What is Bloating?

Bloating is a feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdominal area, which is often accompanied by abdominal pain. The belly may even look swollen or protrude outward.

Who Feels Bloated?

Bloating can be experienced by anyone – after they eat a particular meal, or perhaps when they haven’t been as regular.

Bloating is often a symptom experienced by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS1.) In fact, around 70% of people with IBS consider bloating an important factor that contributes to the severity of their IBS2. It is often more common in people with IBS-C and IBS-M4,5. Women are also more likely to complain of bloating than men5.

What Causes Bloating?

Various factors can lead to bloating. Most commonly, they include:

  • Presence of intestinal gas
  • Swallowing air unintentionally
  • Constipation
  • Overeating or being overweight
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the intestine
  • Fatty foods
  • Irritable bowel
  • Lactose intolerance (inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products).
  • Taking certain medications that contain acarbose, lactulose or sorbitol

How to Reduce Bloating?

Naturally, reducing bloating depends on the initial cause.

If bloating arises due to excessive intestinal gas, making dietary changes can help. For example, avoid foods that produce gas. Common culprits include sugar alcohols, dairy products, wheat, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Consider avoiding bread in particular.

Overall, follow these steps to help relieve your bloating:

  • Avoid chewing gum or eating hard sweets.
  • Drink plenty of water. 2 litres a day – around 8 glasses in total – is adequate for most people.
  • Chew food thoroughly (at least 15-20 bites) to avoid swallowing of air.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large meals.
  • Avoid foods that can trigger your bloating.
  • If you have constipation, make sure to treat it.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks and don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Stop smoking.

Does Sugar Cause Bloating?

Yes, sugar can cause bloating. Scientists have shown that dietary sugars can cause gut inflammation, bloating, and gas6,7,8.

Our digestive system breaks down complex sugars into simple sugars in order to make energy.

This process can cause gut inflammation – particularly if you have an intolerance or allergy to certain sugars.

This is because your body will trigger an immune response when it meets the sugar, thinking it’s a foreign body or disease-causing microorganism.

The gut then inflames in order to isolate the sugar and get immune cells to come and destroy the threat.

It’s this inflammation that causes some of the symptoms of bloating.  


  1. Wilkins T, Pepitone C, Alex B, Schade RR. Diagnosis and management of IBS in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86:419-426.
  2. IBS Patients: Their Illness Experience and Unmet Needs. IFFGD 2009.
  3. Heidelbaugh JJ, Stelwagon M, Miller SA, Shea EP, Chey WD. The spectrum of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: US survey assessing symptoms, care seeking, and disease burden. Am J Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr;110(4):580-7.
  4. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. IBS in the Real World Survey. Summary Findings. August 2002.
  5. Ringel Y, Williams RE, Kalilani L, Cook SF. Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of bloating symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;7:68-72
  6. Casen, C., Vebø, H.C., Sekelja, M., Hegge, F.T., Karlsson, M.K., Ciemniejewska, E., Dzankovic, S., Frøyland, C., Nestestog, R., Engstrand, L. and Munkholm, P., 2015. Deviations in human gut microbiota: a novel diagnostic test for determining dysbiosis in patients with IBS or IBD. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics42(1), pp.71-83.
  7. Cheng, W.L., Li, S.J., Lee, T.I., Lee, T.W., Chung, C.C., Kao, Y.H. and Chen, Y.J., 2021. Sugar fructose triggers gut dysbiosis and metabolic inflammation with cardiac arrhythmogenesis. Biomedicines9(7), p.728.
  8. Della Corte, K.W., Perrar, I., Penczynski, K.J., Schwingshackl, L., Herder, C. and Buyken, A.E., 2018. Effect of dietary sugar intake on biomarkers of subclinical inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. Nutrients10(5), p.606.

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