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Feeling bloated? 11 home remedies that work

Baking soda and water is the latest health fad on TikTok. This is what actually works.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has long been recommended as a home remedy for a variety of ailments—including indigestion and bloating. But it’s not just an old wives’ tale anymore. Baking soda for bloating is the latest health fad making the rounds on TikTok. But does it work? These are the bloating remedies that can actually help deflate your tummy.

Bloating is that full stomach feeling—when your abdomen feels inflated like a balloon with gas or air. You might even notice that your belly has swollen in size, which is called distension. This can be caused by overeating, gas trapped in your digestive tract, or gas forming in your small intestine after eating certain foods. Gluten or lactose are two common culprits that your digestive system may have difficulty breaking down. Burping, belching or passing gas might eventually alleviate the problem.

“Physiologically, you can feel bloated if you had a very big meal or a bunch of carbonated beverages,” says Ashkan Farhadi, MD, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center and director of MemorialCare Medical Group’s Digestive Disease Project in Fountain Valley, California. It’s also possible that something potentially more serious could be the cause of bloating, such as:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastroparesis, a condition where your stomach empties too slowly
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Constipation

“Bloating is one of those ubiquitous symptoms with many possible causes, including gastrointestinal and gynecologic,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist and host of Business of the V podcast. If you’re not sure why you’re experiencing abdominal bloating, consult your healthcare provider. You need to know what you’re dealing with first. Once you determine the cause, you can begin exploring more targeted treatments.

RELATED: What is lactose intolerance?

How to get rid of bloating

1. Baking soda and water for bloating

Mix a little baking soda into a glass of water, and what do you have? A TikTok phenomenon. But what do the healthcare experts say about this potential remedy for bloating? “This is essentially a DIY antacid,” says Dr. Dweck, explaining that baking soda is basic in terms of its pH content. This neutralizes stomach acid along with bloating and discomfort. Dr. Dweck says, “It may work, and it’s likely safe in a pinch—but yuck!”

“It’s harmless,” Dr.  Farhadi agrees. “It could be helpful, but it’s going to be very temporary.” If you respond to the combination of baking soda and water, it’s likely that you have acid reflux and would also respond to antacids like Tums, which may be a more effective treatment.

If you really want to try it, mix ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda into one cup of water and sip away. “This remedy is safe for short-term use for most adults, but not for young children or women who are pregnant,” says registered dietitian Nicole Lindel, RD, an advisor for Everlywell. “Adults should not use baking soda for longer than two weeks at a time.”

2. Flat water

If you frequently drink a lot of soda or seltzer, you may be unintentionally adding extra gas to your gut. In that case, replacing those beverages with regular water or non-carbonated beverages can help. Carbonated beverages can also make acid reflux symptoms worse.  

3. Apple cider vinegar

There’s a dearth of clinical research on the matter, but plenty of anecdotal evidence says apple cider vinegar is a bloating remedy. Some people find that it helps with acid reflux, which can contribute to bloating. Try adding a tablespoon to a small glass of water when you feel bloated and see if you notice any improvements. “It doesn’t work for everyone,” Dr. Farhadi says. “It’s harmless. If you try it and it works, continue. If it doesn’t work, don’t push it.”

4. Smaller meals

You might adjust your eating habits to see if a change might reduce your abdominal bloating. “Rather than eating one or two large meals a day, eat smaller, more frequent meals every two to three hours,” says Lindel. Eliminate or reduce the foods that cause bloating. 

5. Exercise

Get moving! You may have noticed that doing crunches can cause flatulence, but that’s not the only activity that helps relieve gas. Walking, jogging or other exercise can help get gas moving through your digestive tract so it doesn’t remain in your belly and cause bloating.

6. Low FODMAP diet

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates—that is, they’re sugars in certain foods that tend to cause intestinal distress because the small intestine doesn’t absorb them very well. (FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.) A few examples of high-FODMAP foods are onions, wheat, brussels sprouts, legumes and lentils, and some sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol that are added to sugar-free chewing gum and candy.

“Bloating associated with IBS can often be managed with diet,” says Lindel. “For IBS, I typically recommend patients follow the low FODMAP diet, which is another temporary elimination diet to help determine potential food triggers.”

7. Probiotics

Taking probiotic supplements can aid in digestion and improve gut health, according to Harvard Health. Probiotics are one of the natural remedies “intended to balance the delicate microbiome in the GI tract,” Dr. Dweck explains. “Probiotics are often helpful in my clinical experience.”

8. Prebiotics

Prebiotics, which are specialized plant fibers in many fruits and vegetables, work by stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic. But they can worsen the symptoms of IBS and can cause digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and yes, bloating. If you have IBS or FODMAP food intolerance, this may be a remedy to avoid.

9. Fennel

Fennel seeds have long been used in Eastern Medicine to address symptoms like bloating. “While there is not enough scientific evidence to support fennel as a digestive aid, it may be worth trying, specifically in adults experiencing indigestion, as fennel is deemed safe on occasion and in moderation,” says Lindel. However, she cautions, if you have issues with high-FODMAP foods, this might be something to steer clear of.

10. Massage therapy

Massaging your abdomen might help relieve cramping, abdominal tightness, and bloating, according to the University of Michigan. Heating pads may also provide temporary relief from bloating.

11. Peppermint

If peppermint—whether in the form of peppermint tea, oil, or capsules—sounds appealing to you, there’s some good news. Some research indicates that peppermint is effective at relieving some symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as abdominal cramping and bloating. In fact, a 2019 meta-analysis of literature on the subject determined that peppermint oil seems to be a “safe and effective therapy” for abdominal pain and symptoms of IBS. One thing to note here however; peppermint may worsen acid reflux.

Medications for bloating

If you’ve tried some home remedies without success, it might be time to turn to medication instead. The best medicine may depend on your specific condition. For example, if you have GERD, you might start with over-the-counter medications to neutralize stomach acid like Rolaids or Tums, medications to reduce stomach acid production like Tagamet or Pepcid, or medications that block acid production and help heal your stomach like Prevacid and Prilosec. If those don’t do the trick, it may be time to move on to stronger, prescription-strength medications for heartburn.

If you’re constipated, you can try over-the-counter laxatives to encourage bowel movements. A natural magnesium supplement can also help relieve digestive issues related to constipation.

When dairy products are the culprit, your healthcare provider may recommend taking a digestive enzyme supplement like Lactaid (lactase).

Meanwhile, if you experience premenstrual bloat, you could try an over-the-counter med like Midol Bloat Relief. And if you’re just gassy, you might try a medication with simethicone such as Gas-X that can break down the gas bubbles in your digestive tract to relieve gas pain.

When to see a doctor for bloating

If you have an occasional bout of bloating, it’s probably nothing to worry about, especially if you’re pretty sure you know the cause. For example, if you know that your diet is often the culprit, you could start by eliminating gas-producing foods like beans. You could also cut back on the carbonated drinks.

But if you’ve tried eliminating the factors that tend to cause bloating for you without experiencing any relief, that may be a sign that it’s time to consult your doctor. “If you have a red flag, don’t sit on it,” says Dr. Farhadi.

More serious causes of bloating may include:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Colon cancer
  • Diverticular disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Celiac disease

These medical conditions may require other more intensive treatments. So, if you experience bloating along with persistent or severe pain, severe diarrhea, or unexplained weight loss, those are reasons that justify a call to your doctor, says Dr. Farhadi. That’s especially true if you have a close relative with a history of gastrointestinal disease or colon cancer.

Women may also want to keep a lookout for symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding and vaginal discharge, says Dr. Dweck. Pain during sex and urinary tract infections also should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.