Medically, according to Rabia de Latour, MD, dual-board certified gastroenterologist and therapeutic endoscopist and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, NYU Langone Health, bloating is a symptom where patients feel their abdomen is fuller or tighter than usual. “Bloating is primarily caused by the buildup of gas in the digestive tract,” says Anju Malieckal, MD, gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “Water retention due to underlying medical conditions can also cause bloating.”
Cassie Madsen, MS, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Madsen Nutrition & Consulting LLC and Gut Health and Nutrition, says it’s perfectly normal to see an increase in your belly size as the day progresses. “Most people start the day with a flatter stomach and get a little bloated as the day progresses,” she explains. And because bloating is itself a symptom, it can be caused by a variety of things, says Dr. Latour. “This includes intestinal gas, a large meal, constipation, poor intestinal motility that causes food to stay in the stomach longer (gastroparesis), which can lead to a large amount of food in the stomach during meals. even if the patient doesn’t report having a huge meal,” she says. “While it’s distressing for the patient, it’s not too concerning from a hazard perspective.”
It is also common for women to experience bloating during their menstrual cycle. “This is thought to be due to fluid retention due to hormonal fluctuations, and the uterine lining is thickened, so some people experience a fuller abdomen in the days before their period and sometimes a few days after,” explains the Dr. Latour. .
However, much of the gut health content posted online is less about gut health and more about getting a flat stomach. This, agrees Madsen, is the result of food culture. “It shames a natural, healthy process in our body,” she says. “It’s almost always unhealthy to focus on bloating, unless you’re concerned about an underlying health condition.” Madsen thinks bloating is a huge topic of conversation online, in part because of social media and perfectionism, but she also thinks it may also be linked to the rise in attention to gut health. gut microbiome research currently exploding. “While I think IBS is very common, I think it’s an overused term,” says Dr. Malieckal, who says many patients can avoid bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms by ruling out a food intolerance.
Georgia Sky, aka Bawdy Queen), a Los Angeles-based actress and designer who aligns herself with the fat-accepting and body-accepting movements, says being bloated has become the idea of being “temporarily fat”, so these bloating videos continue to push the standard beauty to stay thin. “When the message is presented by thin creators, it pushes that norm that having a stomach is bad even further – but that’s okay. [when] you have to eat and it’s temporary,” she says. For this reason, even thin creators showing off their bloat in exaggerated ways – consider bending their bodies like a contortionist to show that their “fat rolls” are easier to figure out. – is less of a revolutionary act than many people think.