Why is My Stomach Bloated?

by | Apr 22, 2021

Although there are many generic reasons for bloating such as overeating, constipation or even monthly menstruation cycles for women, I wanted to share more specifically what I find to be the five most common reasons I see in my functional medicine practice and what you can do to get to the root of this problem. 


The first and probably the easiest to ‘test yourself for’ is inadequate amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCL). HCL is the acid in your stomach that does many positive things for your health. It helps digest protein, it renders the stomach sterile against bad bacteria/pathogens and it facilitates the absorption of nutrients such as folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.  Your HCL level can decrease over time with things like consuming the standard American diet (SAD diet), taking antacids, intermittent fasting (even if it’s unintended) and with just the natural aging process itself. If you feel bloating immediately after eating a protein containing meal, there is a good chance you are low in HCL. Here’s how to test for yourself to see if this is your reason for bloating (keeping in mind that it could be one or more of the reasons listed that is causing you to bloat):

  1. Eat a large protein meal (15-20 grams of protein). This would be equivalent to a piece of chicken or salmon. 
  2. Start by taking 1 pill (650 mg or less) of Betain HCL (fullscript link/supplement tab on website here) with your first bite of that meal. 
  3. Finish the meal and feel for any stomach heaviness, burning or other distress. If you have any of those symptoms, stop. You do not need HCL.
  4. If you do not notice burning or heaviness, stay at this dosage for another day of meals with protein. If you continue not to notice any symptoms, on the 3rd day, try 2 pills. 
  5. Stay there for another day and then try 3 pills if still no burning. 
  6. Keep increasing the number of pills taken with each meal until you notice some discomfort (burning, heaviness in your gut).
  7. Once this happens, you know your personal dosage is one pill less than however many pills you were taking when you felt the burning/symptoms. 

A common dosage range is around 3,000-4,500 mg per meal but it can be below or above this depending on the person.

If you need something to quickly put the ‘burning’ out, chewable DGL can do this. It soothes, heals and protects irritated tissues. 


Research has shown that stress affects nerves in your stomach making it difficult to process your food properly. When food sits, bloating can occur. Breathing exercises prior to eating your meal and remaining relaxed during a meal helps with this. Just like a marathoner can’t run a marathon never having run a mile…a person can’t effectively practice mindfulness if they don’t do it on a regular basis. Many people have apps on their phone, attend classes and workshops, retreats, etc. One of the ways I have learned to practice mindfulness on the go and throughout my day without having to stop what I am doing, is by listening to and implementing the insightful tips that Eckhart Tolle discusses in his ‘Power of Now’. You can even find this on the Audible app on your phone and listen while you are driving down the road. 


There are many foods that either individually or in combination can cause bloating. The most common foods that can cause bloating include wheat/gluten, dairy, corn, soy, sugar and alcohol. The other one that isn’t necessarily ‘unhealthy’ is eggs. It is important to rule this out as I have had people with symptoms such as bloating and/or reflux who consumed 2 eggs daily throughout their life and thought they were doing something good for themselves, to find out they were extremely sensitive to eggs and that was in fact the very food causing their issues. Many people want to immediately test for food sensitivities which I discourage initially. Leaky gut can make these tests quite inaccurate, difficult to interpret and hard to develop an accurate treatment plan. Many other people want to try to eliminate just one thing for a while (e.g., wheat/gluten). When that doesn’t fully fix their symptoms, they tend to add it back and then try eliminating another food item such as dairy. This usually doesn’t work well because it can be multiple foods causing the issue(s). 

What I recommend is following the elimination diet (attached) along with a high-quality gut healing supplement such as GI Revive (by Designs for Health) (Fullscript Link here…or link to supplement page on website). 


Dysbiosis is a phrase which refers to an imbalance in the bacteria in our gut. Our digestive system is naturally inhabited with billions of bacteria and these bacteria can be split broadly into good and bad types. Generally speaking, it’s important to have a balance between the two. As mentioned above, making sure you have enough HCL (stomach acid) is important to maintaining this balance. Depending on what types of bugs we have, the symptoms we experience can vary. H Pylori for example, may or may not cause issues. For some, they may not even know they have it. For others, they can experience worsening autoimmune thyroid symptoms for example, to nausea, diarrhea and even ulcers. Bacteria survive through a process called fermentation which involves converting sugars into gases. It is thought that bad bacteria release more noxious gases as a by-product…whereby, causing even more bloating. Dysbiosis can have other side effects too, such as altering the pattern of contractions in the gut; either too fast (diarrhea) or too slow (constipation). One of the best ways to look at your gut more in depth in order to evaluate dysbiosis is using a functional test kit called the GI Map. The GI Map allows you to evaluate what ‘bad guys’ are in your gut that may be significantly impacting your health (H pylori, klebsiella, c diff, salmonella, giardia, parasites, worms, candida/yeast, etc)


One of the more benign reasons for bloating can be the amount of fiber you take in. Fiber (specifically soluble fiber from vegetables) is food for the good bacteria in your gut. Part of my 5R gut program (see below) is the Repair and Reestablish steps where I recommend probiotics, soluble fiber and a high-quality gut healing supplement such as GI Revive (by Designs for Health) (Fullscript link or Supplement tab in website here). Many people complain of bloating when I first see them. It can be quite worrisome to start working through your gut program and have your bloating go away (from something not so good such as bad bacteria)…only to return once we increase gut healing and add in more fiber. Therefore, I often educate patients about bad reasons for bloating and more benign reasons, so they know what to expect as we go through the treatment protocol. 


REMOVE: Food sensitivities and infections/bad bacteria

REPLACE: HCL, enzymes, bile  


REPAIR: Glutatmine, zinc, omega-3, quercetin, marshmallow, aloe

REBALANCE: Manage stress, sleep, exercise

If you are interested in a more personalized approach to help you get to the root of your problem(s), schedule a 15 minute free consult with Toni.

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Meet Toni

Toni is a wife, a mom to three amazing and very active boys, a wellness warrior who lives with and successfully manages three autoimmune diseases and an ultra passionate Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Functional Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. Her dream has always been to ‘reach the masses’ with this root-cause, personalized medicine that saved her life.

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