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How to Get Rid of Bloating While Fasting

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/18/2024

Intermittent fasting has many health benefits, including weight loss, increased insulin sensitivity, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 


However, those new to fasting may experience bloating, gas, discomfort, and other digestive issues as the gastrointestinal tract adapts to a new way of eating. 


Learn what may trigger abdominal distension and how to get rid of bloating while fasting. 


Bloating pain

What is bloating?


Bloating is a digestive condition characterized by air or gas buildup in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 


Abdominal bloating can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Sensitivities to certain foods

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Hormonal changes

  • Imbalanced gut microflora 

  • Stress

  • Dehydration 

  • Eating too fast

  • Swallowing too much air  


Bloating can lead to abdominal discomfort, a feeling of fullness, and belly swelling. A bloated abdomen can also be associated with other symptoms, including flatulence and intestinal rumbling.  


Approximately 25 percent of people experience occasional bloating, which typically is linked to excessive food intake or the consumption of gas-producing foods. 


Bloating also affects up to 90 percent of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as an estimated 75 percent of women during their menstrual cycles.


Watch the video below to learn more about fasting-related bloating and its causes.

Intermittent Fasting. Bigger Meals. Avoiding Excessive Bloating

What causes bloating while fasting?


Although fasting generally helps keep your digestive system functioning properly, some people experience bloating while fasting.


Fasting-related bloating can have various causes but is generally triggered by eating too much during the eating window. Overeating can strain the digestive system, leading to slow digestion, gas, and bloating. 


Food intolerances, such as gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance, can inflame the digestive system, which can cause bloating immediately or hours after eating. 


Fasting has been found to increase beneficial gut microbes. Changes to the composition of the intestinal microflora can cause temporary bloating as different bacterial strains become more dominant. 


However, over time, this shift often leads to better digestion and reduced bloating as the gut adjusts to the new microbial environment.


Another common cause of bloating while fasting is dehydration. Optimal water intake aids digestion by helping break down food and softening stools. Dehydration can stall digestion and lead to constipation, causing excess gas and bloating.


Is bloating while fasting normal?

Yes, it’s normal to bloat when switching to an intermittent fasting routine. 


Bloating and other digestive issues can occur as the GI tract adjusts to the new eating schedule. Once your body adapts to fasting, these digestive issues typically improve.


However, bloating with additional symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain, may point to an underlying digestive problem.  


It’s vital to contact a healthcare provider if bloating persists, is painful, or doesn’t resolve on its own.


Intermittent fasting

How to get rid of bloating while fasting


Though bloating can last for a few hours, there are steps you can take to reduce discomfort and the time it takes to recover. 


Here are four ways to alleviate bloating while fasting.


1. Drink peppermint tea

Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic, which relaxes muscles and helps move gas and stool along the digestive tract.


Herbal teas won’t break a fast or kick you out of ketosis, making peppermint tea a safe way to manage bloating during fasting periods. 


Peppermint oil capsules can also help reduce bloating. A study published in the Journal of General Gastroenterology found that supplementing with peppermint oil improved IBS symptoms and abdominal pain.


However, peppermint oil capsules may lead to heartburn, and it’s recommended that those with heartburn and acid reflux consider an alternative method. 


2. Apply heat

Heat from a heating pad, warm compress, or bath can help ease pain and move trapped gas through the intestines. 


Warmth relaxes the muscles and can support stress reduction, which may improve digestion and alleviate bloating. 


Couple walking a dog

3. Lightly exercise

Light exercises, such as walking,  jogging, or stretching, have been shown to help expel gas and deflate a bloated stomach.  


A study published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench found that incorporating light exercise after meals reduces bloating and improves other symptoms of digestive upset, including flatulence, belching, and abdominal discomfort.  


4. Abdominal massage

Massaging the abdomen along the large intestine can help relieve bloating discomfort and promote bowel movement. 


It’s recommended to massage in gentle, circular motions starting from the right hip bone and moving up toward the bottom of the ribcage. Then, massage across the abdomen to the left rib cage and down to the left hip bone.


Food intolerance test

6 ways to prevent bloating while fasting


Bloating often results from overeating but can occur for various other reasons. Luckily, there are natural ways to support digestion and decrease the risk of bloating during fasting periods.


Here are six ways to prevent bloating while fasting.


1. Avoid overeating 

Intermittent fasting requires larger meals to compensate for the lack of calories and nutrients throughout the day. However, overeating in a short amount of time can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to bloating. 


It’s recommended to eat slowly until comfortably full to prevent bloating while practicing intermittent fasting. 


2. Identify potential trigger foods  

Dairy and gluten are common food sensitivities that cause bloating, along with gas-producing foods, such as beans, apples, and certain artificial sweeteners. 


