05/16/2014 08:56 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This Common Habit Can Make You Go Up A Dress Size In A Day (VIDEO)

Are your clothes feeling a little snug today? Before you swear off all flavorful foods or vow to spend every waking moment at the gym, you might want to take a closer look at the seemingly innocent everyday habits that can be leading culprits for bloating -- like chewing gum.

It's true, according to gastroenterologist and wellness expert Dr. Robynne Chutkan. The official medical term is something called aerophagia and it can have a drastic impact on your waistline.

"Aerophagia -- air swallowing -- can make you go up a dress size in a day," Dr. Chutkan says says in an interview for the web series #OWNSHOW. "If you're chewing a lot of gum, sucking on hard candy, eating and talking on the phone, if you're a mouth-breather… these are all things that can lead to a little known condition called aerophagia -- a major cause of bloating."

Another culprit? Sugar.

"[Sugar] encourages growth of the wrong kind of bacteria," Dr. Chutkan says. "It sends some of the yeast species and other undesirable gut bacteria into a literal feeding frenzy and that ends up producing a lot of bloating [and] extra gas from these bad bacteria."

Many people have been encouraged to stick with a high-fiber diet to maintain their digestive health, but fiber is another big cause of bloating. So, should you still incorporate a lot of fiber in your diet? Dr. Chutkan says yes, but there's a smarter way to do it without feeling the bloat.

"Fiber is sort of like the broom that sweeps the intestines clean, but too much fiber at once can cause a big plug in your intestines," she says. "I recommend a high-fiber diet, but spreading the fiber out throughout the day in small increments as opposed to eating a huge, huge fiber meal, which can really end up making you feel bloated."

More advice from Dr. Robynne Chutkan | More from #OWNSHOW

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  • Accidentally Swallowing Air
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    Besides gulping down your food (which of course you try to avoid), gulping air is the most common cause of bloating, says Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist and an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. And it's really easy to do without realizing it. If you're drinking your beverage with a straw while reading this, you're doing it right now. You've also been swallowing excess air when chewing gum, sucking on hard candies, chewing on your fingernails or the ends of your hair or talking on the phone while eating. The medical term for air-swallowing is "aerophagia," says Raymond, and the connection is obvious: The air comes in through your mouth, travels down your esophagus and gets trapped in the digestive tract. Fortunately, air that exits from the opposite end of where it enters rarely has an odor, says Raymond, but it still makes you and others around you uncomfortable.
  • Eating The Right Foods For Your Body...
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    ...Which happen to be the wrong foods for your small intestine. Experts have recently determined that some of the most formidable culprits of bloating and irritable bowel syndrome are small carbohydrates that aren't well absorbed in the small intestine, says Cynthia M. Yoshida, MD, a gastroenterologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the author of No More Digestive Problems. They fall under the umbrella term "FODMAPs," short for "fermentable oligo-, di, mono-saccharides and polyols." Yoshida explains that these particles travel on down to the colon and large intestine where they're fermented by normal gut bacteria, forming gases that result in bloating and flatulence. Unfortunately, some of the healthiest foods we know (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cherries, avocados, many kinds of beans--including soy, and more) contain FODMAPs. The good news is that there are many other superfoods (berries, pumpkin, leafy greens, to name a few) that are FODMAP-free. If you suffer from frequent bloating or IBS, memorize this cheat sheet developed by UVA Digestive Health Nutrition Support Services. Yoshida says it's quickly become the go-to reference for GIs and nutritionists around the world.
  • Starting Crash Diets
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    Almost 50 percent of the women in one study from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine who said they routinely went on strict diets suffered from frequent bloating, compared with 20 percent of those who said they rarely or never dieted. We're not even talking about the cabbage-soup diet that became famous-by-fax in the 1980s and has since wreaked gastrointestinal havoc on the lives of millions of women. Anytime you drastically reduce your caloric intake, you're setting yourself up for stomach and intestinal issues, says Yoshida. Our bodies become conditioned to expect food at certain times, so skipping meals on a short-term diet throws off our highly sophisticated digestive system. Yoshida says that this can lead to constipation, which is exacerbated by the fact that many dieters neglect to take in enough water or fiber to help keep food moving. And really, what's the point of any diet that says it will help you lose 10 pounds in 7 days if it makes you look like you gained 10 pounds after one meal?
  • Stressing Out
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    Women are more likely than men to blame their escalating stress levels for their upset stomach and indigestion, according to the American Psychological Association. Stress contributes to bloating in a couple of different ways. First, when we're overwhelmed, we tend to do even more nail-biting, gum-chewing and smoking--all result in extra air-swallowing and, thus, bloating. Yoshida says one study found that frazzled volunteers took in three times the amount of air than those who did relaxation exercises. What's more, Yoshida says that stress makes your intestines more prone to irritation, so you'll feel blimpier even when normal amounts of gas are passing through your system. Thankfully, the same researchers found that relaxation techniques can directly slow the rate of swallowing. When your blood pressure starts to rise (or as soon as possible thereafter), try taking 10 minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation.