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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Rajesh Sharma on May 06, 2020:
I also feel bloating in afternoon or early evening sometimes accompanied by heart palpitations.what causes this,can it be cured
Kiran on March 03, 2018:
Is GERD curable. Please suggest
tad on January 15, 2018:
I am also suffer by bloating after eating my lunch what is the cause of this what can I do
Brinda on May 25, 2017:
I had surgery 3 years ago on my intestines because of diverticulitis and they removed the large intestine and now at around 3 my stomach is so bloated. When I wake up it wad. Like a bad dream cause in the mornouts gone? Anyone know how to fix this?
Ncumisa on October 18, 2016:
My bloating begins immediately after eating lunch on week days but I don't have this problem on weekends or when at home. I eat allbran or future life for breakfast during weekdays at work. Its so annoying but from tomorrow I wont eat any cereal and see if they're the cause of my afternoon bloating or not. Thank you for your post.
Johnnie Ranoa: on May 29, 2012:
Thanks for the information on bloating. I appreciate the suggestions on how to find out what causes bloating and how to avoid it.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on March 25, 2012:
Ursula: thank you for your comment. Warm beverages of any kind, but esp acidic coffee or tea, can cause your bowels to start moving (they're great to drink early in the morning exactly for that reason). Unfortunately, they can move gas, too!
Ursula on March 25, 2012:
I have these symptoms every afternoon, -painful stomach gas bloating. Like stabbing knives. -But only when I am at the office. It didn't matter what I had for lunch. Not being able to freely pass gas in our modern open work environment was my immediate thought, but it turned out it was only a multiplier. What I discovered was that my favorite little afternoon pick-me-up coffee, tea or hot beverage of choice that was my culprit (with or without caffeine -tried both) Once I eliminated this from my routine -no painful stomach gas.
Millercl on January 07, 2012:
Well I didn't do the research, just took the word of our Pediatrician... but it makes sense right?
Thanks! It is actually pretty awesome.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on January 07, 2012:
Congratulations on your daughter! Had no idea those sugars were transmitted unchanged via breastfeeding.
Millercl on January 07, 2012:
My 10 week old daughter has been awfully gassy these past several weeks and after a routine visit to the pediatrician, she suggested my wife refrain from eating broccoli and cauliflower. (Two favorite vegetables.)
It is funny how you can even share these causes through breast feeding. If you don't stop the gassiness for yourself, do it for the children!
reflux from USA on December 26, 2011:
Great hub thanks for sharing.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on August 30, 2011:
carcro: Haha. Yes, there are certain foods, even some very healthy ones, that large intestine bacteria love, too.
Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on August 27, 2011:
Very interesting hub, I remember a long time ago when I could go to sleep at night with a flat stomach, I just assumed it was normal to be Bloated Before Bedtime, call it the BBB syndrome. Now that I look at the foods you've noted in your hub, especially fruits and vegetables, its no wonder. Thanks for sharing, for a second I thought that was my picture...Lol
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on June 24, 2011:
Thanks, vic. :)
vic on June 23, 2011:
Very useful. Thank you