It's a common problem, and women seem to suffer more than men. As quoted by Well+Good.com, gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan
, author of The Bloat Cure
. "It's sort of that common, non-specific way for the GI [gastrointestinal] tract to let you know it's unhappy."
But what causes the gut to be temperamental? "People don't appreciate how specialized it is," explains Dr. Chutkan. "There are so many different things happening in different parts, and so many things that can go wrong." This complexity is the reason it's tricky to find and treat the causes of our bloating. Read this very helpful feature
on what causes belly bloat and pain.
Experts in gut health agree, however, that the two main reasons for our bloaty bellies are water retention and gas.
If gas is the cause, the abdomen feels full and tight, and this is often caused by eating gassy foods, too much salt or fibre, or simply swallowing excess air - a main culprit for this is chewing gum, so maybe you need to give this a miss for a while.
Water retention is an excessive build-up of water in our body's tissues and cavities. Our bodies are designed to store water - we are 70% H20, after all - but sometimes we store too much, in the wrong places. This may be caused by inactivity or our diet (salt again!), but it could also be caused by (mostly uncontrollable) things happening with your kidneys, heart and blood capillaries. If you're retaining large amounts of water in your legs, for instance, you may need to see a doctor for a check-up.
The reason women get bloaty is the hormonal changes associated with menstruation and menopause, which affect water storage in the body. And then we make it worse with bad diets and when we don’t properly control conditions like gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance.
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Because the way our bodies function is unique to each of us, the causes of bloating may vary greatly from person to person - so what causes bloating for you may be no problem for someone else. Basically, though, lifestyle choices - such as the amount of exercise we get, the amount of stress we're subjected to and, of course, what we eat - can all determine just how much of a problem bloating is.
Read More: Why a Healthy Gut Is the Key to a Happy Skin, Body - and Life