Exercise Physiologist
Natalie is a registered dietitian, functional medicine practitioner and certified exercise physiologist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry and holds a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine through a collaborative program provided by the University of Western States and the Institute of Functional Medicine.
Why Am I Bloated All the Time? 10 Common Causes of Abdominal Bloating
Photo credit: iStock.com/agrobacter

If you’ve ever experienced a bloated stomach, you know that it can be uncomfortable. You may be wondering why you are so bloated and what you can do about it.

This article will explain more about what bloating is, what causes bloating, and some information about treatments for bloating.

What Is Bloating?

Bloating is often due to a buildup of gas in your stomach and intestines. (1)

This gas causes other symptoms like abdominal pressure, a hard feeling in the stomach, and a feeling of fullness — even if you haven’t eaten.

Other symptoms — such as pain in the stomach and burping — sometimes occur alongside bloating.

Experiencing a bloated stomach is very common. In fact, it is one of the most common negative digestive symptoms. (2)

It is estimated that up to 25% of healthy people experience occasional bloating. As many as 10% of those people experience it regularly. (3)

What Causes Bloating?

Understanding what causes stomach bloating can help you understand why you may be experiencing it. It can also help you know how to take action so that you can get relief.

Here are 10 common causes of bloating:

1. Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders — like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Chron’s disease, and ulcerative colitis — can all contribute to bloating. (4, 5)

These conditions involve inflammation in the digestive tract. This can cause poor digestion and absorption of nutrients — leading to extra gas production.

Summary

IBS, Chron’s disease, and ulcerative colitis can cause bloating. This is because inflammation and poor digestion can lead to gas buildup.

Related: Anti-Inflammatory Diet

2. Other Medical Conditions

Bloating can be a symptom of serious medical conditions.

These can include liver disease, some types of cancer, celiac disease, congestive heart failure, and problems with your pancreas. (6, 4)

These conditions can cause inflammation, poor digestion, and fluid buildup in your body. Each can lead to bloating as a symptom.

Summary

Medical conditions like some cancers, liver, and celiac disease can also have bloating as a symptom.

3. Imbalanced Gut Bacteria

Your gut contains both beneficial and harmful bacteria. Having too many harmful bacteria can lead to a condition called “dysbiosis.” (7)

Dysbiosis interferes with the normal function of the digestive tract. It may cause the excessive or improper breakdown of carbohydrates — triggering gas buildup.

Bloating is a common cause of dysbiosis, especially for people with IBS. (7)

Summary

Having too many harmful bacteria in your gut can lead to a condition called dysbiosis. This can cause improper digestion and trigger bloating for some people.

4. Constipation

Being constipated is a common yet sometimes overlooked cause of bloating. (1)

When stool sits in your colon, bacteria continue to ferment it — which can result in more gas and bloating. In addition, it is common to feel abdominal pressure when constipated.

Constipation can manifest as different symptoms for different people. For some, it may look like having three or fewer bowel movements per week.

For others, it may just be a stool that is difficult to pass or one that is hard, dry, or lumpy. (8)

Some people can be constipated and not realize it if their bowel habits have become normal to them. This is why it’s important to evaluate your bowel habits to determine if there might be room for improvement.

Summary

Being constipated can cause a buildup of gas and pressure in your abdomen — triggering bloating.

5. Not Enough Exercise

A lack of enough exercise can contribute to constipation. As mentioned above, constipation can lead to bloating.

Research has shown that physical activity may help provide bloating relief. (9)

This is because physical activity helps move food down the digestive tract. It can also help stretch your intestines and relieve trapped gas.

Summary

Exercise can help relieve trapped gas and stretch your intestines. It can also help manage or prevent constipation — which may help with bloating.

Dig Deeper: Benefits of Regular Exercise

6. Functional Dyspepsia

This is a fancy term for pain or an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. It is caused by an irritation in your stomach lining — which may be from things like stomach ulcers or acid reflux.

Bloating is a common symptom of dyspepsia. (10)

It often takes the diagnosis from a doctor to determine if dyspepsia is present and to know how to treat it.

Summary

Having an irritation in your stomach lining may cause bloating. It can also trigger other symptoms — like pain.

7. Food Intolerances

These are adverse reactions to food. Unlike food allergies, they do not involve the immune system and instead only affect the digestive tract.

