3 Common Myths About Bloating

Your clothes fit in the morning, but by lunchtime you have to let your belt out a notch or two, Is this bloating? And is it something you need to fix?

Bloating is that feeling of increased pressure in your intestines. Do you need to worry about it? Here we set you straight on three myths about bloating:


Myth 1. Bloating is not normal. “Occasional bloating is totally normal, especially after a big meal or extra fibre,” says Dr Megan Rossi, an Australian dietitian with a London-based practice specialising in gut health and author of Eat More, Live Well.

“In fact, a bit of bloating after a high-fibre meal is good – it’s a sign of well-fed gut microbes (including good bacteria) just doing their thing. Continuous bloating, which is when you’re always bloated with no fluctuations over the day, is less common and best reviewed by your doctor first.”

Canadian dietitian Abby Langer agrees.

“The wellness industry tries to make us believe that all bloating is a problem, but it’s unrealistic to believe that your stomach should be flat all the time,” she says. “Just eating a regular-sized meal can distend your stomach which may lead to complaints of bloating, when what you’re really experiencing is a stomach full of food.”

Myth 2. There’s a simple cause. There are many different triggers for bloating, says Rossi. These include the volume of food and fluid you’ve eaten, a backlog of poop in the case of constipation, or simply the gas produced by your own gut microbiota.

Eating foods containing sugar alcohols (sugar replacements like sorbitol and xylitol) such as chewing gum will also contribute to bloating, as can wearing tight clothes all day and lack of movement.

Stress can also have very real effects on our gut, says Langer, including the feeling of bloating. The gut and brain are connected via nerves in what’s called the gut-brain axis. When we are stressed the brain sends signals to the gut to slow down digestion in the ‘fight or flight’ response, which can trigger gut discomfort.

Rossi points out that whether you feel the bloating or not can be down to your intestine’s sensitivity and how efficient your body is at absorbing the gas produced by your unique gut microbiome.

Myth 3. You can fix bloating by cutting out unhealthy food. Don’t cut out foods that are perfectly good for you before getting advice from a nutrition professional such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

There are many diet and lifestyle strategies that can help bloating, including checking for common food intolerances, splitting your food intake into smaller meals, and chewing well.

Unnecessarily restricting your diet can make your gut more sensitive, warns Rossi. That’s because your gut bacteria adapt to the food that you eat, and when you feed it a diverse range of whole foods (including carbs) the gut microbiome can produce enzymes that break down all the fibres found in plants.

If you overly restrict your diet, you’ll have a less diverse gut microbes and lack many of the microbes needed to digest plant fibres efficiently. This can trigger gut symptoms such as bloating and excessive gas – the very things you want to avoid.

If your bloating is frequent and comes with pain and discomfort, speak to a dietitian or doctor for help.