Medically reviewed on July 19, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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When we eat, the food we consume goes through our digestive tract – from the esophagus, through the stomach, to the small and large intestines. During digestion, which can take 24 to 72 hours, the body breaks down food particles, essentially harvesting them for various nutrients and minerals that provide the body with energy to function, grow, and repair. 
Sometimes, however, the stomach can become distended by gas after eating. Such abdominal bloating can be uncomfortable and even painful, affecting 10 to 25 percent of healthy people.  That said, several medical conditions can also lead to bloating. 
“Why do I bloat after eating,” you ask? Let’s take a look at the leading causes of bloating, how to promote good digestive health, and how you can prevent it.
What Causes Bloating?
The primary cause of bloating is excess gas, a byproduct of digestion that builds up in the small and large intestines. Sometimes, a bloated stomach may occur if you eat too quickly, after swallowing too much air. Other times, belly bloat has to do with the type of food you consume, and may occur after drinking a carbonated drink. 
Gas also forms when the body digests carbohydrates—and not enough of the carbs are absorbed by the stomach before reaching the gut. Oftentimes, this includes lactose and fructose, as well as wheat and beans. Consequently, gut bacteria digest the carbs through fermentation, creating excess gas in the intestines. 
What Medical Conditions Can Cause Bloating?
While eating habits can impact bloating, so too can medical conditions like food intolerances and digestion issues. This includes:
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – Gut bacteria are the culprit in SIBO. This condition is characterized by an overflow of gut bacteria from the colon into the small intestine. Consequently, the gut microbiome can become unbalanced, producing gas. 
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Impacting the gastrointestinal tract, irritable bowel syndrome can cause cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas. The exact cause of IBS is unknown. Although researchers theorize that it may manifest as a result of food moving too quickly or slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, as well as stress, depression and anxiety, bacterial infections, and food sensitivities. [3,4]
- Visceral hypersensitivity – Sometimes associated with IBS, visceral hypersensitivity refers to a condition in which the gastrointestinal tract functions properly but your threshold for pain is lower, meaning you’ll feel aches in your visceral organs in your digestive system. As a result, normal amounts of gas can cause people to feel like they’re uncomfortably bloated. 
- Constipation – Food contents can build up within the gastrointestinal tract for various reasons, including blockages or an inability for abdominal muscles to work properly. As a result, less gas can pass through, causing bloating. Blocked contents within the intestines can also contribute to a distended abdomen. 
- Bowel obstructions – Within the small and large intestines, tumors, scar tissue, and hernias can form, blocking contents from passing through. Conditions like Crohn's Disease can also cause damage and narrow the passages. 
- Menstruation – 75 percent of people who menstruate will experience bloating before and after their periods, due to hormonal changes that can impact digestion and gas. Estrogen can also increase water retention within the body, increase intestinal gas, and trigger visceral sensitivity, meaning you may feel bloated without being physically bloated. 
Sometimes, bloating can become chronic, likely due to medical causes such as:
- Celiac disease – This autoimmune disease is triggered by gluten intolerance and can cause a bloated stomach, as well as diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. 
- Ascites – Caused by liver disease, kidney failure, or heart failure, ascites is characterized by a slow build-up of fluid within the abdomen in the tissue that covers the stomach, bowels, liver, and kidneys. It may also cause indigestion, loss of appetite, and constipation. 
- Pancreatic insufficiency – When the pancreas can no longer produce enough digestive enzymes, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss may occur. 
- Gastritis or enteritis – Bacterial infections can cause inflammation in the stomach or intestines, respectively. Although, drinking too much alcohol can also cause this condition. 
- Cancer – Ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, and stomach cancer may all cause bloating and abdominal pain. 
How to Prevent Bloating
To reduce abdominal bloating, it’s critical to keep your digestive tract healthy and functioning properly. This can involve: 
- Exercising regularly to improve and speed up digestion
- Chewing slowly and with your mouth closed to avoid too much intake of air
- Drinking a lot of water to move food contents through the digestive system
- Eating the best food for digestion, like high-fiber foods and small meals
- Massage your stomach to help release trapped gas
- Avoid carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks
- Avoid high-gas foods like beans, cabbage, and lentils
- Avoid processed, sugary, or spicy foods
- Understand your food intolerances, and avoid them when possible
That said, if you’re experiencing chronic or painful bloating, a healthcare provider can help assess your condition and provide the proper treatment, which may include vitamins for digestion, probiotics, hormone therapy, or elimination diets. 
Monitor Food Sensitivities With Everlywell
Excessive build-up of gas within the gastrointestinal tract can occur as a result of food intolerances, hormone imbalances, or digestive problems, as well as a number of medical conditions that can cause long-term bloating.
With Everlywell, you no longer have to wonder, “why do I bloat after eating?” The at-home Food Sensitivity Comprehensive Test can assess your sensitivity to 204 foods, and the at-home Celiac Disease Screening Test can indicate whether you’re at an increased risk of the condition.
7 Signs of a Healthy Gut + Tips To Improve Digestive Health
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Stomach Pain and Bloating in Women
- Your Digestive System & How it Works. NIH. URL. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Bloated Stomach. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published September 10, 2021. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Irritable bowel syndrome, Mayo Clinic. URL. Published May 12, 2023. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Symptoms & Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. NIH. URL. Published November 2017. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Visceral Hypersensitivity. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published May 11, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Ascites. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published May 28, 2021. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published June 10, 2021. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Bloating. NHS. URL. Published March 3, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2023.
- Celiac Disease. NIDDK. URL. Accessed July 18, 2023.