When you can't button the pants you wore literally an hour ago, blame it on the bloat. And it isn't just annoying, it can also be super uncomfortable and painful. Sometimes, you know exactly what caused your puffiness (that huge dinner you devoured in seconds, for example), but other times (read: most times) you may be scratching your head and wondering, Why am I so bloated?

Let's clear up what bloating is first. "There's actually a lot of misconceptions about what it is and what is caused by it," says Kyle Staller, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and the director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Mass General. "Medically, we think of bloating as the sensation of being bloated. But then we talk about distension, which is where your abdomen actually swells. When I see patients with bloating, most of the time they actually mean the swelling."

A lot of food- or health-related issues can cause your abdomen to swell. "There could be intolerances to particular foods, such as high-FODMAP foods. There could be dysbiosis, or imbalance of the gut microbiome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth," or other GI issues, explains Marvin Singh, MD, the author of Rescue Your Health, founder of Precisione Clinic, and director of Integrative Gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at UC Irvine.

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It's never wrong to consult your doctor about any symptoms you might have, he says. If you have changes in your bowel habits, weight loss, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fevers, or other concerning symptoms, you may want to check in with your doc ASAP. If you're dealing with chronic bloating and it's affecting how you dress, your body image, and how you eat, "it's definitely worth seeing your doctor to make sure that one of these other diseases may not be at play," says Dr. Staller.

Know that bloating is very common, so "do not feel you are alone here," says Samantha Nazareth, MD, a gastroenterologist based in New York City.

Before you go googling your symptoms, realize that your lifestyle habits can play a role in your battle with bloat. That means relief is well within reach—you just have to make a few changes to your day-to-day. Here are some of the likeliest culprits and what to do about each one of them.

Meet the experts: Kyle Staller, MD, is a gastroenterology at Mass General. He is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit. His research has been published in various medical journals.

Marvin Singh, MD, is one of two physicians in the country to hold certification in internal medicine, gastroenterology/hepatology, and integrative medicine. He is currently the director of integrative gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at University of California Irvine, and a voluntary clinical professor at University of California San Diego.

1. You just drank seltzer.

This one is obvious: The carbonation in seltzer water, soda, and champagne is going to fill your stomach up with air bubbles and make you bloated, says Natalie Allen, RD, an instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University. To avoid this problem, drink tap or bottled water instead—and if you really love seltzer, just don't down it too fast and limit how much you have every day.

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2. You sipped through a straw.

You swallow more air when drinking through a straw, explains Allen, and where does that air go? Straight into your stomach. Ditch the straw, take the top off your iced beverage, and drink directly from the cup. It's better for the environment too!

3. You had a kale salad for lunch.

“Kale has a lot of nutrition and is a great food option, but it’s in the cruciferous vegetable family so it may cause bloating,” says Allen. The same goes for broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and arugula.

Kale also contains a lot of fiber and a sugar called raffinose, which your stomach may struggle to break down. A good rule of thumb for high-fiber foods from Allen is to drink lots of water to aid the digestion process and avoid bloat.

4. You went overboard on cheese.

Cheese is a dairy product, which means it’s high in lactose (milk sugar). People who are lactose intolerant—even mildly—may regret going hog wild over soft cheeses like brie because they’re likely to induce uncomfortable gas and bloating, Allen says.

Hard cheeses (think: parmigiano, cheddar, and gruyere), on the other hand, might be easier for some to stomach, as it may contain less lactose.

5. You ordered a feast of fried foods.

“Greasy, high-fat foods like fries can cause bloating by taking longer to digest,” says Allen. The sodium in fries, which might make you retain water, won’t do you any favors either. Allen recommends skipping the fries when you’re eating out and baking them at home instead, so you can control the amount of fat and salt included.

6. You chewed gum.

Just like drinking from a straw, chewing gum can cause you to swallow more air, says Allen, and that extra air winds up right in your tummy. Plus, gum contains sugar alcohols (like xylitol and sorbitol) that can make you feel puffy too. Try trading gum for breath mints.

7. You snacked on an apple.

If you’re not used to consuming lots of fiber, explains Allen, your otherwise-healthy Granny Smith might leave you groaning. Not telling you not to eat apples here—they’re a smart (and delicious!) snack option. But eating more fiber on a regular basis should help ease the amount of bloating over time.

Meanwhile, you can also bake your apples for a sweet treat—cooking fiber-rich foods makes them a little easier on your stomach.

8. You chowed down on bean dip.

The bad news: The high amount of fiber in beans makes them a prime cause for bloating and gas. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

“By eating a serving of beans daily, the body will adapt and learn to digest them,” says Allen. Plus, beans are chock full of protein, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be eating them every day.

9. You ate too fast.

I know—you only get 30 minutes for lunch (on a good day), and you’ve got to make a few personal phone calls and hit the pharmacy before your break ends. Eating a leisurely lunch isn’t a priority. But rushing through it will make you inhale way more air and hamper your digestion too, says Allen. “Chew your food well and take at least 20 minutes to eat,” she recommends.

10. You ordered barley soup.

You really wanted that creamy broccoli cheddar soup for lunch, but you went for the heart-healthy barley soup instead—and now you’re stuck with a swollen belly. Why? Barley is a complex carb, which means it takes longer for your stomach to digest, says Allen—especially if you don't eat a ton of it already. If you love the stuff, work it into your diet slowly, or opt for something gentler like quinoa.

11. You ate before working out.

Stomach issues after a workout are often related to what you ate prior to hitting the gym. “Blood flow moves from the digestive tract to the muscles during exercise, which could impair digestion,” says Allen.

Keep your pre-workout noshes light and simple—like half a banana or a mini protein bar–so your stomach doesn’t have to work overtime during your spin class.

12. You overindulged in sugar-free candies.

You rewarded yourself for ignoring the leftover Halloween candy in the break room with a few sugar-free candies back at your desk, but you still feel uncomfortably bloated. What gives? Well, just like most chewing gum, sugar-free candy contains sugar alcohols, which Allen says are not well digested by our bodies. Next time, just let yourself have the mini Snickers bar instead.

13. You're stressed (and anxious) AF.

"Stress and anxiety can often be contributors to altered gastrointestinal motility," says Dr. Singh. "Just like it can impact your bowel patterns, it can also impact how your bowels squeeze or move. And this can cause abdominal discomfort and sometimes bloating."

If you're feeling overwhelmed, pause, take a deep breath, and do something to get through the moment—go for a quick walk, call a friend, meditate for five minutes—whatever helps you get through a stressful period.

14. You aren't drinking enough water.

You've heard it before: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! If you're feeling extra stuffy and puffy, check your water intake—your bloating could be from not drinking enough water. "Water helps move stool through and enables forward movement in your bowels," explains Dr. Nazareth.

Make sure you're staying hydrated throughout the day to keep everything ~flowing~. Get a snazzy reusable water bottle for 24/7 hydration.

15. You had your daily nut milk latte.

"A huge trend that people have to be aware of that could contribute to bloating are certain nut milks," says Nazareth. They may contain an emulsifier, which ensures the milk maintains a consistent texture and doesn’t start to separate and can cause bloating in some people, she explains.

Take a break from the nut milks (unless you make them from scratch or buy a brand without added ingredients) and see if your puffiness goes away.