On TikTok, the term “bloating” has received over 195 million views. The majority of these videos start the same way: with a woman complaining that her stomach isn’t as flat as she’d like it to be. And, more often than not, these videos include a “cure” of some sort — a quick, easy way to “debloat” and regain that coveted flat stomach.
Of course, contrary to what today’s beauty standards suggest, few people have a perfectly flat stomach. (Recall that we have organs that cannot be moved.) And bloating can be more than just an aesthetic issue: for many people, it is accompanied by discomfort and gastrointestinal issues.
“The technical definition of bloating is ‘abdominal distension,'” says Marissa Meshulam, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of MPM Nutrition. “As you eat more and more food throughout the day, your stomach is supposed to expand.” It is completely normal for your stomach to feel ‘flat’ in the morning and grow larger as the day goes on. What is not normal, and usually a sign of something else wrong, is if your stomach is extremely distended to the point where you look pregnant and feels very hard to the touch.”
Drinking carbonated beverages, eating very quickly, swallowing before chewing, constipation, chewing gum, sugar alcohols, and a lack of fibre in your diet are all things that can exasperate uncomfortable bloating in an otherwise healthy gut.
The fact that bloating is often a natural body process hasn’t stopped people on social media from looking for remedies to combat it. One method making the rounds on TikTok is a combination of baking soda and water — not exactly a pleasant tasting cure, but one worth trying, according to Meshulam.
“It could work,” she says. “Baking soda, like Tums, neutralises stomach acid, so it can help with stomach upset.”
According to Dr. Nicole Avena, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of Why Diets Fail, “baking soda should be used sparingly.”
“It’s not toxic, but too much can upset your stomach and disrupt your body’s pH balance,” she says. “It’s only a temporary fix.” It will help with occasional bloating, but more chronic issues should be evaluated by a doctor.”
Another TikTok-popular remedy is celery juice, which contains folate, potassium, and antioxidants and has been shown to help reduce inflammation. (Perhaps you’ve seen videos of people dumping bunch after bunch of celery into a juicer, yielding deep green juice.) According to Dr. Avena, research into how well it works is limited, but it may be worth a shot.
“Because celery juice contains a lot of sodium, it can help people who have low stomach acid and are having digestive problems.” It’s also a diuretic, which can help with constipation-related bloating,” she explains. “It is important to note that the majority of the buzz surrounding celery juice is anecdotal in nature and stems from people who have had positive personal experiences with the juice.”
So, what works if the bloating is caused by a temporary gastrointestinal problem?
“Peppermint oil can be used to relieve stomach discomfort in IBS patients,” says Meshulem. “Chamomile tea can help to relieve bloating and excess gas.”
Dandelion is a “natural diuretic,” she adds, so drinking tea or eating the leaves in a salad may also help. She also suggests apple cider vinegar, which “can help with digestion.”
However, some people have taken a different approach to dealing with their bloating problems. Lymphatic drainage massages are recommended by celebrities such as Hailey Baldwin, Elsa Hosk, Kelsey Merritt, and Shay Mitchell to reduce water weight and prevent bloating.
“Many environmental factors can disrupt the lymphatic system’s balance, resulting in bloating and discomfort,” Dr. Avena tells Yahoo Life.
“Lymphatic drainage can assist in relieving this discomfort.” It is a generally safe practise that can be performed at home with light massage. Just remember to be gentle when using this technique or seek the advice of a massage therapist.
Meshulam adds that, while it’s worth a shot, it’s a case of “short term vs. long term bloat prevention.” “Gentle digestive yoga poses do the same thing in a less aggressive way,” she explains.
But what’s the bottom line? Bloating is usually not a big deal, but if it bothers you, it can usually be relieved with a few simple, natural remedies. However, if bloating becomes chronic or painful, it’s time to see a doctor rather than try to treat it with home remedies found on social media.