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8th September, 202110 min read

How to get rid of a bloated stomach

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Dr Adiele Hoffman
Last reviewed: 09/09/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

What helps with bloating?

Most of us get bloating from time to time – that uncomfortable feeling when your tummy feels very full, tight and sometimes, hard and very sore. You usually get a bloated tummy when gas or air builds up in your gut.

The causes of this build-up are usually easy to treat with simple lifestyle changes like eating less, avoiding certain foods and exercising regularly. And if those don’t help, certain medicines may help to get rid of your bloating quickly.

But sometimes, even with self-care measures and medication, you may still have a very bloated tummy, bloating that won’t go away and other worrying symptoms. This may mean you have a more serious condition, so you’ll need to see a doctor.

Discover how you can stop or relieve bloating with self-care, natural remedies and medicines – and when it’s time to see a doctor.

How to reduce bloating

The best bloated stomach remedies depend on what’s causing your bloating. Common causes include trapped wind, indigestion, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation and hormonal changes like the menopause. Read more about the causes of a bloated stomach.

Find below the many self-care measures you can try at home to relieve bloating.

Make changes to your diet

Making small changes to how and what you eat may help reduce bloating. For example, eating smaller meals at regular intervals can help stop that bloated feeling after a big meal, and it will help prevent indigestion (dyspepsia) too.

Try these top dietary tips too.

Which foods cause bloating?

Some foods are more likely to cause a build-up in gas in your tummy, including:

  • broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • soluble fibre foods – like beans, fruit and peas
  • onions
  • starchy food like potatoes and noodles

But make sure you still get 5 portions of fruit and vegetables into your diet every day.

If you’ve got indigestion and bloating, avoid these:

  • spicy foods
  • acidic food like tomatoes
  • fatty foods
  • coffee
  • chocolate
  • alcohol

If you have a food intolerance, it means your body can’t digest certain foods properly. These are some of the foods that usually cause intolerances, so you may want to work out if you should avoid them:

  • milk (because it contains lactose)
  • gluten – found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Read more about when to try a gluten or dairy-free diet
  • food colouring
  • caffeine
  • fructose (a sugar found in fruit)
  • sulfites (chemicals found in foods)

Common food triggers for people with IBS are known as FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). These are sugars that can be harder to digest and cause more gas in your bowel. There’s a long list of these, so see a dietician for help on how to exclude these foods safely from your diet. Read more about the low FODMAP diet.

Try these foods and drinks to relieve and stop bloating

Some foods and drinks may help to bring down your bloated belly – and stop it bloating again. Try these drinks:

  • peppermint tea or peppermint oil – these help reduce symptoms of IBS, including bloating, by helping your bowel wall relax. They’re not safe for everyone – for example, if you have serious constipation or liver disease, you shouldn’t drink them – so first talk to your pharmacist or doctor about whether you can take them safely
  • replace fizzy drinks with water – fizzy drinks (sodas) contain gas that can build up in your tummy, and the artificial sweeteners and sugar in them may also cause bloating

If you have constipation, you may be able to prevent bloating by eating more fibre. But it’s best to increase how much fibre you eat gradually over a few weeks to allow your body to adjust – if you don’t, your bloating may get worse.

High-fibre foods include:

  • oats, wheat bran and linseed – try adding a spoonful to your breakfast cereal or choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal
  • wholemeal or granary bread, wholemeal pasta and rice
    pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas
    fresh or dried fruit – but eat dried fruit as part of a meal to prevent tooth decay
  • vegetables

If you don’t have constipation, sometimes high-fibre foods can make your bloating worse. And if you have IBS with diarrhoea and bloating, it may be better if you avoid high-fibre foods. But if you have IBS and want to increase your fibre intake, do it slowly and keep a food and symptom diary to see if it’s making your poo softer and more regular, and making your bloating better or worse.

There are some supplements and natural remedies for bloating you may have heard about – like chamomile tea and apple cider vinegar. But more conclusive research is needed to prove that these 2 natural remedies do help get rid of bloating.

A natural supplement that may work for some people is probiotics, which contain ‘good’ bacteria. Although the evidence isn’t conclusive, studies have shown that if probiotics are taken every day for at least 4 weeks, they can be helpful if you have IBS. They help balance the bacteria in your gut and can help with symptoms like bloating, farting and diarrhoea.

Read more about how long probiotics take to work and natural ways to beat bloating.

Keep a food diary

If you’ve got IBS or a food intolerance, it may be helpful to keep a food diary, as finding out which food triggers your bloating can be tricky, especially if it’s more than 1 food. By writing down which foods you’ve eaten and any symptoms you’ve had after eating them, you can try and work out which foods are to blame.