Symptoms can include bloating, along with things like nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. (11)

These occur as a result of the food not being properly digested. Poor digestion can cause gas buildup and other irritations.

Lactose from dairy or gluten from wheat, barley, or rye are examples of food intolerances. However, it is possible to be intolerant to just about any food.

Summary

Having a food intolerance like lactose or gluten can cause bloating. This happens when food is not properly digested.

8. Hormonal Changes

Experiencing menstruation is a common hormonal cause of bloating. Many women feel bloated before and during their period.

But, menopausal women or those who don’t have a regular cycle may still feel bloated if hormones are imbalanced.

An imbalance in progesterone and estrogen levels or even the natural rise and fall of these hormones during female cycles may attribute to bloating.

Both estrogen and progesterone are involved with bodily fluids and can cause the body to retain more water. (12)

As a result, the body’s cells become swollen with water, causing the feeling of bloating.

Summary

Being on your period can contribute to bloating due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.

Dig Deeper: Foods to Eat (and Avoid) During Your Period

9. Habits That Cause You to Swallow Too Much Air

There are many diet and lifestyle habits that can contribute to bloating.

Eating too fast, drinking carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and drinking through a straw are a few common ones.

These things may cause you to take in too much air. This can add buildup and pressure to your abdomen — triggering bloating.

Summary

Eating too quickly and chewing gum can cause you to swallow more air— triggering bloating.

10. Eating Too Much

Overeating, in general, can cause your stomach to stretch and feel tight — possibly triggering bloating.

Eating too many salty foods can make this problem worse. This is because salt causes the body to hold onto water, particularly if you are not consuming enough water(13)

However, even eating too many non-salty foods can still cause feelings of bloating.

Fiber can be another cause of bloat. It is important to get enough daily fiber, but you may need to adjust the amount you consume in one setting to decrease bloating. (14)

When adding in foods with higher fiber — like beans, lentils, or whole grains — it is best to go low and slow to decrease negative symptoms.

This means consuming small amounts at a time, and working your way up to larger amounts until your body gets used to fiber intake. (15)

Summary

Eating too much causes your stomach to stretch and feel tight. Eating too much salt can make the problem worse by causing your body to hold onto water. Fiber intake can also contribute to bloat. Focus on small amounts in one setting to decrease bloating.

How to Get Rid of Bloating

How to get rid of bloating depends on what is causing it. It may be necessary to try a few different interventions before discovering what the cause is.

Some remedies for bloating can take a few weeks to notice a change, while others might provide bloating relief much sooner.

Here is a brief list of things to try to experience bloating relief:

  • Get tested for things like digestive disorders and other medical conditions.
  • Take note of which foods may be contributing to bloat and try an elimination diet to address potential food intolerances. Work with a dietitian to help with this.
  • Cut back on your salt intake, and ensure you are hydrated.
  • Increase your physical activity each day.
  • Avoid habits that may cause you to become overly full or swallow excess air.
  • Modify your fiber intake. Aim for smaller amounts of higher-fiber foods in one sitting, as too much fiber at once can cause bloating.
  • Consider taking natural supplements like digestive enzymes or probiotics to support proper digestion.

For a more detailed list of tips, check out this article.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Bloating may or may not be a symptom of a more serious underlying disorder.

If you experience chronic bloating that isn’t able to be consistently relieved, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away.

In addition, experiencing other symptoms alongside bloating may warrant medical advice as soon as possible. These symptoms may include blood in the stool, difficulty eating, vomiting, or weight changes.

The Bottom Line

Having a bloated stomach is not pleasant for most people. It involves symptoms like abdominal pressure, gas, and a tightness or hard feeling in the stomach area.

There are many potential causes of bloating. These may include digestive disorders, imbalanced gut bacteria, eating too much salt, or not getting enough exercise.

Other things like hormonal changes, swallowing too much air, constipation, and food intolerances can also contribute to bloating.

There are many remedies that can help you experience bloating relief. Some of these include taking natural supplements, being more physically active, eating slower, and eating less salt.

Bloating is often not a serious condition. However, in some cases, it might be.

If you experience persistent bloating or other digestive symptoms that are concerning to you, you should seek medical advice right away.

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