Afternoon and Evening Bloating and Gas
Do you ever have a problem with bloating in the afternoon or evening? Does it ever get so bad that it's painful and you feel like your pants are suddenly too small? Does your distended belly make you look like you're 5 months pregnant?
This problem is more common than you might think, but hearing that will probably not provide you with the relief you're looking for. Fortunately, in most cases, identifying the source of the problem and getting to a solution is simpler than you might think. I talked to a friend who is an M.D. for his perspective, and his advice was really helpful.
When does it start?
If you're noticing bloating and gas only during a certain time during the day, you can probably rule out some sort of systemic gastrointestinal problem. You are probably reacting to a particular meal. If you're experiencing bloating round the clock, then you might have a more serious problem that's worth consulting with a doctor about.
Are you noticing with any regular frequency when you're beginning to feel bloated? Count back about 5-6 hours. This is the average amount of time that it takes for food to travel from your mouth to your large intestine, where bacterial fermentation happens and gas is created.
- If you're experiencing bloating in the late afternoon or early evening, look at what you had for lunch.
- If you're feeling bloated earlier than that, say, in the early- to mid-afternoon, look at what you had to eat in the morning.
Keep a food diary
If you've figured out which meal is triggering the problem, start keeping track of what you eat during that meal. Do you eat the same thing every day? When you change what you eat during that meal, does it affect your bloating? How much are you eating, and does the size of the meal affect your bloating?
Here are some foods that are well known to cause bloating:
- fruit with pits, like plums, peaches, and cherries (because they contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, that your body can't digest but which gas-producing intestinal flora love)
- some other fruits like apples and pears, that also have sorbitol, and are thus not terribly intestinal-friendly, and higher percentages of fructose, which is also not as easily digested and can thus increase fermentation
- low-carb sweets (like low-carb chocolate or low-carb ice cream) and energy bars, which typically use sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol and maltitol
- legumes, such as beans and lentils (they contain oligosaccharides, which feed intestinal flora)
- soft dairy foods, even including yogurt (if you are lactose intolerant)
- certain vegetables such as onions, cabbage, and broccoli (they contain certain sugars and oligosaccharides, as well as sulfur compounds, that create gas in your gut)
- a high-sugar meal - most sugars (including table/cane sugar, agave syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup) are high in fructose, which tends to not be completely absorbed in the small intestine, leading to gas production by bacteria in the large intestine
In addition to certain problematic foods, an especially large meal can also cause bloating. The nutrients in large meals sometimes are not fully absorbed by your small intestine, so the remaining nutrients end up feeding colon bacteria.
Try changing your "problem meal"
See if changes to the meal that's causing the problems has an effect on how much bloating you experience. Does reducing the meal size or its fat content have any effect? Does switching to different foods change anything?
In most cases, changes what you have for lunch (or a late morning snack) can alleviate afternoon or evening bloating. If not, you might consider a few other pointers:
- Avoid lying down after eating your meals, since any swallowed air will pass more easily from your stomach into your large intestine than if you are sitting upright
- Pay attention to if you're swallowing air when eating. Try walking after eating and see if this doesn't help burp up any trapped air.
- Try avoiding carbonated beverages. While you most likely burp most of the carbon dioxide up soon after drinking it, some of it can still pass through to your intestines.
- Consider taking a probiotic that might alter the composition of your colon flora to reduce the preponderance of gas-producing bacteria.
When to see a doctor
If modifications to your problematic meal doesn't have any impact to your afternoon/evening bloating, or if you're experiencing unusual amounts of gas all the time, then it's a good idea to see a doctor. The same is the case if you're noticing any unsettling changes to your bowel movements, or if you're having any pain beyond that directly associated with bloating.