3 Unhealthy Habits That Cause Bloating, Indigestion & Acid Reflux

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3 Unhealthy Habits That Cause Bloating, Indigestion & Acid Reflux
Ice water photo © amphaiwan – fotolia.com (under license). Digestion pic – Wikipedia (public domain)

Bloating, abdominal pain and acid reflux can occur after a heavy meal, especially if you eat dairy or acidic food. It might also be accompanied by irregular bowel movement, excessive flatulence, and nausea. According to a study published by the UNC Center for Functional and GI Disorders, bloating is experienced by 10 to 30 percent of the American population. [1] While abdominal bloating rarely a symptom of a more serious disease, it is still very uncomfortable – leading to more sick days, visits to the doctor, and use of medication. Here are three surprising causes of bloating, indigestion and acid reflux.

Unhealthy habit #1: Carbs and Protein together

A filling meal usually has two parts – starch and protein. Steak and potatoes. Rice and chicken. Bread and ham. While these combinations are staples in diets all over the world, people don’t think about what happens to these food items once they enter the stomach. If you eat starch and protein separately, you’ll know that starch is digested faster – providing a quick release of energy that is either used or stored by the body. Protein, on the other hand, is not a first-line source of energy, meaning it takes longer to process. When starch and protein are eaten together, starch is still digested faster but stays in the stomach longer because of the presence of protein. When starch takes too long in the stomach, it can ferment – which releases gas and causes bloatedness.

Healthy tip: Eat both in moderation or eat starch first before you move on to protein. There’s a reason why bread is served first in restaurants before the main dish.

Unhealthy habit #2: Drinking cold water during a meal

Cooler temperatures cause our blood vessels to constrict – slowing the body’s normal digestive process because there is less surface area for oxygen and nutrients to enter or leave the bloodstream. If you drink cold water during a meal, it constricts the blood vessels in the stomach, slowing its ability to complete the normal process of digestion. Even if you don’t eat starch and protein together, the cold temperature still slows the normal rate of digestion – and we’re back to unhealthy habit #1. Starch stays longer in the stomach, produces gas, and causes bloatedness.

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Healthy tip: Have a warm or hot drink like tea during a meal. You can drink cold water before or after, but not while you’re eating.

Unhealthy habit #3: Carbonated beverages with meals

While this is an obvious unhealthy habit, it’s a hard one for some to break! Carbonated beverages produce excess amounts of gas on their own, what more when they interact with the gastric juices that naturally occur in the stomach? It’s a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the sugar, HFCS and/or artificial additives. Limiting intake of carbonated beverages is advised by physicians and health professionals in order to avoid excessive abdominal bloating. [2]

Healthy Tip: Don’t eat a heavy meal too late in the evening.


[1] Thiwan, S. Abdominal Bloating: A Mysterious Symptom. http://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/files/educational-gi-handouts/Abdominal%20Bloating.pdf

[2] National Institutes of Health (2015). Abdominal bloating.

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