You wake up ready to seize the day, you pull on your favorite jeans, and…ugh. That last button is a little too snug. You’re bloated again! You’ve been asleep for the previous 8 hours—why does your stomach look like you just ate a giant burrito?
If this sounds familiar, read on as we delve into the top four reasons behind being bloated in the morning.
1: You had a late dinner or hearty midnight snack, and your gut is still full of food. Hello, morning bloat!
First, let’s educate ourselves with some terminology. Bloating is technically defined as the sensation of stomach swelling, while distension is when your stomach changes in size (like when you can’t button your pants).
Frequently they occur together, and bloating is the word we all use to describe the two linked occurrences. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to stick with bloating to describe both events.
Now, back to that midnight snack. Our digestive system naturally winds down at night so that late-night meals are metabolized more slowly than a meal eaten a few hours before bed. This means the food is hanging out in your intestines longer than usual, resulting in greater production of intestinal gas and feeling full or bloated when you wake. Ideally you’re eating enough at breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you DON’T need to snack in between meals at all!
But what should you do if you need a snack before bed? Balance your plate just as you would do for your other meals, just with much smaller portions. Pair a carbohydrate with protein and include a little healthy fat, too. Eat slowly to minimize overeating. Try to pick carbs with a low glycemic load, like fibrous veggies, or a low-glycemic fruit like apples. Oh, and skip anything with artificial sweeteners—they wreck your gut (1, 2, 3).
2: Your nightcap is causing you to feel bloated in the morning.
I hate to kill the buzz, but alcohol is not great for your gut. Alcohol can hurt your gut flora and the delicate lining of your gut, especially when consumed in excess (4, 5). This increases intestinal inflammation and can manifest as bloating. If your method of relaxation is having a few drinks before bed, you may want to try limiting yourself to one drink earlier in the evening. Drink it slowly and enjoy! This will make it easier for your liver to metabolize the alcohol before you hit the hay. And continue to support your gut in other ways to minimize any damage done by too much alcohol – might I suggest my gut-healing group coaching program, The Good Poopers Club™?
3: You're stressed, and your sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive.
Ok, I know we are probably tired of hearing about how stressed out we are these days. But hear me out because I am explicitly talking about how stress can lead to bloating and how to fix it. When we eat and digest our food, we must be in a parasympathetic state (aka rest and digest mode), not a sympathetic state (fight or flight mode). If our nervous system is not in this relaxed mode, our gut struggles to produce all the essential enzymes it needs to break down our food and absorb it efficiently. Additionally, eating while in sympathetic mode usually means we skip over thorough chewing.
Both stress and swallowing versus chewing are leading causes of bloating! When we don’t chew our food and our gut is not producing enough digestive enzymes, our digestive system has to work harder. This can also result in larger particles of food making their way to the small intestine, which can irritate the gut. All of this can result in excess gas and increased bloating.
The solution is simple: take a few deep breaths before eating, think about the delicious food you are about to enjoy, and when you take a bite, chew, chew, chew (like 20-30 times).
4: Food intolerances are making you bloated.
Food intolerances or sensitivities are a leading cause of bloating. So if you are constantly waking up bloated in the morning, you might want to try keeping a food log to help you identify the culprit. You may notice that every time you have your favorite everything bagel and brown sugar espresso from Starbucks, you are bloated the next day. Or you are always bloated after Friday pizza night.
Most often, I see my clients reacting to gluten, dairy, and even some “superfoods” like nuts and seeds. But even things like gluten-free grains, legumes, soy, and too much fruit can lead to bloating!
What happens when you identify a food intolerance? Does that mean you can never have your favorite food again? Not always. But it is a red flag that your gut needs a lot of love. After healing, food intolerances can sometimes go away. Check out The Good Poopers Club™ if you’re ready to heal your gut and stop bloating for good.