There are a lot of health and fitness personalities that say bloating is totally ‘normal’ or ‘natural’. In fact, I see a lot of “30-second before and after” photos talking about how it’s totally okay to be bloated and not everyone can be lean all the time. And while bloating is technically a ‘natural’ reaction by your body, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to be bloated all the time. Bloating is a common sign of inflammation in your body, so while it is a ‘natural’ response, it’s definitely not a good one. Everyone will get bloated from time-to-time (some people more than others), but it’s a bad sign if you’re bloated after every meal or even every day. Each person can learn a lot of things from their own bloating, and should take steps to reduce inflammation in their body and the bloating as well.
If you find yourself bloated after a meal, chances are that you ate something your body doesn’t like. If you want a list of common inflammatory foods, check out our blogpost, “10 Popular Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods” (I’ll also have it linked at the end of the article; that post also goes into more science-based details about inflammation in general). There are also things more specific to certain people as well. For example, I tend to get a little bloated from apples (I figure it’s because they’re high in sugar), but most people probably don’t. This applies to gluten as well. Other people may get bloated from rice, but my body doesn’t at all. If you find yourself bloated after a meal, take note of what foods you had that could have caused it, and try and get some anti-inflammatory foods into your system (although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating pounds of turmeric to try and reverse the inflammation).
If you’re getting bloated even after eating clean/healthy meals, there could be an underlying problem with your digestive system. You might not have enough good gut bacteria, your digestive tract may not be acidic enough (the acid in your stomach breaks down the food and also creates an environment that good gut bacteria thrives in), or your digestive system may not be producing enzymes needed to break down food very well. However, if you do have this problem, it’s a bit of a longer process to slowly heal your gut back to normal, but eating probiotic-rich foods (in moderation!!) and making sure you’re eating clean will help.
Keep in mind that feeling bloated and feeling full are two very different things. It’s good to feel full, especially after a big meal, to make sure that you’re body is getting the fuel it needs to run. Healthy/clean foods will make you feel satiated after a meal, while inflammatory and processed foods will just make you feel uncomfortably bloated. Eating a giant meal with steak, tons of veggies, and maybe some rice will make you full, but drinking a single beer will bloat you; two very different feelings. If you are able to determine when you are bloated versus when you are full, it will further allow you to determine what foods to continue eating and which ones to cut.
There are other things that can cause bloating, but inflammation is probably the most common. So yes, bloating may be ‘natural’, but it certainly isn’t good. Your body is going through lots of chaos when you’re bloated so you shouldn’t let it happen all the time. Make sure you’re incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (while minimizing/avoiding inflammatory ones). I have certainly found myself bloated much less often. In fact, if you choose the right foods for a meal, you can have a 600+ calorie meal and still feel as lean as ever.
10 Popular Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods article: