What Can Cause You to Feel Bloated All the Time?

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Woman feeling a stomach ache

Being bloated all the time is a drag but knowing why you're bloated and how to relieve this unpleasant symptom can help ease your pain. A number of health conditions can cause bloating, some of which are serious. If bloating is a problem for you, it's important to find out why. Fortunately, most causes of bloating can be easily fixed.

Hormone Fluctuations in Women

Women can experience bloating due to premenstrual water retention, which results from hormone fluctuations. You may experience this type of bloating a week or two before your period, according to Mayo Clinic. Ways to help reduce premenstrual water retention include getting regular exercise, eating less salt, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and eating a nutritious fiber-rich diet packed with veggies, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Mayo Clinic notes some birth control pills and diuretic medications can help reduce bloating due to hormonal fluid retention.

Gas-Causing Foods

Your diet may be to blame if you're feeling gassy and bloated. If bloating is causing you discomfort, stay away from the following gas-causing foods, suggests MedlinePlus:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Foods high in fructose or sorbitol (some fruits and artificial sweeteners)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Beans and other legumes
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips

If you think any of these foods are making you feel bloated, try cutting them out of your diet.

Lactose Intolerance

If you're lactose intolerant, dairy foods can make you feel gassy and bloated. Such foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, cream, and butter. Fortunately, you don't have to give up milk entirely if you're lactose intolerant. Try lactose-free cow's milk, soymilk, or soy yogurt instead.

Constipation

Constipation is also a common cause of bloating, according the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fortunately, relieving constipation is often a matter of making simple dietary changes. Try drinking more water, exercising more, or boosting your intake of fiber-rich fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Ingesting probiotics may also sometimes help. If you've tried all of these lifestyle changes and still feel constipated and bloated, chat with your doctor about taking a laxative to ease your symptoms.

Too Much Fiber

While fiber from foods often helps ease bloating, getting too much fiber from supplements can actually make bloating worse, Mayo Clinic notes. This is because the amount of fiber in supplements and fiber-fortified foods is generally a lot more than the fiber you get from foods. In some cases, you can avoid bloating from fiber supplements by slowly increasing the amount of fiber you're ingesting. However, if you're eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, you likely don't need supplements. Most adults should aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Up to 96 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS) report bloating, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. If you've been diagnosed with IBS, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Avoiding gas-causing foods and taking medications generally helps ease symptoms.

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth

While you need some bacteria in your gut for it to function properly, small intestine bacterial overgrowth can be problematic and cause bloating. Treatments for this health condition may include getting plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, proper nutrition, antibiotics, motility-speeding drugs, or a low-carbohydrate diet, notes MedlinePlus.

Celiac Disease

Another health condition that can cause you to feel bloated is called celiac disease, according to a May 2014 issue of Today's Dietitian. While there's not cure for this disease, following a certain type of diet helps alleviate unpleasant symptoms. If you've been diagnosed with celiac disease, follow a gluten-free diet -- which means avoid foods containing wheat, rye, and barley.

Cancers That Cause Bloating

Bloating caused by ascites, which is fluid build-up in the abdominal area, may be a sign of cancer. MedlinePlus notes that colon, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic, and liver cancers can also cause abdominal fluid build-up and bloating. Abdominal pain may also accompany bloating. If you're experiencing pain or have a family history of cancer in addition to being bloated regularly, it's time to see your doctor.

Bottom Line

While bloating may be a sign of a serious health condition, many cases of bloating are due to lifestyle choices and can be easily treated.

What Can Cause You to Feel Bloated All the Time?