Bloating - top tips to beat it
Do you wonder what causes bloating? Read on to find out about some of the more common causes and to gather pointers on how to deal with this troublesome digestive issue.
Each and every one of us carries around 0.1 – 0.2 L of gas within our digestive system and will produce approximately 0.7 L of gas per day. We all see an increase in the amount of gas we produce after eating, but this doesn’t necessarily result in bloating as, usually, our bodies can expel the gas efficiently without us becoming aware.
Bloating, however, occurs when you have that exaggerated feeling of a full stomach that can sometimes stretch to the size of an inflated balloon. It happens when your digestive system (which consists of your stomach and intestines) fills with air or gas and may sometimes be accompanied by abdominal discomfort, including cramps.
Although fairly common, the experience of bloating for one person is not the same as the next with different triggers and levels of discomfort experienced. It often accompanies symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as constipation and diarrhoea and in fact, constipation and bloating often go together, because if you don’t pass stools regularly, your digestive system builds up faecal matter, resulting in a full feeling. Alongside this, fermentation of carbohydrates in the faecal matter will take place, which causes the production of unpleasant gasses such as methane and hydrogen sulphide, which produce an odour of rotten eggs.
Bloating, understandably, can create significant stress for individuals, to such an extent that it may limit social activities such as eating out, affect choices of clothing in order to hide a distended stomach and prove embarrassing when there’s a need to pass gas in a public space.
Common causes of bloating
There are a number of reasons why bloating may occur, some of which are obvious, such as overeating. Here are some other possible causes:
- Food intolerances where an individual may not have the necessary enzymes to break down a food e.g. gluten or lactose intolerance.
- If you take in an excessive amount of air whilst eating or chewing gum, which will be swallowed.
- Drinking carbonated drinks, resulting in a greater intake of air.
- Eating too quickly and not chewing food thoroughly can result in incomplete digestion and a greater intake of air.
- If you have an imbalance in gut bacteria there may be an increase in gas production.
- Stress can impact on the digestive system, resulting in a number of issues including a reduction of digestive secretions, causing problems with absorption and gas production.
So, as you can see, there are a number of causes for bloating. If you experience bloating alongside other digestive issues, it would be sensible to see your doctor to rule out underlying conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
How to resolve bloating
Just as the experience of bloating is unique to the individual, there’s, unfortunately, no one fit solution to resolve bloating. So, you might find that there is some trial and error required when tackling this issue.
Here are some pointers that include preventative measures and tactics that you can employ to relieve discomfort.
1. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly for far-reaching effects on the digestive process.
2. Take 10 deep breaths before eating to help yourself relax before you start to eat. Eating when you are feeling stressed will inhibit your digestion.
3. Don’t drink large quantities during mealtimes to avoid diluting your digestive secretions, which contain enzymes required to break down your food. A few sips of water are ok though.
4. Take a walk after dinner to aid digestion and to help clear air from your bowel.
5. Try drinking peppermint or ginger tea. Pepper is a carminative herb and will help to relax your digestive system and both herbs will help to expel air from your digestive system.
6. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid overeating.
7. Keep a food diary and attempt to identify whether you have any food intolerances.
How nutritional therapy can help you tackle bloating
Other areas to explore with a nutritional therapist include the low FODMAP diet (a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates, often recommended to manage irritable bowel syndrome), slowly increasing your fibre intake with carefully selected foods, exploring the possibilities of intolerances, especially to grains and dairy, looking at private functional testing to pinpoint digestive difficulties and adding in key supplements to both support the digestive process and to address nutritional deficiencies impacting on digestion.