Bloating can be a common side effect of eating a lot of different foods and can be caused by everything from the type of sugars in a food to how fast you’re eating it – but, if you’ve got it, you don’t care about any of that, you just want to know how to get rid of it.
Bloating is caused by excess gas that develops in the digestive system.
We’re not going to explain specifically why it happens in this post (this one identifies 10 reasons why it does), nor, are we going to talk about ways to avoid it – not least because can that be specific for each different food (so check our nutrition section for our specific advice on reducing bloat from foods like mushrooms, chickpeas, chia seeds etc).
Instead, in this post, we’re just looking at ways to make you pass the gas faster…
How Long Does Bloating Normally Last
Normally gas will take a couple of hours to pass out of the system, but, if you can get the gut moving, then you can speed this up slightly. And there’s a few different ways you can make that happen…
1. Go for a Gentle Walk or Cycle
Gentle exercise can help stimulate movement of the bowel – and that includes helping speed up the release of gas.
In a study by the Hospital General Vall d’Hebron in Spain, five minutes of cycling saw people pass 27 per cent more gas than those sitting still for the same amount of time.
Avoid intense exercise though, as we explained in our article on gym bloat, when you’re working out hard you can swallow more air which is going to make your problem worse.
2. Consume Something Pepperminty
Peppermint has the ability to relax the muscles in the gut which helps you pass the gas out naturally.
It’s been shown to help bloating symptoms in people with IBS
You can try peppermint tea, or, for a concentrated dose, use peppermint oil capsules instead.
In our post on why aubergine causes gas, Anna Mapson, a registered nutritional therapist specialising in helping people with IBS and reflux at Goodness Me Nutrition. said she prefers enteric coated capsules because they don’t dissolve in the stomach which means that all of the oil gets to gut where it needs to go. ‘Otherwise you’re just getting peppermint burps.’
Find enterically-coated peppermint oil capsules here.
3. Chew Some Fennel Seeds
Fennel is a traditional remedy for reducing bloating. Like peppermint it’s believed that it relaxes the colon which allows the gas to pass naturally.
While fennel is a food, the seeds when consumed in this way are classed as a herbal medicine and so, you do need to be a bit careful when using them.
Fennel seeds should not be used if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You shoudl also avoid them if you have allergies to celery or carrot as fennel can also trigger these.
Fennel seeds are also not recommended for anyone on blood thinning medication.
Double check any other interactions with medications or health concerns here.
4. Rev Up Your Vagus Nerve
‘This is the nervous connection between the brain and the gut and soothing it with deep breathing can help during an IBS flare up,’ says Anna Mapson.
Try taking some long, slow breaths which help calm the nervous system and the vagus nerve.
Mediation has also been shown to help soothe the vagus nerve.
If you’re not sure how to make this work for you, then check out our guide to how long you should meditate for.
5. Massage Tian Shu
Activating this acupressure points can help stimulate the digestive system and so may help start gas, and/or other bowel contents moving.
In a study using acupuncture needles on the point for constipation, the frequency of poops doubled!
You don’t need needles to stimulate the point though, place your thumbs about 2cm either side of your belly button and gently massage,
6. Try Activated Charcoal
It’s not just for making foods instafamous – activated charcoal is actually a medical treatment and it’s used to absorb substances -including gas – in the gut.
However, we do have to send out a warning here.
Activated charcoal can interfere with the absorption of medication so, if you’re on any medicine including the contraceptive pill, speak to your doctor before using activated charcoal – or just pick one of our other methods that don’t carry the same risk.
Find activated charcoal capsules here.
Oh, and if you do use it don’t panic if your stool is black the next day or day after, that’s just what happens.
7. Use a Heat Pad
Heat relaxes muscles and so, adding a heat pad, or hot water bottle over your stomach can help relax the muscles and reduce bloating.
One you can wear, like this one, can be useful.
Obviously be exceptionally careful that you don’t burn yourself if you’re filling bottles with hot water, or, when heating microwavable heat pads – replacing gas pains with burn pains is not the way we’re intending to go here.
8. Distract Yourself
Okay so it might not deal with the look of the bloating, but as Australian dietitian Emma Jones from Rebound Health explains, the feel of many IBS symptoms can be made worse if you are stressed, anxious or angry about them. ‘So, taking your mind off things by going for a walk, calling a friend or getting absorbed into work or another project can help reduce how they feel.’
Some of our mood boosting tips in our piece on ways to feel happier might also help you here.
Or, pick one of our themed walks.
A gratitude walk can be a brilliant way to help shift your mood and focus. Or, try a colour walk choosing a calming colour like pink to spot.
9. Take a Debloater
Emma also suggests medications containing simethicone, like De-gas, as a way to reduce gas quickly.
Simethicone doesn’t stop you producing gas, it decreases the surface tension in gas bubbles which causes them to pass out of the GI tract more easily.
‘You shouldn’t rely on them, it’s more important to find out what’s causing the bloating and deal with it at the source, but, in the odd emergency they can help.’
10. Lift Your Hips
Positions that push the hips up or back help relax the gut and can help encourage the release of gas.
One good one is Child’s Pose also known as rest pose (above).
To do this, kneel down and sit on your heels.
Lean your upper body toward the floor until you are resting your forearms, and, if possible, forehead on the floor.
Relax into the pose for as long as you can.
If you are currently laughing at the idea that your body would get anywhere near that position, then instead, simply lie on your back, legs in the air, knees at 90 degrees – now draw your knees into your chest.
If that’s also too hard (I have tight muscles in one hip and can’t get mine to go all the way back) then, even just bringing in one knee at a time can help.
Did you know that yoga can help change the way you think about your body and that it might help boost your weight loss efforts. Have a look at our post on yoga and weight loss to find out more.
11. Don’t Hold Back
If you feel the urge to pass the gas, let it out – holding it in because you’re embarrassed is only going to make the problem worse.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.