Can you get bloated from not eating?

Rachael Kraus, Maurice Beer M.D.
November 14th, 2021 · 6 min read
Medically Verified
In this article:
  • Can you get bloated from not eating?
  • Is fasting helpful if you feel bloated?
  • The most common causes of bloating
  • Foods that can cause bloating
  • Effective ways to reduce bloating
The food you eat is often the cause of stomach bloating, but fasting isn’t always the best solution. In order to find out how to fix the problem, first you have to identify what it is.
  • It’s possible to feel like you’ve become bloated as a result of fasting, but the culprit is usually something else.
  • Fasting is one way to relieve bloating, but there could be better solutions depending on what’s causing the issue.
  • Food sensitivities or an imbalanced diet are the most common causes of bloating; you can generally figure out what’s going on with an elimination diet or lab testing. 

Can you get bloated from not eating?

There are plenty of things that can cause bloating, but not eating usually isn’t one of them. However, this isn’t to say that fasting can’t be implicated in stomach bloating; it just may not happen the way you think.
For instance, say you’re trying out intermittent fasting, and you keep feeling like you’ve literally eaten a balloon. Since the main thing you’ve changed lately is your eating schedule, it isn’t a stretch to wonder if your periodic fasting is the problem.
However, this usually isn’t the whole story. Are you drinking coffee on an empty stomach? That can cause bloating. Dehydration can cause it too; sometimes all you need is to up your water intake. You should also look at when the bloating is happening. Is it really while you’re fasting, or does it appear as soon as you start eating? If you’re following the popular eating pattern of 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window, you’ll probably have quite an appetite once it’s time for your first meal - so you make sure it’s an epic one. It could be that your meals are simply too big for your stomach to handle, resulting in symptoms of indigestion.
The verdict:
It’s extremely unlikely that not eating would cause bloating; there’s almost always another cause. If this is a problem you regularly run into, look at how much water or coffee you’re drinking while fasting. If you’re practicing intermittent fasting, have three or four smaller meals during your eating window, instead of one or two larger ones.

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Is fasting helpful if you feel bloated?

Now let’s look at the opposite situation. For whatever reason, you feel miserable after your last meal, and you’re wondering whether or not fasting will help you get back to normal. It probably will, but it’s really only a temporary fix. If the cause of your bloating is a simple case of too many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, then that’s all you need to do. Just wait it out for a few hours, and you’ll be good to go.
If you’re dealing with food sensitivities, though, you could end up in an endless cycle. It begins when you eat something that triggers your sensitivity, continues as you fast in order to give your system a chance to recover, and starts all over again when you eat something that causes another reaction. Fasting is still technically helping you, but you’re using a band-aid when you really need a splint.
The verdict:
In most cases, fasting will help your body recover from bloating.
Fasting, even if it’s just for a few hours, could be just the ticket. If you decide to eat while already having issues with excess gas, you’re basically asking your body to do two different things: digest a meal, and fix whatever imbalance is causing the bloating. If the problem is stemming from food sensitivities, though, fasting will only address one symptom that’s caused by an underlying problem. 

The most common causes of bloating

You’re bloated, and you don’t know why. Now what? If you want to put a stop to it, you’ll have to figure out why it’s happening in the first place. You don’t have to start from scratch, though; just take a look at the lists below, and see if anything rings a bell. You probably already have plenty of clues regarding the cause of your bloating; maybe you just need a little help interpreting them!
  • You ate too fast. Sometimes you have a meal that’s just too good to eat slowly, so you gobble it up out of sheer enjoyment. There’s nothing wrong with this once in a while - except that your stomach might disagree. Eating too quickly can result not only in feeling uncomfortably full but also in feeling bloated for hours afterward.
  • You ate something that ticked off your digestive system. Your body should be the one to decide which foods are “right” or “wrong” for you - and bloating is your body’s way of telling you that you ate the wrong food. It could be too much sugar, fat, carbohydrates, processed food…in fact, too much of anything will probably do it. Just pay attention to your body; it usually lets you know when something’s amiss.
  • You’re constipated. That excess gas has to go somewhere, but if the escape route is blocked you could feel quite a bit of pain as the pressure builds. Fixing constipation is a whole different topic, but suffice it to say that if you can get your bowels moving regularly again, you won’t have constipation-related bloating.
  • You’re suffering from gut dysbiosis. “Gut dysbiosis” is a fancy way of saying that you don’t have enough good bacteria in your large intestine, so you may experience several unpleasant symptoms - such as bloating. It can take a while to fully correct, but probiotic foods or supplements can help a lot with symptoms in the meantime.
  • You have a food sensitivity. If this is the case for you, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll feel bloated after consuming whatever it is you’re sensitive to. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything you can do about it besides avoiding the offending food group.

Foods that can cause bloating

There are some foods (and drinks) that’ll make just about anyone gassy - it’s a fact of life. Things like extremely spicy dishes and carbonated beverages will disrupt all but the most robust digestive systems, especially if you have a bunch of them at once.
Then there are the foods that are generally fine unless you have a food sensitivity. If those foods don’t bother you, there’s no reason to avoid them. If you suspect a food sensitivity, though, you’ll either have to identify it through an elimination diet (more on that below) or through specialized testing.

Foods to avoid consuming in excess:

  • Pastries
  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Spicy peppers or seasonings
  • Raw fruits or vegetables (in very large amounts)
  • Soda
  • Sparkling or seltzer water
  • Beer
  • Sugar alcohols like sorbitol or erythritol

Food sensitivities:

  • Gluten, which is found in foods made with wheat, rye, and barley. People with celiac disease are unable to tolerate gluten at all, while others can have small amounts without serious problems.
  • Lactose, which is the subject of lactose intolerance. People with this condition can’t digest lactose, resulting in symptoms like bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. 
  • Eggs, particularly the whites. Some people have a hard time digesting them, resulting in gastrointestinal upset.
  • Peanuts, a common culprit in food allergies, but also a cause of food sensitivity. And yes, you can experience bloating if you’re sensitive to peanuts.
Both of the lists above could be a lot longer; these are just the most common sources of food-related bloating. With a convenient at-home collection kit, you can efficiently test for sensitivities to nearly one hundred of the most commonly consumed foods, including the ones mentioned above.
Food Sensitivities Test

Effective ways to reduce bloating

Fixing your bloating may not be as simple as creating it, but there are still several common-sense solutions that could be exactly what you needed.
  • Eat more slowly, so your stomach has more time to digest.
  • Eat smaller, more balanced meals. 
  • Take a walk before or after eating to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which plays a crucial role in digestion.
  • If you need a one-time fix, fasting for a few hours could make a big difference.
  • Skip the carbonated beverages.
  • If you think you’re dealing with food intolerance, an elimination diet can uncover the root cause. Take out the food groups you suspect are bothering you, then add them back in one at a time to see if you react to any of them. 
  • Use Base’s at-home lab tests to uncover diet-related biomarkers. By measuring things like your thyroid hormones (important in metabolism and digestion), cholesterol levels, fat-burning hormones, and more, you could get a fix on exactly what’s causing your bloating.
Bloating is an issue with many causes, and just as many solutions; how you fix it is totally up to you. It could be as simple as chilling out on the Tex-Mex, or you might need some expert help, such as lab testing and personalized recommendations based on your results. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re trying to figure out the reason for your digestive issues, but remember - you don’t have to do everything on your own!
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