Feeling full after a big meal is one thing. But if you’re constantly dealing with an uncomfortably tight belly after eating, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with digestion issues and bloating.

Bloat is an uncomfortable phenomenon that leaves your belly feeling excessively full and potentially even causes pain discomfort. Pretty much everyone deals with it at some point or another, but consistent bloating usually means that there’s something else going on. In fact, when it comes to getting to the bottom of your digestion issues, checking in with your hormone levels is a good place to start.

Do hormonal imbalances cause bloating?

STRUGGLING WITH BLOATING?

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What hormones are involved in digestion?

Female hormones and digestion

Estrogen and progesterone are the primary sex hormones in people assigned female at birth. If bloating is a monthly occurrence, a predictable part of your menstrual cycle, you can likely blame estrogen and progesterone. As these hormones fluctuate, they can wreak havoc on the digestive tract. For instance, high estrogen levels can lead to increased water retention, which equals --- you guessed it --- bloat. Likewise, when progesterone is high, like in the period after ovulation, food may take a slower journey through your intestine, resulting in bloating.

Stress hormones

Another possible reason behind your constant bloating could be stress — or more specifically, your “stress hormone,” cortisol. This hormone is largely responsible for your response to stress, which is actually a good thing (ever heard of the “fight or flight” response? You can thank cortisol for that.) But when you’re constantly under stress from the daily pressures of life in the 21st century, this survival-mode response can backfire. Digestion becomes less of a priority, leading to slower food travel through your gastrointestinal system and consequent bloating.

High cortisol levels can also mess with your microbiome, or the bacteria in your gut, which can lead to abdominal issues like gas, cramping, and bloating. There’s even some evidence that stress can be a key factor for the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) --- and many IBS sufferers experience bloat.

Thyroid hormones

Your thyroid produces hormones that are crucial for metabolism, which means that any disruption to them can cause a range of gut issues. One of the jobs of your thyroid hormones? Helping move food through your gastrointestinal system. So if you aren’t producing enough thyroid hormones (aka hypothyroidism), it can lead to slow food mobility through your gastrointestinal tract and gut bacterial overgrowth. This can then manifest itself in bloating and discomfort.

Insulin

Insulin is another important hormone that your metabolism relies on to get sugar into your cells for energy. Issues with insulin can cause bloating as well, albeit in a more roundabout way. If you’re experiencing issues with low insulin or decreased insulin sensitivity, you may find yourself feeling hungry and especially craving carbs. How you feed those carb cravings is key --- because certain carbs called FODMAPS are harder for you to digest, so they can ferment in your gut and lead to excess gas and subsequent bloating.

Are hormonal imbalances to blame for your bloating?

So your hormones are intrinsically tied to your metabolism, which means that imbalances can trigger bloating and other abdominal issues. How can you figure out what exactly you’re dealing with?

The easiest first step is to take a hormone test. Base’s at-home Diet Test gives you a great place to start investigating whether your bloating is linked to your diet or to an imbalance of hormones. The Stress Test can help you investigate whether elevated cortisol levels (aka stress) are contributing to your gastrointestinal distress. Finally, the Sex Drive Test can help you get to the bottom of whether or not female sex hormones are leading to your stomach woes.

You might also consider speaking to a gastroenterologist, who can help diagnose any inflammatory health issues that could be causing bloating and other upset stomach issues like IBS or Crohn’s disease.

What to do if you discover hormones are to blame for your bloating

If you’re able to determine the hormonal imbalance(s) that are contributing to your bloating and digestion issues, you’re one step closer to beating the bloat for good!

If your bloat is cortisol-related, you might consider incorporating some stress-relieving practices like gentle exercise, meditation, and mindfulness to help you manage the pressure in a healthy and productive way.

Stay well-hydrated, especially if your bloating is related to water retention (as is the case with estrogen- and progesterone-related bloating). Be especially mindful of any diuretic drinks that could be dehydrating you, like caffeine and alcohol. For instance, you could pair these beverages with a glass of water to minimize the dehydrating effect.

Eating more slowly is a good idea no matter what hormone imbalances are causing your bloat since eating too quickly can introduce excess air into your digestive system.

Though dietary fiber is an important nutrient for your overall digestive health, if you suspect that overdoing it on the fiber is contributing to your bloating, experiment with more moderate portions.

It might also be a good idea to limit your intake of carbonated drinks, which by definition introduce gas into your system.

As for supplements, they can be useful tools for bloating and combatting hormone imbalances. But be sure to talk with your doctor first to determine the right supplements for your needs.

Bottom line

You don’t have to accept bloat as an inevitable consequence of eating! Testing your hormones first can save you from playing the guessing games of trying elimination diets and random supplements on your quest to solve your digestion issues and bloat.


STRUGGLING WITH BLOATING?

Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you break through your digestive issues.


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