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Why do I feel bloated in the afternoon or evening?

Ask Dr Libby: Why do I get so bloated in the afternoon?

Last updated on July 7th, 2021

Many people tell me they experience their tummy getting more and more bloated as the day goes on, leading to extreme discomfort by the evening.

Table of Contents

  1. Can stress cause bloating?
  2. Is coffee your culprit?
  3. Support stomach acid
  4. The benefits of apple cider vinegar
  5. Chew your food
  6. Menstrual cycle-related bloat
  7. Is it a parasite?
  8. Why do I bloat after eating?
  9. Be your own detective
  10. Thoughts to consider

Can stress cause bloating?

There are many reasons why you may be getting bloated in the afternoon; one of the first to explore is stress. The production of stress hormones causes blood to be diverted away from digestion to your periphery so that your arms and legs are powered with a good blood supply to help you get out of danger.

However, too many people are stressed regularly due to their pace of life or perception of pressure and urgency. When we eat in this state digestion may be compromised so if you’ve had a hectic morning or you’re feeling far from calm, this could be why you’re experiencing bloating as the day wears on.

Read more: The link between stress and poor digestion

Is coffee your culprit?

You might want to block your ears for this part 🙉. Coffee can be the sole reason someone experiences bloating. Biochemically, coffee triggers the adrenals to secrete adrenaline, a stress hormone, which communicates danger to the body, diverting blood away from digestion.  This mechanism alone can be the driver. With a milk-based coffee, it may be the cow’s milk or, less often, the soy (soya) milk, but even black coffee will cause some people to bloat. Try switching to herbal tea or green tea and give coffee a rest for four weeks to see if this makes a difference for you.

Support stomach acid

Whether the result of stress or lifestyle choices, some people don’t produce adequate stomach acid, or the pH is not acidic enough. This can affect optimal digestive processes right from the outset. Think of your food as a big, long string of circles, or pearls on a string. Your teeth and saliva go to work first on breaking the circles apart and stomach acid then continues that breakdown process.

Poor stomach acid production alone can lead to bloating. When food is not broken down sufficiently it can arrive in the intestines in a form that is still too large. Here the bacteria that inhabit the large intestine will begin to ferment whatever food is delivered to them. As gut bacteria break down the larger fragments of food they produce gas, which can lead to that uncomfortable bloated feeling.

The benefits of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in warm water before meals can help to stimulate stomach acid production, which promotes the proper digestion of food. It is also a good idea to drink water away from meals rather than with them to maximise the action of stomach acid.

Lemon juice in warm water before meals can help to stimulate stomach acid

Chew your food

Chewing food really well is the first step to help reduce bloating. Sit in a calm state and focus on chewing well and eating slowly, rather than inhaling your food. Do your best to not be distracted while you eat your meals. No more eating on the run or in front of your computer screen if you can help it! You might be surprised how much of a difference these small changes can make.

Menstrual cycle-related bloat

If your tummy only bloats in the lead-up to your period, it is likely to be caused by estrogen dominance – too much estrogen or not enough progesterone, or both.

Read more: Are you estrogen dominant?

Is it a parasite?

Did your bloating only begin after you had food poisoning or gastroenteritis or a holiday where the water or food was very different from what you usually consume? If so, a lingering unfriendly organism, such as a parasite, may be driving your bloating. There are numerous ways to treat parasites including the medicinal herbs Chinese wormwood and Black walnut. These are best prescribed by an experienced health professional who would likely arrange for a stool test, as well.

Why do I bloat after eating?

In my experience working with clients, I have learned that there are some foods that are better eaten on an empty stomach if you have challenges with your digestive system. Fruit is one of them. If bloating is an issue for you, only eat fruit first thing in the morning on an empty stomach — none for lunch and none mid-afternoon. This includes dried fruit. You may find the same thing happens with starchy carbohydrates such as bread. Some people bloat no matter what time of day they eat bread and, if that is the case, they will usually do well omitting all gluten-containing grains for a four-week trial period. Others are fine with bread/toast for breakfast but for lunch it is a disaster in their digestive system. Bread is a highly processed food, after all.

All foods containing casein (foods derived from an udder; cow, goat, or sheep, although the latter two tend to be tolerated better than cow’s milk) can be significant contributors to a bloated stomach. Remove all sources from your diet for a trial period of four weeks and observe how you feel. If you omit foods for more than four weeks, it is important you consult an experienced health professional to ensure you are not missing out on critical nutrients.

Be your own detective

Sometimes bloating is caused by the consumption of foods that your body cannot digest efficiently. It can be challenging to pinpoint a food sensitivity as we can experience symptoms up to 48 hours after consuming something that doesn’t agree with us, depending on the mechanism through which you react. If you have a feeling that something you’re eating isn’t working for you, it can be helpful to keep a note of your symptoms and everything you eat for a couple of weeks to try and track the culprit/s.

Get your notebook and keep note of your bloating symptoms.

Thoughts to consider

To find out why you bloat as the day goes on, ask yourself:

  1. Is it worse when I’m stressed? Did it only begin after I went through a great deal of change – supportive change or challenging change?
  2. Does it only happen after I eat lunch? If so, what do I usually eat for lunch? And how do I eat – am I rushing (hurrying)?
  3. Does my tummy bloat only after an afternoon snack? What do I usually choose at this time of day?
  4. Is it related to my menstrual cycle only?
  5. Did my bloating only begin after I had food poisoning or gastroenteritis or a holiday where the water or food was very different from what I usually consume?

For MUCH more information on bloating:

Dr Libby recently presented a 90-minute online event event called Bloating and fluid retention, and now you can now watch the replay online!

In this replay, Dr Libby teaches you the reasons why we can experience fluid retention and bloating, and the steps to take to ease this suffering, naturally.

Watch and learn:

  • The reasons behind why we can retain fluid
  • What drives bloating and why it happens
  • Ways to decipher what’s driving your fluid retention or bloating
  • Why cellular health is so crucial to maintaining optimal fluid levels
  • Reasons excess gas can be the problem and what to do about this
  • Which foods commonly trigger bloating
  • Nutrients and supplements that can help the body excrete excess fluid
  • Ways to alleviate fluid retention
  • Quick tips to ease discomfort from bloating

WATCH NOW: Bloating and fluid retention – Online Event Replay


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