Read more about why you feel bloated after eating and what foods and drinks cause flatulence (farting).

Swallow less air

Swallowing too much air can make you feel gassy and bloated, so try these simple remedies:

  • don’t drink fizzy drinks
  • don’t chew gum
  • chew with your mouth closed
  • don’t suck hard sweets or the tops of pens
  • stop smoking
  • make sure your dentures fit properly

Exercise

Being active, especially in an upright position, helps move poo and gas along your gut, stopping both constipation and bloating. It can also help with the symptoms of IBS. Aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 days a week.

You may want to try yoga, as certain yoga poses can help position your tummy muscles to help get rid of extra gas from your gut.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress can be a big factor in IBS and is often a trigger for symptoms like bloating and diarrhoea. It can make indigestion worse too. So managing your stress may help reduce your physical symptoms too.

Try things like soaking in a warm bath or a relaxing massage to help reduce stress. A tummy massage can be particularly helpful at relieving bloating.

Psychological therapies can sometimes be helpful if you’re very sensitive to gas in your tummy. Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness may help overcome bloating.

Read more about how to relieve stress and when to see a doctor about stress.

Try medication for bloating

Medication can be helpful if self-care measures aren’t bringing you any relief. Speak to a doctor or pharmacist for advice on which medication is suitable for you and how to take it safely.

Different medicines that may help with bloating include:

  • medicines which reduce tummy cramps (bowel spasms) – if you have IBS, mebeverine and Buscopan (hyoscine butylbromide) may help relieve bloating and cramping
  • antacids medicines – if you have a bloated tummy and indigestion or heartburn, antacids may help. They help reduce the acid in your tummy and stop it irritating your stomach lining, or stop the acid reaching your food pipe (oesophagus)
  • laxatives – if you’re still constipated after trying all self-care options, this type of medicine can help you poo more regularly. But certain laxatives like lactulose can sometimes make bloating worse

Sometimes, other kinds of medication can make your bloating worse, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some blood pressure medications and steroids, so speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you think a medicine may be the cause.

When to see a doctor about a bloated stomach

If self-care measures and medication aren’t helping to get rid of your bloated stomach, it’s best to see a doctor so they can work out if you have a more serious condition. You may need an endoscopy or a poo test (which looks for bacteria that may be causing stomach irritation and ulcers).

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you’re bloated and you:

  • are losing weight without meaning to
  • are in pain or have a bloated tummy at night
  • have pelvic or stomach pain
  • notice blood in your poo
  • have a fever
  • are vomiting (being sick)
  • notice your skin or the whites of your eyes are yellow (jaundice)
  • have noticed a change in your poo habits that can’t be explained, like pooing more often than usual with very runny poo, or you have diarrhoea
  • have a lump in your tummy
  • have bloating that’s very bad or it keeps coming back
  • are over 50
  • are having problems with swallowing food or drinks
  • fill up quickly after eating
  • have lost your appetite
  • need to pee more often or more urgently
  • are having vaginal bleeding in between your periods, after sex or after you’ve been through the menopause

But go to hospital immediately or call an ambulance if you feel bloated and you:

  • haven’t peed all day or suddenly have trouble peeing anything
  • see a lot of blood in your poo
  • are vomiting blood or what looks like coffee grounds, or your vomit is
  • bright green
  • are vomiting and can’t keep any liquids down
  • have very bad tummy pain
  • haven’t pooed or farted all day
  • see a lot of blood in your poo or your pee
  • notice your poo is dark black (like tar)

Your health questions answered

  • How long can bloating last?

    You usually get a bloated tummy because you have trapped wind, so once you get rid of the cause of this gas, the bloating will stop. Some common causes of bloating, like constipation, will only happen once and you may not have problems with bloating again. Other causes might come and go, for example, if you eat a certain food that triggers the bloating or you have IBS that’s triggered by stress. And others may be more difficult to get rid of or you may have a more serious condition, so you’ll need to see a doctor to find out what the cause is.

Key takeaways

  • most of us will experience bloating from time to time – but there are simple changes you can make to stop the bloating
  • changing your diet can help relieve bloating, like including more fibre in your diet if you’re constipated or avoiding foods that cause bloating
  • if you have IBS or a food intolerance, keep a food diary to see which foods trigger your bloating
  • getting more exercise and reducing your stress levels can also help get rid of bloating
  • see a doctor if you’re worried about bloating or you’re bloated and have other worrying symptoms
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