Vegetables high in dietary fiber, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, can also cause excess gas and bloating. 


It’s recommended to keep a food diary to pinpoint specific foods that may lead to digestive issues and bloating.


3. Separate foods

Eating too many different types of food at once can slow digestion and lead to more gas buildup in the GI tract.


“When you combine multiple food groups, it can strain the digestive system,” explains Dr. Berg.  “Large meals with various foods require more enzymes and are harder to digest, which can cause bloating.”


Spacing out meals and avoiding eating many different types of foods in one meal can help reduce the risk of bloating. An example would be to consume vegetables and then eat protein and fat an hour or two later to give the body time to digest. 


Apple cider vinegar drink

4. Support stomach acid production

Stomach acid breaks down food and stimulates the gallbladder to release bile, a crucial digestive fluid needed to emulsify fats into smaller particles for absorption.   


Inadequate stomach acid levels can lead to partially undigested food, which can strain the digestive system and cause bloating and other digestive discomforts. 


Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains acetic acid, an organic acid that supports digestive processes and enhances the stomach’s acidity levels. 


Combine one tablespoon of ACV in eight ounces of water and consume before a meal to boost stomach acid and promote optimal digestion.


5. Support fat digestion 

Eating too much fat at once may overwhelm the gallbladder, especially if you are new to fasting or have a sluggish gallbladder. 


Poor fat digestion can lead to gas and bloating and is a leading cause of foul-smelling, floating, and discolored stools or diarrhea. 


Purified bile salts can help support gallbladder function and increase bile production, which promotes the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. 


6. Manage stress

Chronic stress can cause bloating and may contribute to gastrointestinal diseases. Managing stress with breathing exercises can help keep the digestive system functioning correctly. 


A study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that “Stress results in alterations of the brain-gut interactions ("brain-gut axis"), ultimately leading to the development of a broad array of gastrointestinal disorders.”


Researchers also found that constant exposure to stress increases the risk of gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability, widely known as leaky gut. Intestinal permeability can lead to serious health issues, including autoimmune diseases, skin problems, and chronic fatigue.


Woman with painful bloating

How long does it take for bloating to go away?


Bloating usually resolves within a few hours as food is processed through the digestive tract. 


Episodes of fasting-related bloating typically improve as the digestive tract adjusts to time-restricted eating, and the intestinal microflora adapts to time-restricted eating. 


Persistent cases of bloating may benefit from an elimination diet, which removes potential irritants such as dairy, gluten, eggs, processed foods, and carbonated drinks. Avoiding these triggers can lead to immediate relief and help manage bloating effectively.


However, feeling bloated over a few days may indicate an underlying digestive issue. Those who can’t find relief with natural remedies should contact their healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation of their symptoms. 


Bloating concept

Key takeaways


Intermittent fasting can promote weight loss, help reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of disease, but how do you get rid of bloating while fasting?


Bloating while fasting can be caused by overeating, food intolerances, or dehydration, which can strain the digestive system and lead to excessive gas production. 


Boosting stomach acid levels, light exercise, and abdominal massages have been shown to support digestion and relieve the discomfort associated with fasting-related bloating.



FAQ


1. How can I get rid of bloating while fasting?

Avoiding overeating, promoting stomach acid production, and supporting fat digestion with purified bile salts can help prevent bloating while fasting.


Additionally, managing stress and identifying food sensitivities can lower inflammation in the digestive system, support healthy digestion, and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues. 


2. Is it normal to bloat while fasting?

Yes, bloating while fasting is normal and can occur as the digestive system adapts to the change in eating frequency. However, persistent bloating may indicate a more serious issue, such as gut dysbiosis, food allergies, or chronic constipation.


3. How do you quickly relieve bloating?

Studies show that drinking peppermint tea and light exercise, such as walking or stretching, can help relieve bloating by relaxing the intestinal muscles and stimulating the GI tract. 


Applying heat and gently massaging the abdomen can also alleviate discomfort and move gas along the intestinal tract.


4. Why is my stomach bloated when I haven't eaten?

Eating too much during the eating window is a common cause of bloating while fasting. Overeating can strain the digestive system, leading to poor digestive processes and bloating hours after eating. 


In addition, dehydration can cause chronic constipation, which can lead to gas buildup and bloating, irrespective of food intake.  


5. Can an empty stomach cause bloating?

No, an empty stomach is unlikely to cause bloating. Bloating typically results from digestive distress, such as bacterial fermentation or food sensitivities. When the stomach is empty, food from previous meals may still be digested. 


Bacteria in the gut feed on undigested carbohydrates and fiber, which can contribute to fermentation and gas production. Additionally, sensitivities to dairy, gluten, or other foods can inflame the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.



Sources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24100754/ 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8035544/ 

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22314561/

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