Going to bed on a full stomach is downright uncomfortable, but you know what’s even more unbearable? Waking up with a bloated belly, feeling like you’re about to pop. But why do some people experience morning bloating in the first place, and how can you help ease the discomfort and prevent it from happening again? POPSUGAR asked the experts.
Why Do I Feel Bloated in the Morning?
Generally speaking, bloating typically occurs either because you have physical gas taking up space in your gut or because you have inflammation or some other damage that’s causing the abdomen to feel fuller, Supriya Rao, MD, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and obesity medicine in Massachusetts, told POPSUGAR. Dr. Rao added that intestinal gas is usually a result of swallowed air, which you can take in while eating, drinking, or even breathing through your mouth at night. Foods that aren’t well absorbed, such as dairy or gluten, can also trigger bloating.
As for bloating that occurs in the morning, late-night snacking and constipation are two common culprits, Tamara Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at New York Gastroenterology Associates and author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer, told POPSUGAR. “Our digestive system’s motility slows down overnight, which means if you’ve had a larger or later dinner and are prone to grazing on snacks closer to bedtime, you might wake up with some undigested food still hanging around in your stomach,” Freuman explained. If you’ve gone too long without a bowel movement, your abdomen can become bloated or distended. (Freuman noted that this often happens after consuming meals high in fiber.)
Dr. Rao added that your morning coffee can also be a factor. “Artificial sweeteners added to your coffee are not absorbed in the gut; therefore, the bacteria interacts by drawing water into the intestines, leading to an increase in bloating,” Dr. Rao said. On the contrary, those who prefer their coffee black can experience indigestion, which can feel like bloating, when in fact it’s just the acidity hitting the stomach, which may cause reflux.
How Can I Lessen the Discomfort?
To help ease bloating, Dr. Rao recommends peppermint oil, exercise, or a gentle laxative to help release any bowel tension you may be feeling. (It’s always wise to check with your doctor before taking any new supplements or medications.) Similarly, diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing” can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the gut to relax and “rest and digest,” Dr. Rao explained.
Of course, taking steps to prevent morning bloat can be just as helpful. Spreading out your meals evenly, eating an earlier and lighter dinner, and avoiding late night snacks are all ways you can ward off morning bloating, Freuman said. If bloating persists or becomes unmanageable, both experts recommend talking to your doctor, as this could be a sign of an underlying but treatable condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).