7 Healthy Habits That Could Be Making You Bloated
When you work hard to establish new health habits, there are plenty of things you expect to happen as a result—an increase in energy, a sunnier mood and maybe even a good night's sleep or two. But a mad case of bloating for your efforts? Not so much.
"We all want to be healthy and have been told that healthy habits are uniform, but if there's one thing we've learned, there's no one size that fits all," says Brooklyn-based registered dietitian Maya Feller, M.S., RD. "What works for one person may not work for another."
In other words, the exact same habit might result in glowing skin for your co-worker—and a puffy midsection for you. And since most of us are tackling multiple health habits at one time, it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit behind your body's sudden bloating spree.
Which healthy habits have a penchant for causing a person's middle to balloon? We went to the experts to find out, plus got some ideas for easy tweaks to make to each habit, so you can finally deflate once and for all.
1. You're Making Protein Smoothies a Regular Thing
Many protein powders contain added fibers, like inulin and acacia. "While these are healthy for the gut, they can cause extreme bloating," says Kylie Ivanir, M.S., RD, a registered dietitian specializing in gut health.
This is because these compounds (along with the sugar alcohols that protein powders often contain, like sorbitol) are fermentable carbs: "When these carbs hit your large intestine, the billions of bacteria that live there start fermenting them and trigger bloating in the process," she explains.
If you rely on protein powders (or bars), try to find ones that contain as few ingredients as possible and don't have added fibers or sugar alcohols. If you want to switch up your morning smoothie, try making one of our healthy smoothie recipes.
2. You're Loading Up on Raw Veggies
You may have heard that many of us fall short in the fiber department and maybe you've finally decided to do something about it—only now it feels like your body's retaliating.
"Raw veggies are high in prebiotics, which is the indigestible part of plants," says Ivanir. "These prebiotics travel down to the large intestine and get fermented by the bacteria located there, so overloading on raw veggies may cause bloating and discomfort."
The fix? "Our gut is like a muscle, so instead of going from zero to 100, I recommend adding raw veggies (and fiber in general) into your diet gradually, giving your gut time to adjust," says Ivanir. For example, adding an additional serving once every few days or so, depending on how your body reacts (and don't forget to increase your water intake along the way). Another tip: Try cooking or roasting your veggies to buffer the belly-bloating effects (we love these Colorful Roasted Sheet-Pan Vegetables for our weekly meal prep).
3. You're Drinking Too Much Water at a Time
Staying hydrated is super important for your overall health, but drinking large amounts of water at a time can cause bloating due to the fact that you're adding a lot of volume into your system at once. "This can stretch your stomach and make you feel uncomfortable or bloated," says Ivanir, especially if you're downing a meal at the same time.
To avoid post-guzzle bloating, try eating hydrating foods and sipping water throughout the day instead of chugging it at concentrated times. And instead of drinking water during meals, drink it 30 minutes before or after eating to keep your body deflated.
4. You're Taking Probiotics
There are oodles of strains of bacteria that feed the healthy flora in your gut and create a strong microbiome. Bloating is one of the symptoms probiotics can help cure—but, at first, they can make bloating worse.
"Introducing strains of bacteria can lead to bloating, gas and cramps as the strains balance the bacteria and pH levels of the gut," says registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio, M.S., RD, author of The Women's Health Big Book of Smoothies & Soups.
To get around this issue, you can find probiotics that contain one single strain of bacteria and slowly work your way up to more diverse options as your body adjusts. Another option is to reduce your dosage by half until the symptoms have disappeared, then mosey onto the suggested dose.
"This initial adjustment period should last a few days as your gut's microflora begin to rebalance," says DeFazio, who also suggests taking your probiotics on an empty stomach. Probiotics can produce gas when combined with certain foods, so taking them on empty stomach would help you steer clear of bloating as a side effect.
Read More: Best and Worst Foods to Eat for Gut Health
5. You're Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
While the gut loves fermented foods (thanks to their high probiotic content), it may not act like it at first and you might notice an uptick in gas and bloating. "These symptoms may be more severe after eating fiber-rich fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut," says DeFazio. "If your body isn't used to digesting high-fiber foods, it can take some time to get adjusted."
The trick is to start small—say, 1/2 cup of fermented veggies or 2 ounces of a probiotic drink, like kefir, at a time. Once your body adjusts, add another serving and continue doing so until you can have a serving of cultured veggies or probiotic liquids at every meal (or as a snack) sans digestive drama.
6. You're Drinking Nut Milks
Did you switch to nut milk because dairy milk leaves you feeling bloated, only to discover that you're, uh, still bloated? You're not alone.
"Many nut milks contain carrageenan, a common food additive from seaweed that's used as a thickener," says Feller. "While the ingredient is safe and widely used, some people do experience bloating or gastrointestinal discomfort from consuming this indigestible compound."
Other added ingredients, like thickening agents and emulsifiers, may also be to blame. (Think: xanthan gum, soya lecithin, guar gum, locust bean gum.) "These compounds are types of fibers and can cause extra fermentation in your large intestine, leading to bloating when consumed in excess," says Ivanir.
Stick to nut milks with minimal ingredients that are carrageenan-free, and drink them in small amounts (between 1/2 and 1 cup at a time), says Ivanir. Brands that only contain nuts and water are pricy but worth it if you experience persistent bloating.
7. You're Exercising More
Starting a new workout routine may lead to shifts in body composition, but before these shifts start to happen, you might experience a (temporary) case of the bloats.
"The bloating is due to water retention caused by electrolyte imbalances from the increased demands on your body," says Feller. It's usually a short-term thing until your body adjusts, so stay hydrated while continuing your regimen and your symptoms should subside in no time.
Read More: 6 Ways to Exercise Without Even Knowing It